Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dog(s) Free to Good Home

Well I finally got some time off. Not in a good way. Tuesday morning started with the weather shitty and getting worse by the minute. High winds, sleet, and the roads were starting to ice up on the way to work.

Danny and I went to Hell*Mart and replaced the missing cafe phone and looked at the new movies and video games, stopped at Scronic for breakfast, then headed for work. Here and there we could see where a tree had been removed from the road, the bark and twigs still on the road, the fresh cut logs of the trunk and bigger branches dragged off to the side of the road, the roof of the Shell station piled up in the empty lot next door. I occurred to me then to wonder how my fence was holding. I think this is foreshadowing.

About 9 am the power went out. To be expected when the wind blows even a little bit up here. We live in a pine forest, pine trees not only have shallow root systems, but many of them also have been afflicted by bark beetles, which have left thousands of dead and weakened trees standing around just waiting for a reason to fall over on something, and Tuesday they did, in droves, knocking out power all over town.

I was sitting at the counter drinking the last of the coffee and thinking about putting on a pan of water for cowboy coffee when a police car pulled up out front. The officer got out and came to the front door.

'Shit, what now?' I was thinking as I unlocked the door. "Can I help you?" is what I said.

He told me that my neighbors had called them since they couldn't get through to me at the cafe, and that my fence had blown down and my dogs were running loose. I am a convicted misdemeanant due to two of those assholes (the well-behaved ones at that) and now they and the two younger ones, the ones with no social (or survival) skills are running around the neighborhood? Shit.

So, I drive the fifteen miles home, the wind trying to push me off the ice-slick highway. My cell phone rings...a 336 number, must be one of my neighbors.


It's Sonja, she lives just up the road from me.

"...yeah, I heard. What are they doing?"

She assured me that they weren't going too far, it was trash day and everyone had put their carts out earlier in the morning and the dogs were feasting on spilled and blowing trash. She also let me know that my fence was in the road.


A little bit about the fence. It is a six foot high wooden privacy fence that I had built last year after years of leaving the dogs in during the day, or on runners, and after one miserably failed attempt at constructing a chain link fence, which the dogs stared at for three minutes before pushing under it and running down to the creek, ignoring my pleas to cease and desist.

They returned from that escape at sundown, covered in mud and happy as hell, in spite of several porcupine quills. Assholes.

I like my wooden fence a lot. It covers a pretty good sized chunk of my property and looks nice, which is to say that it looks better than my backyard. Having several fair sized dogs, my backyard alternates between dust bowl and mud pit, depending on the weather. In a fit of optimism I put a nice little bench and a chiminea back there when the fence was first built. For a couple of nights I sat out there, watching my little fire, drinking some beers, and imagining the stone walk I would build up to the back corner of the yard where I would build a small deck to surround the hot tub I would have installed there. Right about then I would catch a wiff of something foul as one of the dogs finished taking a dump. So, the barren wasteland that is my backyard is forever to be the realm of the dogs.

I would have liked to build the fence all the way around the house. Then I could have built towers on the corners, and I would have then spent my dotage dressing up in a cavalry uniform and singing "She wore a yellow fucking ribbon" at the top of my lungs while rattling a sabre at my neighbors.

As soon as I pulled into the drive, three of the four escapees bounded around the corner, Po shouting at the top of his lungs, "DAD, DAD, DAD...DADADADAD...DAD...DAD!"
Tori and Sadie just smiled.

"Where's Heidi?" I asked.

"DAD!" Po answered. He's not real bright, that one.
Tori and Sadie just smiled.

I got them inside with Chloe the Chiweenie, and went back out to look for Heidi.

Yeah, that's right, five dogs. Five.

Now, a little bit about that. Let's start with the oldest, Heidi, a golden retriever. She was Z's, just a puppy when we started dating. The first time Z brought her over, Danny, who was five, got out his plastic doctor bag and gave the puppy a check up.

When Z moved out, Heidi stayed with us until she had a place where she could keep a large dog. Heidi promptly ran away. This happened a couple more times and Z brought her back to the house, and that's where Heidi's stayed.

Heidi is now 11, her face white, her sight is getting poor and she has arthritis, but she loves nothing more than being out in the woods, and will still chase anything that runs from her. She cannot pass water without getting in it. She is the sweetest tempered dog I have ever known. She sleeps on a cusion next to my bed. She snores. Loudly.

Tori is Heidi's daughter from her only litter. Heidi met Barks when we moved into the house we now live in. Barks was the neighbors' dog, a handsome Black Lab. They were a great match, they took walks down to the creek together, and he would not eat or drink until she had finished. He was an awesome dog and we were happy when she got pregnant by him. But before the puppies were born, Barks was hit by a car and killed. Heidi was miserable for days.

So, Tori must be about eight now. She's got her parents' temperament, and is very fat. When she goes to sleep the Chiweenie curls up on her back and sleeps there. When she was born we kept her because Z wanted to have one of Heidi's and Barks's pups. She is supposed to be my younger daughter's dog.

So is Chloe. Chloe was born to Pepper, Z's wiener dog, and Chopper, a Chihuahua that also belonged to the same neighbors as Barks. Again, Z wanted to keep a puppy, and again it was supposed to be Em's dog.

Em claims this is not the case, and says that she gave Chloe to Danny. Danny ignores this information. Whoever's dog she is, I know that I am the one who picks up after her, feeds, and waters her.

Like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, she bolts at any opportunity, but immediately announces her freedom by barking her head off as she runs the neighborhood, often going through or under other people's fences so that she can let their dogs know how cool she is.

Sadie is a beautiful Border Collie and again she is Em's dog. Em actually claims this one though. She bought Sadie after wearing me down for about a month about how she was good kid and how she got good grades and how she never got in trouble like her siblings...on and on and on. Same tactics that she's using now to wear me down about her going to Austin.

