Monday, December 20, 2010

Girl on a Wire

I've written before about my mother's overweight Houdini beagle, Bradley. Bradley's main goal in life is to escape through the fence in my mother's yard. Despite his corupulent size (he continues to find ways of sneaking food, despite my mother's efforts at putting him on a diet), he manages to wriggle through the smallest of gaps in a manner that would suggest he is actually half snake.

Nothing we do ever keeps him in for long. My mom went so far as to put dog-sized saddle bags on him, stuffed with tennis balls in an attempt to make him too bulky to wriggle free. This slowed him down until he figured out how to shed the saddlebags. So our next method of containment was to find every single Bradley-sized gap in the fence and fix it by using a layer of rabbit fence and lengths of rebar. This works in fixing each individual spot, but the problem is that my mother has 3 acres of land that slopes and is surrounded by woods. The undergrowth in some areas cannot be penetrated by anything larger than..well..a beagle. So his escape spots often go unfound because we simply cannot get to them.

My mother finally gave up on attempting to contain the dog, and simply walks him outside, in her fenced yard, on a leash. This is fairly successful during the nice sunny warm months, but right now when we're in the clutches of unusually cold weather, it's hard on her. Last week we had a small ice storm that coated the ground in a good inch thick layer of ice, and Mom simply couldn't do it. She has a number of health problems that make walking around on ice a very bad idea. She had to just let Bradley roam unattended in the yard, and hope that the ice was enough to keep him from escaping.

For two days, it worked. Bradley ran around outside, came in when called, and otherwise behaved himself. He was the model of good behavior during that time. Of course, like the ice, it did not last. It warmed up just enough on Saturday that everything started to thaw, and by that night it had thawed enough for him to make his escape.

The problem with that is the only remaining escape spots are along the side of the fence that runs down the length of a neighbor's horse pasture. The neighbor, by some miracle, has a fence that Bradley cannot escape through. He is also too stupid (his intelligence seems limited to figuring out ways of doing what he shouldn't) to figure out how to get back into the yard through the same way he got out, so when he discovered that he was trapped in the horse pasture, he began to wail in the way that only distressed beagles can. The neighbors were not home, and their pasture gate has a padlock on it, so getting him out that way was impossible.

So I had to go over to my mother's house at 7:30 PM and scale her side of the fence to get into the horse pasture. Luckily for me, there was a barrel located on the neighbor's side of the fence that allowed easy access for me, as the fence is tall and rather more of a drop than I care to make. So up the ice covered fence I went (getting snagged on the barbed wire top in the process, which took some time and wriggling to extract myself from), over the top and onto the barrel. The barrel, as it turned out, was there to block a rather large gap between the front of their fence and another neighbor's back yard. This gap also created a convenient spot to shove Bradley through, and was also luckily just wide enough for me to wriggle through as well once I had heaved the overweight and by now frantic beagle into the other neighbor's (thankfully unfenced) yard.

Since he'd burned his paws on the remaining ice, I had to carry him down the 3 acre length of the yard, into my mother's house. By the time we got inside, I was so out of breath that I could hardly speak. See, I am not in good shape. I am skinny by way of genetics, but I spend my entire day with my rear end firmly planted in an office chair. I also have a joint condition that has caused my knees and shoulders to deteriorate quite badly. So scaling an icy fence, getting tangled in barbed wire, and then carrying an overweight beagle down 3 acres of sloping yard was not exactly a Good Thing for me.

One of these days we will finally fix the last escape spot in the fence. I'm pretty sure that when that happens, Bradley will figure out how to climb, or build ladders in order to get out. Either that or he'll have become so fat by that point that he'll require us to carry him around on a litter.