A doorway to your dog's independence

Jana, the middle child, a 6-year-old golden retriever, has had the most difficult adjustment. She walks up to the door and barks at it, as if commanding it to open. Sometimes it does. Sometimes she’s standing too far away, and it doesn’t. She still gets what she wants, though. Wylie, ever the chivalrous gentleman, answers her call and opens the door for her. She has also tried standing at the people doors and barking, testing her command skills on the human members of the family. Giving up her human doormen has been a tough adjustment on this dog, who seems to see other dogs and all humans as her servants.

Watching their reactions, I reflected on dogs and independence. Not all dogs want independence. Jana really likes having staff, after all. Some dogs, like Oriel, don’t understand it or are simply happy to go with the flow. But for those like Wylie, who truly appreciate the value of independence, having a dog door is transformative. The ability to come and go at will, to fulfill his mission of protecting us from neighborhood squirrels and cats without waiting for us to let him out—this is what makes life worth living. Now, if only we’d give him the keys to the car …

We moved recently, from an apartment to a house with a large yard. As if that weren’t enough to spoil our three dogs, the new house has a dog door. This is revolutionary to our dogs, and to us as well. No more midnight treks down three flights of stairs. No more standing out in the rain waiting for them to finish their business.

The door requires a magnet to open it, and each dog has a “key” — a large magnet hanging from his or her collar. Each of our dogs has adjusted to this momentous change in a different way, entirely reflective of their very different personalities:

Wylie, the German shepherd, sees his ability to open the door as a triumph of will. Mind over matter. He was the first to figure out that he could open the door himself. He walks up to the door and fixes an intent stare, as only a German shepherd can, on the door. Sure enough, the door opens. Wylie spent the first few days we lived here going in and out, in and out, just because he could.

Oriel, an older golden retriever, ambles up to the door and reacts with delighted surprise when the magical portal opens, offering her access to her new backyard. Often, once she gets outside, she seems to wonder what she’s doing there. She turns around and comes back. Other times, she just stands and looks at the door as it opens, waits, closes … then opens again.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.