When a dog consumes your life (and everything in it)

When a dog consumes your life (and everything in it)
Sadie
The veterinarian said, "You have a pretty aggressive chewer on your hands."

I laughed as I thought to myself, "That's the understatement of the year."

Little did I know, even then, how much I was underestimating the chewing challenge our dog Sadie would present.

That's Sadie in the picture at the top of the page.

Our best guess is that she's a Basset Hound/Labrador mix (a bassador). Her previous owners gave her up, the form at the Seattle Humane Society said, "Because she chews everything."

Who could have guessed the previous owners meant that literally.

First it was my designer (read very expensive) glasses.

Then anything that dangled (including two Rockband drum sets for our Nintendo Wii)

Over and over again we caught her with a cherished stuffed animal, a remote control, a shirt, shoes, or even the legs of tables and chairs. She chewed at our house, at the park, even at grandma and grandpa's house (my parents).

Our friend, Melissa Grant of Miss Lola's Academy in North Bend, first told us, "Get lots of toys and then rotate them through for her so she always has something new."

So we tried it. We rotated and rotated and rotated. We now have a huge crate full of doggie toys that Sadie ignores completely.

But the chewing continued. So Melissa moved on to her next suggestion, "Try bitter tasting spray."

We bought the bitter apple spray and every time Sadie chewed, we sprayed her directly in the mouth and then sprayed the item she was chewing. As a taste deterrent it worked in principle. But Sadie kept moving on to new things and it's tough to continually coat your entire house in bitter apple spray 'just in case.'

Next Melissa suggested a bully-stick. It's actually the penis of a bull, dried and hardened into a chew toy. A good bully-stick can takes hours, or even days for the average dog to finish. Sadie is done with an average sized bully-stick in less than ten minutes.

But we kept trying.

Finally we found these 2-feet-long bully sticks at PetSmart. Sadie enjoys them, she doesn't get bored like she does with everything else, and they last longer than half an hour. For us that was a victory. We had a way to keep her occupied when we were at home.

Time passed and it seemed it was time to try allowing Sadie out of her kennel while we were at work. So we bought new cabinets with doors, an enclosed shoe rack, we moved anything and everything we thought she could chew out of one section of the house.

It took several weeks to prepare, but one Monday we did it. We gated off the dining room from the rest of the house and we left her for six hours.

Sadie was an angel. She didn't make a mess and she didn't chew anything we didn't want her to. So we kept leaving her.

By Thursday of that week I was no longer worrying all day at work until I came home that night:

And just like that it was back into the kennel during the day. Another week went by and at this point we were at our wits ends. Then Melissa reminded us of a suggestion we had brushed off early on, "Why don't you buy a KongTime?"

If you have ever had a dog, or know someone who has one, you know what a Kong is. Its a hard rubber hollow chew toy, that you fill up with treats. When you give it to your dog it takes a while for them to get all the treats out. Its good for their mind, good for their teeth, and it keeps them busy. We feed Sadie her two meals a day in her Kong and it's fantastic.

Which brings us to the KongTime (which just arrived this week). The company's website describes them this way:

"KongTime automatically dispenses food-filled Kong toys while you are away. KongTime entertains your dog and gives your dog something to look forward to. We call it Doggie Day Care in a Box; don't be surprised if your dog starts handing you your briefcase in the morning."

Here's how one works:

This morning, with great care, I filled each of those Kongs following Melissa's strict instructions, and put them inside the KongTime. As I left the house, I hit the eight-hour button, said a little prayer and closed the door.

Fast forward eight hours of absolute worry and concern and I walked back through the front door to find...

...Sadie, surrounded by empty Kongs wagging her tale and no mess to be seen.

Will the KongTime work? We need to give it a few more weeks to know for sure. But today I am hopeful that perhaps we've found a way to tame our "aggressive chewer" and keep her from getting bored when she's home-alone.

I'll keep you posted. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your experiences with your chewing dogs. What has worked? What hasn't? And has anyone else had success with the KongTime?

Log in or sign up below to share your successes or failures in dealing with a chewing dog. We'll share some of the best ideas, worst ideas and funny tales when Travis discusses the story on KOMO 1000 Newsradio.