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The Luckiest Dog in the World

August 6, 2002

Recently I have determined that my dog Cleo is the luckiest dog in the world.  Our other dog, Wolfie, is also pretty lucky, but not as much as Cleo.  She is definitely luckier, hands down.

Yes it’s true, both dogs were rescued from an animal shelter.  They lucked out when we walked in and decided to take them home.  Out of all the worthy dogs there, it was them we chose to save from death row and make part of our family.  How can you really get luckier than that? 

Let me tell you how.

First let me say that Cleo is one of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet.  She’s also one of those dogs that look sad most of the time.  Certainly she’s not really sad all the time, but she sure knows how to milk that pathetic “I’m-so-sad-you-should-rub-my-belly-and-give-me-treats” look.  Often she will throw in a heart-wrenching whimper for good measure.  “Oh please oh please oh please oh please oh PLEASE won’t you rub my belly for hours and hours?”  You’d think that would get annoying, but let me tell you, her sweet little sad face is pretty hard to resist.  To be honest, when we got her I couldn’t imagine why anyone would bring such a sweetheart to an animal shelter.

It didn’t take long to figure that one out.  Within the first week we discovered that Little Miss Sweetie Face is an escape artist.  Apparently for the entire first week we had her she was hopping our 4-foot fence and visiting all the neighbors.  She always came back before we got home from work, which is why it took us a week to find out.  But once we clued in to her escaping ways the mystery of how she ended up at the shelter was solved – someone got tired of Houdini.

Well not us.  When we signed those papers at the shelter we were making a commitment.  We committed to care for this pup for her entire life, come hell or high water.  It didn’t matter how much trouble she might be, we were going to do whatever it took to make it work.  She was now a part of our family and we vowed to never give up on her.

Nearly $4,000 later we had a brand new 6-foot fence.  Imagine our horror the following Saturday when we watched in disbelief as she hurled herself up and over the fence to chase a squirrel.  Good God, it was a 6’ foot fence!  What were we dealing with here?  Super Dog??

Meanwhile, we also discovered Super Dog had an appetite for chewing things.  You know, things like books, magazines, leather belts, shoes, the couch, my $150 microphone…

We were shaken, but not defeated.  We were far from giving up!  Who could give up on that face?  Not us!  We learned to put our things away and gave her plenty of her own things to chew.  Among her favorites: toilet paper tubes.  Hey, whatever it takes to keep her from chewing our stuff, right?  And as for the fence, we figured out that if we built a shelf at the top she wouldn’t be able to get the footing she needed to scramble over.  The fence shelf seemed to work, and we lived in harmony for 3 years.

Then we moved.  To a home on acreage.  With no fence.  And lots of squirrels.  LOTS of squirrels.

We knew we needed to fence the yard.  Invisible fencing was out of the question.  I don’t know about you, but I personally would not want to wear a collar that shocked me every time I tried to leave the house.  If I wouldn’t wear it myself I wasn’t about to put one on my dogs.  They are not “just dogs” to me; they are my family, my kids.  Would you put a shock collar on one of your kids?  I didn’t think so.

As for an actual physical fence, a wood or chain link fence would be far too costly for that much land.  So we went for something called deer fencing.  It's a flexible plastic mesh designed to keep deer out, so we figured would keep our dogs in.  At about 75¢ a foot it was affordable and we could put it up ourselves.  Woo hoo!  We found something that would work. 

Or so we thought…

In the year that we have lived here, Cleo has managed to escape multiple times.  Every time we attributed it to a spot where we didn’t get the fencing secured well enough.  We would reinforce those areas and she would be fine for a couple of months.  Until recently.  Super Dog can’t climb this fence or even dig under, but she has discovered that she can chew a hole in it big enough for her to escape.  So at will, she can now chew through at any point.  The deer fencing failed us, and now we are back to square one.

The thought of replacing 2.5 acres worth of fencing is not only daunting, it just makes me sick.  We spent most of our weekends last summer putting up the deer fencing!  The last thing I want to do is spend this summer redoing the entire thing.  And what in the world are we going to put in its place?  What will it cost?  What is it going to take to keep our little Houdini safe on our property?

Last week I stood in our yard pondering all of this, feeling overwhelmed and beaten down.  I looked down at Cleo and let out a big sigh.  “You know, you are the luckiest dog in the world,” I informed her.  “Anyone else would have taken you back to the shelter long ago.  You probably would have been put to sleep by now because no one would want to put up with you!”  Then she looked at me with that sweet, irresistible face.  She had no idea she had been doing anything wrong; she was just busy chasing squirrels and being a dog.  “But you know what?” I assured her, “I’m not giving up on you.”  Then I reached down and gave her a big hug and a kiss on the top of her soft little head.  She returned the gesture with a plethora of loving licks.

I’m still not entirely sure how we are going to solve this dilemma, but we are determined.  We made a commitment to Cleo for life.  I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who think we are crazy for not “getting rid” of her, but you know what?  Pets are not disposable cups to be discarded when they are no longer of use to you.  Unfortunately far too many people feel it’s acceptable to regard them that way, which is why animal shelters are overflowing in this country.  The thing is, Cleo really shouldn’t be the luckiest dog in the world, nor should Bill and I stand out as exemplary (or crazy) pet owners for sticking with her.  Committing to your pets for life should be as normal as committing to your children for life; it should be a given.  You wouldn’t give up on your kids, would you?  Then why would you give up on your pets?  They too are living and breathing creatures.  Giving up is something I just can’t fathom. Pets should be pets for life.

Looking back, I can still remember that day at the shelter when we decided to take Cleo home.  One of the shelter workers commented on how lucky she was to have us as her new family.  My husband Bill replied, “Actually, I think we are the lucky ones.”  Even with all the trouble we’ve had we still feel privileged to have Cleo in our lives.  The amount of love and joy she and Wolfie have brought us is immeasurable.  She may be lucky, but then so are we.

By the way, did I tell you Wolfie has a growling problem?  Yeah, he’s pretty dang lucky too.

Copyright © 2002 2008 Susan B. Metters.  All rights reserved.

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