Friday, January 21, 2011
don't fence me in
I love my dogs. They make me laugh, cry, yell and pull my hair out in frustration but most of all they make me happy. They are big, though not as big as we thought they would get (and for that I am counting my blessings). They are loud. And despite going to remedial dog classes, they don't listen all that well. But they're ours' and I love them.
Now, while they are not all that big, they can jump like freaking kangaroos. They will sit at the back door when they want to come in and if we don't move fast enough they will start leaping up at the door. I do not kid you in the least that I am wiping paw prints off the door at over five feet high. My adorably mischievous pups put this talent to good use. The end of the summer Mudge discovered that the gate to our stockade fence, which runs across the sides of the yard (the rest of the yard is fenced in with chain link), was lower than the rest of the fence. In no time at all, he had figured out how to jump up onto the gate and then over he'd go. Daisy, while no slouch, is not quite as agile but she'd scramble and claw her way up and over too so as not to be left behind. At first they only employed this tactic when they heard something going on in the front yard but it didn't take long before the wonders of the wide world beckoned and they would leap out every chance they could. So I came up with a brilliant deterrent. I bought a piece of lattice about three feet wide and six or seven feet long. I pounded a couple nails into the gate posts and hung the lattice up over the gate. Presto! The gate was instantly taller and it was removable so we could still easily get in and out. This worked...for a little while.
Mudge realized anything and everything would work as a ladder...a cooler, a trash can, a bike trailer, a box, even the plywood window inserts for the screenhouse. All became tools in his campaign to get up and over the fence. And Daisy, ever loyal, would always follow him up and over. It got so that I couldn't let them out without standing out in the yard with them. I tried tying Mudge up but he broke three collars in his successful attempts to break loose and I was terrified he would hurt himself doing that. So I'd stand out in my yard with them, in the wee hours of the morning, under the moon and all the hours in between...ready to grab one or both by the tails if they made so much as a move to jump to freedom.
If they did manage to get out, I had to round up the kids and immediately head up or down the street calling their names, hoping and praying they didn't wander out to the main road. Usually they went straight to the marshes in the woods and emerged twenty minutes later muddy, smelly and looking so pleased with themselves. Once the daycare kids came back in the fall, I realized something had to give. There was one week where I had to pack all the kids, my own and a couple others into the van, in the pouring rain, to look for the dogs...not once, not twice but three or four times in the course of the day. Something needed to change.
I happened to mention our doggie dilemma at Teresa's friend birthday party and hence came our salvation. One of the Moms said her husband installed electric dog fences and he'd be happy to come over and give us a quote. I think I hugged her while weeping my thank yous.
About a week later our fence was installed and it truly has changed my life. I no longer worry about the dogs getting out, getting hit if they escaped or hurting someone while running loose. It took some training with both dogs to teach them their boundaries and I'm still not confident they wouldn't bolt through the invisible fence in the front yard if the temptation was strong enough. However, I can let them out the back door and into the back yard with nary a care in the world. The training required some flags planted all around the back and front yard to mark the boundaries visibly until the dogs learned them. We were told not to move the flags until the dogs were fully trained. I had to explain to my children and the daycare children that the flags marked a special invisible fence for the dogs and they were not to touch them at all. The kids all nodded solemnly and said they understood.
Later on that day, I took the kids out into the yard and watched as Katie, M, C and A wandered over to one of the flags. They put their arms out and their hands were outstretched in front of them and they were slowly moving them up and down. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what they were up to. So I went over and asked them what they were doing. Katie said, "We're trying to find the invisible fence but we can't feel it at all."