That's great that you were able to come home to no problems! Tosca surprised us too, once. My husband I had our grad classes after work one day, so we were going to be gone from 7am-9pm, WAY too long for Tosca to be in her crate without a break. So, even though we knew it would be a long day, we asked our aunt to come and let her out and feed her around suppertime, then put her back, so at least she would get a break. We threw around the idea of leaving her out, but I didn't quite trust it, so I said she should go back in the crate. Well, somehow communication got confused, and she left her out. She called me at class to tell me, so of course for the last 2 hours I am afraid of what I will come home to! Luckily when we got home, nothing seemed out of place, and Tosca seemed happy. The only weird thing I noticed, don't know if it was coincidence or if something happened, but the next day she could not lift her tail, and cried out when we touched it. She otherwise had energy and was eating, so she was not sick, it was just injured. The vet said that she may have strained something and for her to just lay low for awhile. Luckily the next day afterward she was fine, so who knows what that was…that was the longest time she has ever been out of the crate!
In the past, I did what you described, and did little tests to see if she would be ok, I would go away on short trips, and put up ANYTHING valuable that she could destroy. However, this was before she developed the unfortunate habit of chewing remotes, DVD's, laptops, and sometimes even cords. Since I cannot put all these things away, I no longer trust leaving her alone, more for her own safety than anything else, since she could easily eat something that would get blocked in her system.
If you must crate her, don't worry about it being too long. Tosca is in the crate from 7-4 every school day (we are both teachers) without a problem. I just try to take her for a LONG walk most days, and my husband is good at playing/wrestling with her inside to get out energy. Its not ideal, but Tosca does fine with it, and at least she gets a break over holidays and the summer.
As for chew toys, I would strongly advise against rawhide. Before I knew much about it, I would give Tosca rawhide in her crate while we were gone. Then, as I was buying it once in the pet store, the salesperson warned me about the possible choking dangers. She said to make sure to supervise them at all times. Well, sure enough, that night Tosca was chewing rawhide and began choking, my husband had to reach in her throat and get it out...scary! So now she still occasionally gets rawhide, but since she has started to choke several times, she ONLY gets it when we are right next to her, and I take it away IMMEDIATELY if she gets any large piece off...we just trade for a treat and that works good. Since then (about a year now) we have had no choking problems.
Sorry this is so long...hope it helps!