Daddy Talk: Those People with the Dog
By Tim Krason
Our family moved to a new house at the end of the summer, and I’m afraid that on this street we have become known as “those people with the dog.” It’s not that the other folks around us don’t have dogs. It’s just that ours is the one that keeps escaping from the backyard to produce mayhem on the surrounding area.
When we moved in, we could plainly see that the backyard fence was in need of some attention. The left side of the house didn’t have a fence at all for about sixteen feet, so my first project was building a privacy fence with a large gate to finish enclosing the yard. Our dog, Stella, a boxer/mastiff mix, was already adept at finding ways out of fenced areas, so sticking her where there was an obviously incomplete fence and expecting her to honor the boundaries would certainly be a foolhardy endeavor.
The good news is that Stella has yet to escape through the privacy fence that I constructed. The bad news is that she has found about 13,000 other ways to escape. Trying to keep up with Stella’s jailbreaks could be likened to counterterrorism strategies. Sometimes we take tips from neighbors who saw something. Sometimes we stakeout the backyard until she is about to move through a compromised spot in the fence, and we jump out from behind a tree yelling, “Gotcha!” Sometimes we shore up the borders, walking around the perimeter to investigate points of weakness. Sometimes we realize we’ve failed, assume that she’s already out someplace, and call in reinforcements from groups of friends and neighbors. And sometimes we keep her detained in the house for awhile until we think that she has given up on ideas for escape.
The only grace we have had during this transition time where we’re trying to get our wits about us in closing in the backyard is that plenty of friends and neighbors have been kind and supportive of our plight. The man who lives next door has brought Stella home for us multiple times. In at least one of those instances, he was covered in mud. I suspect that he is cursing the day we moved in, but he’s suppressing that emotion pretty well.
We have gotten to meet several neighbors who we did not previously know – simply because Stella ran into their yard, and they called the phone number on her tag. Stella continues to visit one house in particular, and those people now just bring her home for us. The neighbors two doors down have a motion sensor security camera, and we’ve gotten texts from them: “Stella just ran through our yard! We have footage!” The camera is a great gadget considering it also gives us a lead on which direction the darn dog ran.
We even have some friends who showed up unannounced on a Sunday afternoon recently armed with pliers, chicken wire, and fence stakes. They spent a few hours in the backyard installing new fencing where the overgrowth had done damage to the old chain link fence. Considering the ways that the folks around us have reacted to our incompetence as pet owners has affirmed again the importance of good community relationships. I can more easily bear the label of “those people with the dog” when I know that “those people who have to deal with the dog” seem to be on our same team.