When we adopted Farley, we agreed with the rescue organization and the woman who arranged the match that we would not use an electric fence to contain our furry friend. We understood that some people viewed them as unkind. Furthermore, we already had fences surrounding our backyard, so we really had no problem agreeing to this condition.
Then Farley arrived.
Farley came equipped with gigantic paws and a strong desire to socialize. He did not agree with the quarantine or the social distancing edicts. Within days of his arrival, he set about exploring his new territory in search of weak spots. Our neighbors to one side have an aging terrier named Izzy. I love almost all dogs, but I have to say that Izzy has an unpleasant personality. She is bossy, ill-tempered, and verbally abusive. She can frequently be heard throughout the neighborhood shouting obscenities and generally talking trash to any creature who walks past her bay window outpost at the western front or anyone who ventures near the border of her property in the back. I am not fluent in dog, so I don’t know the particulars of her dislike for Farley, but I imagine that it has something to do with his age, fur color, gender, optimism, or boundary issues. Possibly all of the above.
When Farley first saw Izzy in her backyard, he immediately assumed that as a fellow dog, well, really as a fellow organism, she would love to engage in some form of socializing. They could chase each other, gnaw on sticks together, sniff each other (of course), or perhaps search for long lost toys that had been buried under bushes. He stood on his hind legs, his head well above the top of the fence and proposed these ideas. Izzy responded in what was clear to me as an emphatic and categorical rebuke of every suggestion Farley had made, and probably any that he might make in the future.
I tried to break this to Farley as gently as possible. “I don’t think she’s interested, buddy.” I resisted saying what I thought was obvious, “She’s just not into you, Farley.” Farley would not consider this possibility. Who doesn’t like to run, sniff, gnaw, and hunt? He knew that if given the opportunity to demonstrate these activities, he could help Izzy see the light. At this point he followed the hardwired instincts of all Paddle-pawed Snugglehounds. He commenced digging. It was vitally important that he bring the good news to poor Izzy. Surprisingly, though he was already, at 45 pounds, as large as any of our previous dogs, he quickly created a trench large enough to allow him to breach the barrier and invade Izzy’s territory. Izzy voiced her displeasure in barks that were really impossible to misinterpret…unless you were as zealous and naive as young Farley.
In the chaotic scene that ensued, Farley sprinted about the neighbor’s yard, while Izzy protested vehemently, alternating between shouts of outrage and blatant slurs. I chased Farley, alternating between gentle coaxing and futile commands. Izzy’s family did not help matters. Charmed by Farley’s exuberance and general non-Izzy-ness, they offered tennis balls, biscuits, and pets on the head. They also offered to trade dogs.
We scolded Farley, lectured him about trespassing laws, and began taking steps to foil future escape plans. I filled in his trench and found a section of wire fencing , which I attached to the base of the existing fence. This worked. Farley never again dug a trench in that particular sector of the fence.
He did, however, identify several other undefended areas. He made several more forays into the neighbor’s yard. We began using other methods of deterrence. We are fortunate to live in an area where rocks are the main crop, so I began placing very large and heavy rocks along the base of the fence. While this created some inconvenience for Farley, he still managed a few more escapes. I placed an order for a product that the folks at Petco assured me would stop any digger from getting under a fence. I purchased the “large dog” version.
I mentioned Farley’s attraction to Izzy, but I have not mentioned that another attractive option lives in the house directly behind ours. Bo (or Beau. I haven’t actually seen his name in print), moved in about a month before Farley. He is decidedly more good-natured than Izzy, and shares Farley’s desire to socialize. The fence between our yards is a different variety. Whereas Izzy’s family prefers the split rail with wire mesh, Bo and Farley are separated by a four-foot-high stockade style fence. Because that border features many trees with substantial root networks, it presents a significant digging challenge. Another impediment to a long-term relationship between Farley and Bo might be the issue of size. While Farley had been growing at a rate of approximately a pound a minute during the spring, Bo seems to be nearing his full size, which is approximately equal to Farley’s head.
One should not, however, underestimate the power of small creatures. On one pleasant Friday evening, we discovered that Bo came equipped with spring-loaded hind legs. Tired of seeing Farley’s head and gigantic paws appearing over the top of the fence, Bo decided to join the other side. With a short running start, he leaped and easily cleared the fence, landing in our yard and proceeding to run rings around the delightedly dopey Farley. This was great fun, and we were all impressed with Bo’s athletic prowess, but before the feat could be reproduced, Bo went in for non-elective reproductive surgery and was not permitted to do any heavy leaping for several weeks.
I had hoped to witness the jump at least one more time so that I could capture the gravity-defying leap on video. Our neighbors seem to have convinced Bo that it was unacceptable behavior.
Meanwhile, Farley tunneled to our other side neighbor’s yard. That neighbor is a friendly retiree with no desire to share her space with Marmaduke. We have apologized repeatedly.
This past Friday, two large packages arrived from Petco. They were heavy. That was a good sign. This was a heavy-duty problem. Inside were 24 steel fence sections each featuring 12 sharp vertical spikes. Don’t worry, these were intended to penetrate the rocky soil, not Farley.
So, with great optimism on Saturday I commenced installation. Weaving the spikes through the bottom portion of the wire fencing, I pounded each section into the soil. Metal bars now reinforced the fencing, extending deep into the ground. It took quite a while, but by the afternoon, Izzy’s perimeter was secure. She would not be bothered by the burrowing boy again.
On Sunday, flush with the success on the northern front, I started to secure the side toward the retired neighbor’s yard. Farley kept me company as I pounded in the spikes and cursed the unyielding rocks. He seemed to be taking it well…maybe too well. By early afternoon, I had nearly finished. “Sorry, Farley,” I said as I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “It looks like you’re stuck here with us.” He panted, knowingly.
No sooner had I spoken, than Bo emerged from his back door in the house behind us. He barked a friendly greeting to Farley, who responded in kind. Perhaps they were commiserating about non-elective surgery, perhaps Bo was consoling Farley about his confinement, or maybe tweaking him for his limited leaping ability. I cannot recall the details. What I can clearly recall is what happened next.
Farley raced to the fence, planted his paws on the top edge, and launched himself into the final frontier. His rendezvous with Bo has left this pathetic human feeling exhausted, poorer, and with newfound empathy for Wile E. Coyote.