My name is Clayton Dean, and I have a problem: a large, dirty, face-licking problem that likes to jump on you. I have a dog. Truth be told he’s really more of a cross between an over-amorous skunk and a starving hyena, only with worse odor. His name is Trouble. No really. I’ll say that again: His name is Trouble.
Trouble is a big, 80-plus-pound dog with an excruciatingly loud, piercing bark. Therefore it’s all the more incongruous when he’s startled by the most innocuous and mundane household items. Brooms are weapons of mass destruction to him. If you try to sweep, he’ll hightail it faster than the Duke boys to the county line. He’ll cower behind the plush safety of the couch, occasionally peeking out from behind the pillows to see if you’re done. Balloons are another mystery worthy of barking and escape. I can almost understand his distrust of balloons, floating there, defying gravity. Think of how that looks to a dog. But his biggest, most irrational fear: boxes. For Trouble, empty brown cardboard moving boxes are the equivalent of having to listen to Justin Bieber sing. He will do everything to avoid having to be in the same room.
The genesis of this cardboard-centric terror was my daughter Cassidy’s birthday. We had taken several gifts and ornately wrapped them in boxes-within-boxes so she’d have to open several ever-smaller boxes to reach her gift. As you know, kids in their eagerness to open presents often mimic little scythes, sending wrapping paper, tape and cards flying in all directions. So too with the boxes. One box, launched over my 6-year-old’s shoulder, landed squarely on Trouble’s head. Trouble, the 80-pound dog with the roar of a lion and who wouldn’t swerve in a game of chicken against a UPS truck, panicked and fled. Or rather, he tried to flee, desperately scrambling, trying to accelerate as his paws failed to gain traction on the hardwood floor, ears flopping as he lost his edge and careened into the far wall. From that point forward, Trouble and boxes became mortal enemies: A canine Kanye West to anyone not named Beyonce winning a music award.
So after Cassidy’s birthday, we had several large boxes lying around. The kids asked if they could build a fort in the living room. They taped several boxes together making a large castle, even building a draw bridge that lowered up and down. Our other dog, Hershey, took to lounging in the cardboard fort, secure that Trouble wouldn’t. But when the kids tried to enter, Trouble would bark, whine and paw at the fort, insistent that they not enter Kenny Loggins’ house, aka The Danger Zone. This occurred several times with the kids (and Hershey) safe in their castle, hiding little pig-style from the Big Bad Wolf.
If you’ve been reading this column over the past few months, you know one of the troubles with Trouble is that he doesn’t remember from day to day what scares him. Needless to say, one day we came home and guess who was sitting regally atop the crushed and pillaged walls, quietly and carefully chewing cardboard castle crenellations? Trouble-zilla. —Clayton Dean