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The Great Houdini

March 20, 2010

No, not that one.  I mean my dog, Shasta, whom we shall henceforward refer to as Houdini, because she exhibits such skill.

Dear Wife spent some time working from home on Thursday.  Shasta (i.e. Houdini) loves days like this, because she can spend time outside, or come inside, and sometimes – sometimes – she can even weasel which ever of us stayed home with her into play a game of tug or fetch.  She enjoys spending time out doors, laying in the grass soaking up sun, or chasing squirrels, or sitting on the deck overlooking the yard like a queen. 

Midway through the day, Dear Wife noticed our incorrigible pup was barking at the UPS man… from the front yard!

Discovering that our canine companion had once again escaped the back yard is a bit disconcerting, and stressful to boot.  Yes, this is not the first time she’s exhibited her powers of prestidigitation and escapology.  It was probably about a month after she first joined our family that we discovered her first escape.  It was a Saturday morning, and I’d let her out into the back yard so she could take care of business while Dear Wife and I went back to sleep in just a little longer.  It wasn’t long later before a neighbor stopped by, knocking on our door.  She’d been walking her own dogs, and saw ours happily on her own way to the dog park.

We responded (first by thanking our neighbor) by looking through the back yard to figure out how she’d done it.  We came to the conclusion that at a point where our fenced met with a retaining wall that the wall was too low there.  So we bought (and Dear Wife assembled) an extra five-foot extension to the fence, so it would cover until the wall was another foot higher.  We reasoned that Shasta had trouble trying to get up on our bed, so anything taller than our bed would be tall enough to keep her in.

Months later, on a similar Saturday morning, we had a similar experience.  Except, rather than our neighbor bringing her back to us, she was just hanging out in the front yard and on the porch.  Another time she was running around in the neighbor’s back yard.  So, we added a bit of decorative fencing to the top of the retaining wall that separates the front yard from the back (which are at two different ground levels).  Now, it’s back to the drawing board again.

Inside the house, when she’s been left home alone during the work day, it’s been much the same.  Both Dear Wife and I would rather leave Shasta in Doggy Day Care of some kind, but we can’t really afford the extra expense.  So she spends her days in the kitchen, with her bed and a half dozen toys, a chewey stick, and a handful of doggie cookies.  The first few times we tried this with a wooden baby gate were… unsuccessful.  She chewed up the baby gate into kindling, and left scraps of some magazines and assorted other things all over the livingroom floor.  Later, we got a heavy, thick metal gate that screws into the door frame and bars like a jail cell.  It had a small cat door at the bottom.

Eventually, Shasta ate the latch off the cat door.  I came home to that one.  I don’t recall what, specifically, she tore up that day, I was just surprised by the cat door incident.  I saw it hanging open, with the rest of the gate still securely latched.  But she’s a 50-pound dog – something of a few sizes larger than your average house cat.  The cat door was half her size.  But there was the evidence, incontrovertible, that she had somehow gotten through it.  The mess she made ignored, I called her into the kitchen, closed and latched the gate, and left the cat door open.  I went into the living room, and called her out to me.  My jaw must have dropped as she slipped through the cat door with feline ease.   I watched it with my own eyes, and I still can’t quite explain how she did it.  So, we bought some chain to permanently seal the cat door.

Given the ability she exhibited in that particular incident… finding out how she’s escaping from the back yard this time is not going to be easy.  Any small gap between fence and ground that we don’t think she can fit through could be, in reality, just big enough.

So far we’ve been lucky, and she’s been pretty much unhurt every time she’s gotten out.  We don’t assume we’ll stay lucky like that forever.

Knowing how much Shasta breaking out puts gray in our hair, I can imagine what it’s going to be like when its our child on the line.

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