Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Circus Dog: “Don’t Fence Me In”

As some of our friends know, Claire and I have an unusually pleasant relationship with our neighbor’s dog.  We have permission (even the blessing) of our neighbor to bring Molly, a beautiful and cute little thing, over to our place for extended visits.  And we have been doing this for a few years. We lift Molly over the fence so she can hunt for rabbits in our yard, sit out on our deck during nice weather, even to take long naps on her own blanket inside our house.  We really enjoy each other’s company although when our neighbor Nancy is home, there’s no mistaking to whom Molly owes her greatest love and allegiance.

Sad to say, however, Molly has been experiencing some pretty strange vibes in recent months.  Separation anxiety.  Restlessness.  The occasional panic attack.  Where she used to be quite content by herself, she has lately become extremely nervous whenever she is denied human companionship.  Therefore, she has been more insistent on coming to visit us as soon as Nancy leaves for work and whenever else she is away from home.  And that's a problem, not only because Nancy leaves for work at 5:30 AM, but we too are often away from home during the day. That leaves Molly anxiously parked at the fence (in all kinds of weather) just pining for somebody to get home. Nancy has tried several things to address the problem (vet visits, a Thunderjacket, changing the routine, extra TLC) but to no avail.  But on Monday things went to a whole new level, one that demonstrated both the intensity of Molly’s separation anxiety...and her circus dog agility.

Little Molly has learned to climb the chain link fence!

On Monday morning Claire awakened to find Molly on our deck and clawing at our door.  But that seemed impossible.  Molly has always been afraid of the open steps to our deck, too afraid to ascend them on her own.  But the greater mystery was how the dog even got into our yard.  Had someone helped her?  That made no sense.  Had she pulled a Stalag 17 and dug a tunnel?  We could find no evidence of that anywhere along the fence line.

The only explanation seemed to be that Molly had defied all odds and climbed over.  Claire wasn’t buying that theory but I thought it worth an experiment.  We put the dog back into her yard and we went up and sat on the deck.  Sure enough, within seconds, we peered over and saw Molly making her laborious climb - claws hooking on the chain links, rear paws finding a grip and pushing her body up for the next level.

Quite an impressive trick.  But, of course, one that is much too dangerous to tolerate.  It’s much too easy for a little dog to get hung up, break a paw, get the leash caught, suffer cuts when crawling over the jagged top of the fence, and so on.  So we let Molly stay at our place until we had to leave for a lunch engagement.  Then we went over, pushed her through her doggy door and blocked it from the outside.  We only let her out when we returned 3 hours later.

We then made sure to meet Nancy as soon as she got home in order to fill her in.  The good news, Nancy?  You’ve got a very smart and acrobatic dog.  The bad news?  She’s given these qualities to the dark side and used them to climb the fence.  We talked over various solutions (with Molly alongside and surely suspecting something was up) but, at least in the short run, there’s nothing to do but keep Molly from getting out of the house.  Nobody is going to happy about that but, until we come up with a safe, affordable and workable alternative, we’re stuck with it.

The moral of this story, of course, is one that my parents frequently repeated to me in my turbulent youth, “Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good.”