I have a terrible memory. Always have. I’ve been known to forget birthdays (my own included). While driving, I sometimes forget how to get some place I’ve been to 100 times. I often see movies twice because I’ve forgotten that I’ve already seen them the first time.
Some memories, though, are permanently etched into my brain like a tattoo. I can recall them instantly and with vivid color. I can remember what I was wearing, what time of day or night it occurred, and who was there.
One very vivid memory I have is the first time I ever experienced a dog getting lost.
Picture it. Washington. D.C., 2011. I just started dating a guy who recently got a miniature wirehaired Dachshund named Wisty. She was very sweet but incredibly shy and fearful of pretty much everything, including her own shadow. He was obsessed with her.
We decided to host a dinner party together at his house for his birthday and invited a bunch of friends. It was a fun evening. We made too much food. Drinks were flowing. It was a beautiful April night, so some people were socializing in the small backyard attached to his row house. The back door was left open so people could come in and out.
He only had Wisty for a few weeks at this point, so he was still getting to know her behaviors and tendencies. Given how fearful she was of everything, he thought it best to keep her away from the party festivities where she’d feel safer. So we put her in an X-pen downstairs in the basement where she could enjoy quiet away from all the people.
At some point in the evening, he decided to bring her upstairs to introduce her to friends. She wasn’t too thrilled with that idea, so as soon as she had an opportunity, she scurried back down to the basement. We figured she’d hide down there the rest of the night and didn’t give it another thought.
At around 10 p.m., I went downstairs to fetch more drink mixers. While I was down there, I did a quick check to see how Wisty was doing. I couldn’t find her anywhere. After looking everywhere in the basement, I ran upstairs to see if she was hiding somewhere in the living room.
Within minutes, we realized she wasn’t anywhere in the house. We both stared at the open back door, and our hearts dropped. His small backyard space was completed enclosed by a rod iron fence. Since he had only had her for a few weeks at this point, he had not yet realized that she could easily squeeze through the bars if she wanted to. As it turned out, she did just that.
The party abruptly stopped, and everyone fanned across the neighborhood to try to find her. After nearly two hours of searching in the dark and coming up with nothing, the search party returned to the house feeling frustrated and guilty that none of us ever saw it happen in the first place.
The birthday boy was visibly upset, and I couldn’t help but imagine how I’d feel if the same thing had happened to either of my dogs.
Fortunately, around 11:30 p.m., one of our guests was smart enough to scour social media to see if anyone posted finding a dog in the neighborhood. He found a post from someone on Twitter who posted an hour earlier about a dog she found in front of her apartment. She posted an awful photo of a scared and trembling Wisty — who looked like she’d just crossed the English Channel having realized halfway through that she didn’t know how to swim. Poor thing looked haggard. We would henceforth refer to that photo as her “mugshot.”
Now that she was back safe in our care, the following day I helped him Wisty-proof the backyard fence by installing chicken wire all the way across and filling in any sections between the fence and the house that she could possibly squeeze through. By the time we were done, it was like Fort Knox for dogs.
Now that we’ve crossed over to warmer weather, dogs are more likely to spend time outdoors in the yard. So now is a good time to make sure your yard is properly enclosed. Here are some fencing tips to help keep Fido safely contained.
- Regularly walk the perimeter of your yard to check for damage to fencing. Do not let your dog outside off leash until any damage is repaired.
- Many dogs escape because visitors leave gates open. Before you let your dog out, make sure that latches and gates are secure.
- Just like Wisty, small dogs can fit through slats in a wooden fence or between rod iron bars. Use chicken wire to cover the holes. It’s inexpensive and super easy to install.
- Large dogs may be able to jump over your fence. Install high, durable fencing. Be sure to check city ordinances before installing new fencing.
- Think about planting shrubs along the fence line to help your dog ignore outside distractions.
- Move items like bins, chairs, and tables away from fencing as they may serve as a launching pad for your dog.
- If your dog digs, bury chicken wire at the base of your fence or place large rocks at the base.
- Do not leave your dogs unattended for long periods of time.
- A fenced yard is not a substitute for walking your dogs.
- Remember, it’s the law to keep your dog confined.
- Spayed/neutered pets are less likely to roam.
Because I can’t seem to keep my stories brief, I don’t have enough room now to give you tips on what to do if your dog or cat gets loose and runs away. So I’ll cover that topic next week. Stay tuned!