June 30, 2003 – Last
week I told you about a problem we've
been having with our fussy old Great Dane, Merlin. He's refused to get into
my new Toyota Matrix, which we've now dubbed "da- Merlin-mobile." This
bizarre situation seemed to amuse many of you. (You know who you are.) Over
30 comments were posted publicly on the web site, and I received loads of
private messages as well.
Advice from the peanut gallery
the feedback, which provided lots of sympathy and some good advice. Thank you
all for your input. I was surprised – and pleased – to
learn that there are several other Matrix owners in the audience whose Danes
are quite happy to ride with them. I was a little rattled to learn, too, that
there are some Danes that have never adjusted to a new vehicle, no matter how "cool" it
As a practical matter, several people suggested using the side doors instead
of the hatch back. Others suggested leaving the passenger seats up instead of
down. Believe me, we have tried every permutation imaginable, many times over.
A few people felt it must be the new car smell that is putting Merlin off, so
I left the hatch open for several days to air out the car. It made no difference
to Merlin. Personally, I think the car is just a little too high for Merlin.
He never climbs up on anything – no beds, chairs or couches. Furthermore, he will not use indoor stairs. Ever. The only stairs he'll use are kind that have a just few steps going up to an outdoor porch or door. I hate to say
it, but our Merlin is a total WUSS. I should have seen this earlier, and trained Merlin to be more adaptable when he was younger.
He is a very sweet – but inflexible – dog.
A possible solution?
A couple of people suggested inviting another Dane (or two) over
to our house for a ride in the new car so Merlin could observe them climbing
in and out of the vehicle. Then, perhaps, he'd lose his fear. This seemed like
a reasonable idea. Merlin likes to go for rides (in sedans) and he likes canine
visitors. So... I Invited my good friend and neighbor, Cindy Niske, to drop by
with her 14-month-old brindle, Autumn. That was yesterday.
It was love at first sight for eight-year-old Merlin. In his eyes, Autumn was
one hot babe. Merlin watched with interest as
Autumn pranced up to the open hatchback of the Matrix and, at Cindy's bidding,
hopped right into the cargo area. Now it was his turn. "Come-on, Merlin,
hop in the car with Autumn and let's go for a spin!"
"Nope. Sure, I like her, but not THAT
much!" Okay, well, maybe we'll try
it with Autumn out of the car. (( Nothin' doing. )) After several more tries,
it was clear that Merlin could not be persuaded by Autumn's charm alone. At
that point I remembered some advice from Teresa La Brie. I had been
telling her how Merlin drops flat to the ground when we try to lift his front
legs and place them in the car. (It's impossible to move him when he does that.) "Try
using his back legs. That's
how I get mine into the bathtub." So... we coaxed Merlin over to the back
of the car and before he could figure out what was coming, my husband grabbed
his back legs and placed them in the back on the hatch, leaving Merlin in a
sitting position with his feet still on the ground. Then we took his front feet
and swung them in. Suddenly Merlin found himself lying in the car!!! We all
congratulated him enthusiastically and gave him a treat. Autumn even gave him
Well, Merlin wasn't so sure about this. He tried to escape, but only once. We insisted he remain in the car, all the while telling him what a GOOD BOY he was. He finally calmed down, stopped panting, and seemed to relax. When he looked completely comfortable, we closed the hatch, opened the back window to give him some air and a better view, and off he went for a short ride. What fun!! After Merlin returned from his momentous first ride, he and Autumn played in the pond. They had a fine doggie time together, splashing along the shoreline. Merlin was grinning from ear to ear. We did not try to get him back in the vehicle, but now we have a promising strategy. I'll let you know how it goes.