Humans take lead, dogs play hardball

Mona Hill
Staff Writer


I blame Dorothy really. Be sure to get two Great Pyrenees — a pair will be more of a challenge for predators, she said.

I heard predators, not challenge. Two 70-pound, 6-month-old puppies are more than a challenge for anyone, never mind a predator. I even think they could beat the demon squirrel.

My poor husband labored through the hot summer building a nice fence: best quality no-step fencing, cemented-in fence posts, evenly spaced. It was a thing of beauty.

It cannot keep Houdini One and Two confined. They’ve escaped more often than Steve McQueen. If they are not tunneling under, they’re climbing over or going through.

Everyone in the neighborhood knows my “cute” dogs because they go visiting faster than we can bring them home.

I’m sure my arms are six inches longer from trying to teach them to heel, sit or stay — especially stay. Jack would rather choke himself than heel.

Of course, Jack is the evil twin, known to Steve and me as Jack the Lad. He’s a nice dog, just a happy-go-lucky mule, determined to find mischief before it finds him. He is the instigator, leading George astray at every opportunity. And he’s so happy.

George is devoted to Jack, hates to be separated from him. He’s steadier, quicker to learn and shows signs of becoming a fine livestock guardian. Well, except for his unfortunate willingness to follow wherever Jack leads.

Pyrs think everything they see is their territory. The breed developed back in the day when sheep roamed free in the Pyrenees and there were predators in Europe (besides today’s two-legged variety). They were bred for size and territoriality, to go where the flock went and protect it.

Pyrs also make great family dogs. They are loving, if large. They’re protective of their people. Did I mention they’re large?

However, they are happiest doing what they were bred for: guarding the flock in the great outdoors. They need space.

Problem is: the outdoors has been parceled out and Pyrs don’t know it. Somehow, two-thirds of an acre for three alpacas and two dogs is not great outdoors enough.

Steve works at home and he was so busy trying to corral Jack and George that he wasn’t working. He dug, he shoveled, he hammered and he sawed, trying to create a Maginot Line.

My backyard fence looks like a scrap yard — tin, cement, rocks and wood are piled up to fortify it against our canine escape artists.

To no avail. Logs? Drag them away. Large boulders? Push them aside.

They climb hay bales and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Events came to a head in February: Jack and George were bounding away so often we thought the fence had disappeared. As with the Germans, our line was ineffective.

I made an appointment with the vet to neuter Jack and George in hopes that would decrease their drive to wander at will. We also ordered an “invisible” fencing system, complete with the radio collars and 500 feet of cable.

The fencing system arrived to coincide with the first major storm in weeks. Of course.

My lovely, patient, salt-of-the-earth husband began installing it the next day.

Steve soldiered forth, clad in his flannel lined jeans and bright yellow canary suit to do battle with the elements and install the fence. The canary suit is a full set of yellow waterproofs and my 6-foot-5-inch husband is a sight to behold in it. He loves it, says it’s the best $30 he ever spent.

Most of it was comparatively easy, tying it to the existing fence line. I say comparatively because despite the accumulated snow, it was nothing compared to burying the cable at each of the two gates.

After wading through hip-deep snow, attaching the cable with quickly frozen fingers, he came up 20 feet short. I nearly had to put him in therapy he was so distraught.

At the weekend, we found and bought the only extant 20-gauge cable in Quincy, relieved to have avoided a trip to the big city. After another few hours’ work, the circuit was complete.

We introduced Jack and George to their new and improved field the next day. Lo and behold, it worked and all is right with the world.

FOR SALE: lightly used invisible fencing system.

WANTED: Livestock electrical fence installer. Work to include concertina wire, watchtowers and minefield suitable to contain escaping dogs.

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