Saturday, January 30, 2016

Is There a Runaway Gene in Certain Dogs?

In the saga of acclimating a sweet rescue dog to our house, I made a couple of mistakes today.

First, when we left for a family dinner out, I decided to take Ellie's collar (with ID) off her, so she couldn't get snagged if she tried to jump on a chair or something,

Second, when she greeted four of us at the door as we returned home, I decided that she was so overjoyed that she would not run past us.

Wrong and wrong.

Ellie took off across the neighborhood street (scary, because she could have been run over) and then down the block. Fortunately, I have a whole team of very fit grandchildren and they managed to catch her a block away and keep her occupied with belly rubs while I drove the car down to get her, knowing she would jump right in because she loves car rides. At least I was right about that much.

Who Me?
It was a big mistake, though, to leave her ID collar off. Nightfall was not far off and she could have gotten lost. True, she is microchipped but not everyone would tap into that technology to find where she belonged. Now that collar will stay on 24/7.

Sadly, I can't leave her unattended at a door for even a minute either. Three weeks ago, when we brought her home, she quickly jimmied the handle on the storm door and bolted down the block. (Yes, she really does know how to open unlocked doors. She is a smart doggie with a lot of personality.)

I read that some dogs run away because they're bored or don't get enough exercise. Well, I take her on extensive walks twice a day and other short walks as needed, and I have lost 8.2 pounds (a good thing) to prove it. I do a good deal of free-lance writing and she relaxes in an unlocked crate a few feet from me while I do that. And even though I take breaks to play with her, maybe she does get a little bored at times, but I still need to write.

Now, I am in the process of getting HOA approval to have a backyard fence installed. No, I am not doing this just for Ellie, or for grand-dog Dasher. I have been wanting a fence for the seven years we've lived here. The more I age, the more I want to be able to sometimes just relax in a fenced-in and landscaped backyard.

As nice as a fence will be, I know I won't be able just to let Ellie Mae out there by herself. If she can open doors, digging under a fence should be nothing. Or lifting the latch on a gate for that matter. So we will enjoy playing ball out there, but until I am 100% sure all potential escape routes are sealed, I won't leave her out there by herself.

All sorts of information about training to prevent doggie running-away syndrome is available on the Internet; however, I wonder if some dogs -- maybe particular breeds -- are wired to take off when the opportunity presents itself. My daughter in Tennessee has a sweet shepherd mix -- a herding dog of some kind -- that always has been an escape risk. I remember that when we all lived near Roanoke, Maggie ran right through an electric fence, absorbing the jolt, and taking off across a large expanse of farmland next-door. There was no catching her; she came home when she got hungry.

Maggie and Me Walking in Memphis
To reflect on this is not to indicate any disillusionment with Ellie. She's a great dog, and we love her. (We should have the results of biopsies of two small masses early next week, but she sure acts like she is healthy.) I am just coming to know her inclinations, and intend to keep her on the family grounds or out with me on walks beside the ocean and lakes. I sure don't intend -- with my bionic knee -- to take up jogging again so that I can run like the wind right beside her, two fugitives from life's restraints.
                                   © Robert G. Holland  2016

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