First, let me state for the record that no dogs were harmed in the making of this column, though not for lack of trying.
Being rural dwellers we suffer the delusion that our dogs will appreciate and embrace the blessing that is open access to the great outdoors. We have a large yard they can roam at will, and being former city dwellers (me) we have carefully placed invisible pet fencing around the perimeter so they can run and play and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while being contained, via a harmless battery-operated collar that emits a beep in warning and a minor sting if they cross the boundary.
Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so is one man’s dog another man’s nuisance. I am not a fan of roaming dogs.
One dog, Ace, is a German shepherd and everyone tells him he is fast and beautiful, because he is. Our smaller (and rounder) dog, Jagger, has stubby legs on a squatty, extra-wide body and is not built for speed. He’s fluffy and fat and always happy to wander along in a sort of slow and steady gait, hoping more than anything that snacks will cross his path.
They have harbored a winter-long disdain for mornings, which are generally met with eyes clamped shut and an “are you kidding me it’s COLD out there” yawn as they steadfastly refuse to leave the house. Forget call of the wild. They are in tune with the “call of a warm bed and blanket.”
With the break in the weather the dogs were uncharacteristically enthusiastic when freed yesterday. They lit out for the back of the barn willing to gambol around a bit in the crisp, damp morning air. Soon Ace returned but Jagger, always his shadow, did not. I wasn’t in a panic. He’s a foot tall and fat, how far could he go? We have that invisible fence after all.
We stood there, calling his name until it dawned on us that he was not on his way, however slowly, and would not suddenly appear. Our daughter and I headed around the side of the barn to find our dog. Just when I said aloud “It’s so hard when he looks just exactly like every other short, squat log and rock out here” we noticed that one “rock” sitting straight ahead and planted firmly in a briar patch, wagged its tail.
I shout “Jagger, COME!” He wags his tail. I yell “Jagger, come ON!” He rolled over. I stamp my feet and wave my arms in frustration. He turns around and lies down, glancing over his shoulder as if to say “you’re making a spectacle of yourself now.”
Thus, we faced our happy but refusing to budge dog across a sea of mud and briars twined thick and deep. We are officially late for school and I, a woman who prides herself on never stooping to pleading or begging to get her way when dealing with her children, has been bested by the DOG.
Finally I do what any right-minded person standing in cold wet grass and seeping mud while wearing cute sandals would do, I utter an unkind word, threaten that dog’s very LIFE, and wade into the high grass, mud squishing over my toes, to retrieve my wayward dog.
He smiles big when he sees me like “Oh there you are! It is wet, no?”
Only then do I hear the faint “beeping” sound. What is that? Only the sound of his invisible fence collar alerting him that he is about to breach the perimeter. The problem? He already HAS and is sitting one foot PAST the boundary of the fence, his behind planted firmly on the far side
Suddenly his reluctance to return to hearth and home all makes perfect sense. I am knee deep in wet grass and mud because my dog had no qualms about crossing OUT of his invisible-even-to-him fence, but is not willing to risk the sting to come BACK. Basically, I paid good money to keep my own dog OUT of our yard.
I reach down, remove the collar, and thus freed he happily steps over the line and trots out of the briar patch. It will take me longer because I’m ankle deep in mud and the cursing kind of slows you down. My shoes are ruined but my dog is safe, so in the end it’s just the equation you want, once you get over yourself.
We now know that the grass really IS greener (and muddier) on the other side of the (invisible) fence, and that you really should let sleeping dogs lie there.