Friday, March 23, 2012

My Dog Ran Away Last Night

Please do not worry! Let me start by saying Desmond is home and safe and in good health (other than being particularly extra insane).

While I was home alone last night, Desmond took it upon himself to vacate our property.

We often let Desmond out into the yard--it is completely fenced in--to potty or just to hang out. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

Sometimes, if the neighbor's cat is in our yard, Desmond will take off after it. The cat jumps back over the stockade fence onto its property, and Desmond attempts to propel himself over after the cat. This does not work, because the fence is six feet high. All this does is make the fence sway toward the neighbor, and I keep making jokes about how Desmond is going to break it one day. It's not a new fence by any means (we were only able to replace half of the fencing since buying the house but we'll replace that one day).

But that's not what happened last night.

In fact, I have no real idea what happened last night, because everything was intact when I realized Desmond was not on the scene.

Let me back up...

Desmond always comes to the back screen door and whines when he wants to come in. After a few minutes of him being outside, I heard no whining, so I went to check on him. For the record, he's stayed out there for up to 30 minutes without incident.

I didn't see him. I called him and heard nothing. I turned on our brightest outdoor lights and still didn't see him.

Sometimes he investigates behind one of the sheds at the far end of our property, so I ran inside for sneakers (I was in my slippers) and then headed into the current dirt & poo pit (where our grass will be planted) to look back there. No Desmond.
 
Now I start freaking out and screaming his name. I hear his tags jingle (more on that later). I call him again. More jingles. Again I call. Now I hear whining and realize he's on the other side of the fence, in the neighbor's yard.

I keep calling him in hopes he will come back however the hell he got there, but now he just starts pacing and whining, almost like he's getting nervous because he can't find or see me.

I realize I have to run around the block to get him, because there's no other access (we're next to a park, neighbor is on a dead end), although I do take a second to contemplate whether or not I can climb onto our garage shed's roof and jump over--then it dawns on me that this may be how he got there (more on that later, too).

Let me pause here to give you a visual of the properties I'm dealing with.

The Google Maps version, which was taken long before we did a lot of work, so it's hard to see:

the black lines are all fences. the pink is our house. the blue is the neighbor's house. his property is set in a strange way (is that even legal??), so his front door does not lead to a sidewalk. granted, our property is L-shaped, so we're weird, too.
Here's my horribly-drawn, not-at-all-to-scale version that hopefully will give you even more perspective (you can click on these to see them bigger):

the garage is under the giant tree in the Maps version, and the retaining wall/pavement didn't exist when Google came around with their fancy cameras.


I take off out of my yard, leaving all doors wide open and lights on, but not before grabbing a leash. I sprint down my block, which is fairly long, around the side street, and back down the next block to the dead end. I can't figure out if I'm going to throw up or have a heart attack, but I'm pretty sure I'm wildly out of shape at this point (never too busy to criticize myself!). In fact, as it turns out, I aggravated an old hip/groin injury and am feeling it today.

I start calling him again and then this big black thing whizzes past me and up into a tree, and, for a second, I think it's my dog. But then Des comes flying after it and I know it was the cat. Now Desmond is trying to climb the tree, and my neighbor has come out of his house, and I'm about to just die from being horrified to the max.

I'm now apologizing to the guy and calling Desmond with every other breath. The guy is totally unaffected by the frazzled woman in pajamas in his front yard (which is good I guess), and Desmond stops harassing the cat long enough that he sees me and gives me a look that basically says, "Oh, hi Mom. Look--a cat!!" I grab his collar and start dragging him off the property while still apologizing to the guy. Then I stop at the dead end and put Desmond on his leash.

At this point, I'm entirely shaken and just want to get him home to check for injuries. He's all wound up though and wants to go for a run/find another cat to harass and proceeds to pretty much drag me down the block. I don't have the wherewithal to deal with training issues at the moment, so I just do my best to get him to pull me in the direction of home and I sort of run to keep up with him and not choke him, which works fine enough until we learn that the crazy barking dogs from across the street (you've heard about them here) are out in the yard.

They weren't out when I first ran like a psycho from my house to go get Desmond, but--of course--they were out when I got back. Desmond proceeds to go nuts in a way I haven't previously witnessed. He's basically doing flips in the air at the end of the leash. I start dragging him toward the house--which now does choke him, since he's not in his harness and also involves his whole body flopping and scraping against things it shouldn't.

We finally get home, and I collapse into a wreck, and Desmond gets some water and then plops down on the couch like nothing ever happened (not that that lasted...he turned into Captain Energy after about a 10-minute rest and would not settle down for the duration of the night. This continued into the morning.).

When I get in touch with my husband, we discuss possibilities of how the hell this happened. Joey reveals to me that due to some work recently done in the yard the fence may be a bit easier to get under than it once was. It never occurred to me that Desmond didn't somehow get over the fence until I heard this, but now that seems more likely.

At this point, I kind of want to sell all my valuables and get a new fence, plus a moat and perhaps some guards. I am in utter disbelief. I didn't think Desmond had this in him. And I also now have kind of no idea what to do. If he really did go under the fence, that's solvable enough, but what if he went over it? And how will we ever really know?

For now, obviously, he will not be out in the yard without supervision, which is a downer for any variety of reasons, but I guess we'll have to figure something out.

We have a tie-out, but Desmond is not a big fan of it, and I'd want a much longer one if that were going to be a solution to this problem. I don't want him to not have access to parts of the yard; I don't want him to get frustrated by reaching the end of the line; and I don't want him to snap his neck if he runs after something that comes into the yard. But I also don't want him to get tangled in a long line.

As a slight aside, an invisible fence is not an option, as far as I'm concerned, so there's no need to pass along that suggestion. I'd be happy to hear all others, though.

Taking him for a walk isn't the easiest activity, and now we have to worry about him in the yard (I am convinced that now that he knows he can get out, he will make additional attempts). This dog is going to give me gray hair before he's been with us a year. And I'm starting to think having a child will put me directly into a very early grave.

Thank goodness I start work with my mentor trainer tomorrow. I'm hoping she can provide some input. She also does behavior modification (I'm in school to become an obedience instructor, for the most part), so I may wind up hiring her for his reactivity if she thinks she can help him anyway.

The More-on-That-Laters:

Desmond's old tags (that we lost) never used to jingle. I loved that. His new tags, even after the tag silencer was put on, jingle enough to annoy me every day. I've been too lazy to do anything about it, but thank goodness. If it were not for his jingling, I might have taken off into the night--in the wrong direction--to look for him and then lost him. I don't want to think too hard about that.

In the drawn picture above, you can see where our garage shed is (in yellow) and the retaining wall we recently had put in (in blue). I suspect Desmond could have stood on the wall, jumped onto the garage shed roof (which is lower than the actual garage's roof), and then jumped down into the neighbor's yard. This may be a mystery for the ages.
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