Sadie is supposed to be intelligent, but I have seen no proof of this. She is very sweet though, is interested in cats, but scared shitless of them at the same time since getting mauled when she put her nose up to a pregnant cat's ass last year.

Then there is Po, of all the dogs he is truly mine in that I made a conscious (and sober) decision to take him as a pup this past spring from my mom and dad's place, which is apparently the dumping ground for unwanted dogs in McIntosh County, Oklahoma. Po's already pregnant mom being the latest of no telling how many dogs that have been dumped nearby and then found their way to my folks' place.

Po is a mut, very long legged and skinny, but with the head and markings of a Rottweiler. He actually is smart, having figured out doors and their operation from an early age. He just has no common sense.

Where was I? Oh, yeah...where was Heidi?

After getting the rest of the neighborhood terrorists locked up I went in search of Heidi, calling and whistling...nothing. By then the storm was getting worse, any attempt to face west being dissuaded by sleed driven by winds which were measured at the airport at 77 mph.

My house is on the east end of a bottleneck which opens into the valley holding our subdivision.
I'm not sure, but I think the sleet stinging my face was doing eighty.

Well, this is already turning into a two-night-movie-event-on-CBS, so I'll cut it short. The rest of the story isn't really that interesting anyway.

Heidi showed up about a half hour later, covered in freezing mud, and was so shocked to see me standing there that she barked at me. She almost never barks.

Busted, dad's not supposed to be home right now.

The next day I borrowed a pickup and got the lumber and hardware that I needed to fix the fence. Thursday and Friday were mostly taken up with removing the old concrete footings. There were three that had to come out and I got the first two on Thursday in a little over four hours, chipping away with a pick and a large breaker bar, the third took over three hours. Then I set the new posts, mixing and pouring fresh concrete footings.

Saturday morning I could barely move, I felt like I had been beaten with a rod, my hands were deformed claws, but I did get to sleep in, so that was nice. Of course, the wind was back up that day and maneuvering the fence panels into place and keeping them there single handed was...dumb. Kind of like trying to push a sail in a wind tunnel.

But I got it. It's not perfect, there are some sections that need more work to be a little more cosmetically correct, but as Emily helpfully pointed out, "Who cares? We can't see that side anyway."

She's right but I'll still fix it.

Oh, it took all of one day for Sadie and Po to figure out that they could easily dig out where the once-packed dirt was now loose. Sunday night I came home to find Sadie outside the fence, and Po missing. He hadn't turned up the next morning, but Em found a note stuck to the door from one of the sheriff's deputies letting us know that he had picked Po up and taken him to the pound.

So, I went to bail Po out and on the way home he hyperventilated and threw up in my front seat. Twice.

Anybody want a dog?


Maria said...

Good lord. You are such a lovely, tolerant man.

I have one dog. I nearly lost my mind when we trained him. Now, he is trained but he is still work. If I had two dogs, I would probably be very cranky. Just the smell of one dog in from a romp in the snow and wet fur melting almost makes me sick.

I love my dog, but I really, really don't want him to ever fall in love with another dog. He can fall in love with maybe a goldfish or something. That would be okay with me.

Annemarie of Holland said...

Sounds like your dogs keep you even busier than mine keep me! The good thing is, I think, that afterwards you can laugh about stuff like this if it's the dogs that caused the trouble. With children, one would be less amused, I'm inclined to think. (Don't have and don't want kids, so really can't say for sure.) Dogs just have this way of looking at you like: «What? ME? I was not supposed to do this? NOW he tells me!» No choice but to melt, even in a blizzard.

The fence as such raised my interest too; we'll have to build one ourselves soon, and were thinking of wood, but if they blow away easily, we may have to think again...

Eric said...

Hi Annemarie,

Yeah, children are so much easier to stay mad at, especially 17 year old daughters.

The problem with the fence was in both materials and construction. I'm no engineer, but I could pretty much tell how one small section had failed first because it hadn't been screwed in well enough (too close to the edge) which then caused a chain reaction down the line.
We do have high winds here, especially in the spring, but these were extreme. Also, we're kind of exposed here, no real windbreaks close enough to make any difference.
If I had it to do over, I'd use a steel frame instead of cured wood which, while it won't warp, it is very brittle.
Much more expensive, to be sure, but your fence wouldn't be going anywhere.

Annemarie of Holland said...

Thanks for the info. I'll make sure to check out wind speeds in Sweden, where we bought a house this summer. Wood would be prettier, but I don't fancy having to put up the fence once AGAIN every time we go up there for a holiday... Ah, and the locals will be able to tell us more about fencing conditions next summer. Right now, the ground will be frozen solid, and knowing my dogs, they'll feel much more comfortable indoors by the fire. I expect them to accept an offer of cognac and a sigar any day now.

Heather Trabucco said... are either a very patient man, or a total glutton for punishment. or both. I can't imagine having that many dogs. I have one mini weenie dog who borders on about 10lbs and drives me nuts with his using our basement as his toilet shenanigans. However, when I look into his sweet little face and see how very enthusiastically he greets me whether i have been gone 5 minutes of 5 days, it reminds me why I fell in love with the little scoundrel. and then I start romancing the notion of getting him a buddy....and then i get a whiff of the basement dog toilet smell (that no matter how much clorox i use or pressure washing i do it still stinks!!) and i'm brought back to reality and know that I myself in my mental state can only handle one dog at time. 2 would have me seeking out a padded room in a nuthouse.
very funny story!

Eric said...

Thanks Heather, for the compliment and for stopping by.
I'm thinking I'm a glutton for punishment...don't feel that patient.