DaDane of DaWeek

 Created: 06/23/03


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Fear Factor

June 23, 2003 – We've all heard stories about certain dogs who are so devoted to their owners, they will do anything to please them. Unfortunately, I do not own such a dog. I own the other kind. You know the type. They stand before you with bright eyes and a wagging tail, and flatly REFUSE to do what is asked of them. They are not at all unpleasant about it, but they simply won't cooperate. That's Merlin. He has a mind of his own. Fortunately, for the past eight years, this has not been a problem. Why not? Because I've never asked Merlin to do something he found truly objectionable. In fact, I've never really asked him to do much of anything. Until now.

Finding a suitable dog-mobile
Seven weeks ago I brought home a brand new car, a snappy "cosmic blue" Toyota Matrix XR. Merlin's new ride. This was not an impulse buy. A great deal of thought was put into finding the perfect car to replace my aging Toyota sedan; the perfect car to accommodate my aging Great Dane. First off, the new car had to be a Toyota. No problem there, lots to choose from. Seventeen models, in fact. I decided against getting another sedan, because Merlin never seemed very comfortable riding on the back seat. Now that he's older, Merlin deserves something a little more "friendly" for his automobile travel, which consists mainly of occasional visits to the vet and miscellaneous errands around town. Above all else, this new car had to make Merlin happy.

I examined all available models and finally settled on the Toyota Matrix. It's sporty – sort of a hybrid wagon/mini-SUV/sedan with a decidedly retro look – and not too big, not too small. The neatest feature is the large cargo area. The rear passenger seats fold down to create a flat area that's 5 feet long and 4 feet wide, with almost 3 feet of head room – over 53 cubic feet of cargo space. Plenty of space for a nice big dog to spread himself out on his nice big dog bed, don't you think? All this, and a wide rear hatch for easy entry and exit.

I thought I had found the perfect car. Before signing on the dotted line, though, I asked if I could bring Merlin to the sales lot to see if he liked the car. Once the salesman had regained his composure, he explained that the dealership doesn't allow Great Danes to climb into their demo models. Oh well. I was sure Merlin would love the car as much as I did, so I placed my order.

Merlin's new ride
My new Matrix, complete with a sunroof and great sound system, arrived at the dealership three weeks later. I drove it home, enjoying my surround-sound and clucking to myself about my absolute genius in finding such a cool car. Of course Merlin will want to go for a spin in it right way, I thought. (((( WRONG! ))) Merlin not only didn't want to ride in the brand new car, he didn't want to get anywhere near it.

How could that be?!
Merlin loves to go for rides. He really does. Surely he would feel differently after he had a chance to get used to it. Wrong, again! For some reason, Merlin does not like the Matrix. It's been seven weeks, and he still refuses to climb inside. We've tried sweet-talking him into the new car, ordering him into the new car, and lifting him into the new car. We've baited the cargo area with chicken salad sandwiches, peanut butter toast, marrow bones and muffins. We've put Merlin's favorite bed in the car, his favorite toys in the car. We even constructed a wooden ramp. When all that didn't work, we piled up box springs at the back of the car to enable Merlin to walk right into it. He steadfastly refuses to enter the vehicle.

We aren't sure what it is that's causing Merlin to balk. Is the car too high? Is the ceiling to low? Does it smell funny? What in the world is putting him off? There is no physical reason the dog can't climb into that car. This is a psychological problem. And it is causing me great concern. How would I transport Merlin if he had a medical emergency? Our other car, a Camry sedan, is usually with my husband. We live out in the country with no nearby neighbors, so getting another vehicle out here on short notice might be pretty difficult. Would I need to call an ambulance? Would they actually agree to come for a Great Dane? Could we even get Merlin into an ambulance without knocking him out first? Please send some suggestions. Nothing we've tried has worked so far. We are out of ideas.

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