When we adopted Neko, we were highly encouraged to crate train her. Beagles needed safe spaces, we were told, particularly because they could get into trouble if left alone on their own. In addition, most young dogs benefit from crate training while housebreaking them. And so we did this.
It was tough, and not immediately successful. Neko didn’t like her crate if we weren’t around. When we left her alone, she would bark and howl before we could even reach the stairs. And so we’d rush out of the house as quickly as possible, lest she draw on our heartstrings too tightly. We became good at this: pup in crate, downstairs, into car.
We expected this during her first six months, but not during the second six. But it was easy to understand: while we hoped she would learn, we understood that the crate was not a pleasant place for her. She was rescued from a crate, having been abandoned in a cage in someone’s backyard. She was there for upwards of two weeks, howling herself hoarse and wondering when food or water or companionship would come. This is why we had to rush out of the house.
When we found our new Midwest home, we were thrilled that we shared no walls with our neighbors. We were lucky to adopt Neko into a home with thick walls, but knew that luck would change. With a standalone house, we figured Neko could bark her head off, and some day learn that the crate was as safe without us as it was with us.
Except Neko didn’t need any time at all. Amazingly, she started entering the crate on her own. And once she was in, she made herself comfortable and didn’t make a sound, aside from some scratching or readjusting. She was, finally, a peaceful pup.
I didn’t think much about this initially, instead opting for quiet wonderment lest my curiosity jinx her newfound silence. But nearly two months into our stay, it seems this is not a phase but a change of personality — and a welcome one at that.
I think Neko finally associated the crate with Rachael and I. We arrived here a week ahead of our home, and so the only familiar items Neko had during our road trip and first week in the new home were Rachael, myself, and her crate. We became interchangeable to a certain degree. Sure, she’ll always prefer being in bed with us when we let her, but she’s finally adopted an additional safe space. She remains quiet because she knows we’re coming home. We enter and exit at our leisure now.
I’ve been thinking about this lately in terms of spaces I’m adopting. It’s no surprise, for instance, that I fell right back into blogging. But I also think about these spaces when I’m in my car and learning about my new town. That interior space is cross-directional for me: it’s made all of the trips. And so it transports me wherever I need to go: to where I’ve been, or where I want to be.