Our Dog T-Bone

A Heartwarming Story of Life with One Really Nervous Dog

"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult." -- Rita Rudner

ALCATRAZThe laundry room in the basement of our house is built like a bomb shelter: concrete block walls all the way around with one little window at about the 6’ level.  It’s a 6’ x 15’ foot room with a freezer on one end, shelves along one wall, and a washer and dryer on the other end.  Perfect!  The floor had glued down indoor-outdoor carpeting, the washer/dryer/freezer are made out of high quality steel and I put doors over the shelves up to 4’ high so he couldn’t get to anything he shouldn’t get into.   I made a plywood 4’x4’ “door” for the opening to the laundry room and covered it with some pretty tough carpeting (there was a hollow-core mahogany door on there but I knew that it would be toast in no time at all).  I made a couple of latches to fasten it to the opening and thought, “This should hold him.” 


It didn’t.  We came home and he was out…he didn’t go over the makeshift door, he somehow broke the latches and hinges and sort of went through it!  And the carpeting that covered it was shredded.  I thought, “Well I just didn’t latch it good enough.”  I remade and recovered the door and reinforced the latches.  I have a four year college degree – I’m smarter than the dog.  This should hold him! 


It didn’t.  We came home and he was out…but this time stuff inside the laundry room was destroyed.  A lot of the glued down carpeting was pulled up.   But most bizarrely – the washer and dryer were moved out of their places!   The washer was moved (if you have ever had to move one of those you know how heavy they are) and the dryer was pushed out as far as the cord would allow.  The dryer vent duct was ripped off and smashed.  We were dumbfounded.


It took a long time, but we cleaned it up, ripped up the remaining carpeting, and painted the floor.  I put blocks in between the washer and dryer and the walls so they couldn’t be moved. 


I want to pause again just to mention a couple things.  Through this long, stressful ordeal we had talked to friends who were dog owners, researched separation anxiety on the internet and other places, and talked with our vet – all in desperate attempts to try to figure out what to do with T-Bone.  We made sure he had plenty of exercise – I consistently took him jogging and my wife faithfully walked him a couple of miles every day.  But many, many times we were in tears trying to decide if we should put him to sleep and more than once I talked with my parents about what to do with him.  At one point my dad strongly suggested that we put him down, and, as any dog-lover would, we struggled and agonized with that option.  We talked about giving him away, but we honestly wondered about who would be willing to put up with him.  And as you read this, all of these events may seem sort of “time-compressed,” but there were seasons and periods of time (as I mentioned earlier) that he honestly seemed to be getting better.  The house would be in good order or the blankets in his room would hardly be out of place.  But then for some inexplicable reason he would slip back into his severe separation anxiety mode.


Back to Alcatraz.  I found that a chain link kennel door from our local home improvement store fit perfectly inside the door opening of the laundry room.  I thought I had come up with the perfect solution.  No way for him to bang/chew/dig/blast his way through that.  The hinges were bolted directly into the concrete.  It was Saturday when I finished.  We put him in there on Sunday about 8:30 AM and then headed off to church.  When we got home about 1:00 I walked up to the front door and could hear him barking.  But I immediately thought to myself, “His barking is a lot louder than it should be if he was still in the laundry room!”  When I opened the front door I could not believe my eyes!  My mouth just dropped open as I wondered out loud, “HOW DID YOU GET OUT OF THERE?!”


I literally ran down the stairs to figure out his method of escape.  He had somehow wedged himself between the tubular frame of the kennel door and the chain link mesh.  But to do that he had to first bend two heavy duty “clips” that held the chain link to the frame.  I have taken a pair of vise grip pliers and tried bending one of those clips myself and have a hard time doing it.  I gave one of them to someone I was telling this story to (he was about six foot something and weighed about 225 lbs.) – he couldn’t bend it!  I said, “You know, my dog only weighs 75lbs…”


On Monday (I took the day off from work because of “dog”) I went back to the home improvement store.  I put two layers of chain link on the door and reinforced it with steel and put a sign on it: “ALCATRAZ.” He never escaped from there although occassionally I took down his Lassie and Scooby-Doo posters just to make sure he wasn’t digging through the walls like some sort of canine Tim Robbins in "The Shawshank Redemption."


"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you but he will make a fool of himself too."  --Samuel Butler