Yup, we’re “those” people in the neighborhood, the ones who can’t keep their dog in their yard. Why does every canine we own need to escape — if only for an hour — every chance they get? We feed them, house them, walk them, and love them. They love us back, but damn. Is it us?
This problem began with Ren (yes, he looked like the star of the 90’s cartoon). Ren’s favorite hobby was running away and yapping at people in their own yards. How pleasant to have your nightly cocktail interrupted by a toothy, bat-eyed Chihuahua barking like you just killed his mother.
Some neighbors had more of a sense of humor than others. And I honestly don’t blame those who didn’t. In fact, I’m surprised Ren survived to the ripe old age of 14.
Our next dog Simon had love on his mind when he hit the highway. His crush was named (aptly or not)… Prudence. She was a cute little Lhasa Apso with white fur and lived one street over. Simon adored Prudence, but she was just one stop on the cookie route.
We’d get calls from people miles away. And always was the same embarrassing question…“Are you the owners of this dog?” We knew what was implied. Are you the idiots who can’t keep your damn animal on your property?
My husband Randy bought customized collars with Simon’s name, address, and telephone number. We would’ve added blood type and zodiac sign if needed.
People often asked how Simon escaped. The answer many times was… we didn’t know.
Aside from the occasional door left open, there were afternoons I’d get a call about Simon being in a neighbor’s yard. I’d look around, having no idea he was out of the house. There was no sign of exit. Harry Houdini would’ve scratched his head in wonder.
Years passed. We now have cute, little lap dog Libby. I breathed a sigh of relief when we adopted her. Females don’t roam, I was always told. Hallelujah. Then I lived with Libby a few weeks. Females don’t roam? To quote Joe Biden, “That’s a bunch of malarkey.”
She can’t be trusted near any open door. We now have this elaborate exit drill whenever we leave the house. Someone must hold Libby while everyone else makes a hasty retreat. The last one must somehow maneuver out the door while Libby remains inside. Trust me, it’s easier said than done.
The bad news is Libby roams. The good news is we know where she goes. Libby has found true love next door with handsome swain Roscoe. (And yes, thank God, she’s fixed).
I learned about Roscoe last time Libby ran. I was starting to panic when a young woman appeared on our driveway, holding Libby while pushing a baby carriage. She was the nanny next door.
“Are you her owner?” she asked. I cringed, feeling the usual shame. We were now three for three in the escaping dog department. She told me about Roscoe and handed back Libby. Like many dog finders over the years, I was struck by her kindness and patience.
And so it goes. Our house now has borders, guards and observation towers that would shock Gitmo. We know where Libby is at any given moment. Hannibal Lecter had less monitoring.
Not to mention, it’s scary when she’s gone. Could she have run out on the road? Is she the midday snack of some coyote?
There’s nothing worse than when she’s missing, but there’s nothing better than the sight of her returning – either in my husband’s car or the arms of one of my sons or the nanny next door. I want to scold and hug her at the same time.
And yes, it’s getting harder to deny all these AWOL canines aren’t somehow about us. Where do we go wrong? Why don’t we ever have dogs that stay put? Our neighborhood’s awash in pooches and I never see any (except ours) trotting around untethered.
Someday we’ll crack this code. If we don’t, the same solution will present itself that always has. Libby will simply outgrow her love of the open highway. Like Simon and Ren, she’ll get too old.
In the meantime, all we can do is keep her away from open doors, buy lots of collars and accept the fact we’ll always be “those” people.
Do you have an errant dog that likes to escape? Comments (and suggestions) are always welcome. Thanks for reading and if you like, please share. Thank you!