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Jack Smith

Chicken Wire Does Not a Prison Make

September 07, 1987|Jack Smith

Despite what I consider ingenious if not Draconian defensive measures on my part, our dog Susie continues to escape her yard.

Temporarily we are containing her by allowing her to stay in the house, which means she's won the battle of wills; or I keep her on a long chain, which she obviously doesn't like.

Our fence man has given us an estimate of $285 to extend the chain link about 18 inches into the ground and pour concrete under the gate, but I have hoped to find a cheaper way.

Meanwhile, I have received numerous suggestions from readers and friends. Some sound feasible, some horrifying.

My temporary solution, now failed, was to chunk broken cinder blocks into the holes the dog was digging under the fence. These had been discarded (I assumed) by the construction workers building a retaining wall near our house.

I couldn't believe the dog could get under the fence where I had placed those heavy blocks. Each time I assured the neighbors she wouldn't get out again. Invariably she did, and they kept bringing her back to the front door.

Finally, I realized that she was strong enough to move the blocks with her paws and snout. I would find one or two shoved aside from its strategic position. More than once I actually saw her scrunch down under the fence and force her way through the hole thus prepared.

That's when we decided to put her on the long chain. She has a tendency to wrap herself around the deodar tree, but at least she doesn't get out.

Meanwhile, several readers have suggested that we lay an apron of chicken wire around the bottom of the fence and cover it with earth.

"I have had dogs for more than 50 years," writes Bill Sweet of Garden Grove, "but this method has always worked for me."

Dr. John S. Marsh, a Whittier neurosurgeon, also recommends this method. "Pretty soon grass and plants grow up through the chicken wire, and it doesn't show; (the wire) will never get up again."

Dr. Marsh adds, "Now, if you have a solution to the problem of dogs that climb chain-link fences, as did our German short-haired pointer, I would be much obliged."

I'm not even going to read that out loud to our dog.

On the horrifying side, Linda Elder of Lancaster suggests that we electrify the fence, so that when the dog puts her nose against it, she will get a shock.

"You can purchase an electric fence charger at most feed stores and from Sears. This is a pulsing unit that is used on stock fencing. It will not physically hurt your dog, but it will be unpleasant if she touches it."

I can't help remembering that man in Whittier several years ago who electrified a fence around his garden to keep dogs out and accidentally electrocuted his wife.

Almost as appalling is the solution suggested by Debra Rabin of Granada Hills. She says I should take the garden hose to one of the holes Susie has dug and fill it with water. "Then drag the dog to the hole full of water and, holding her securely, submerge her head. Slowly count to 10. The dog will think she is drowning, and will struggle appropriately. You may think she is drowning. You may need muscular assistance to keep the dog submerged.

"Next, release the dog. If the dog continues to dig, repeat the process. You may need more people to help you the next day . . . but it does not take more than three dunks to correct the problem."

I'm afraid Rabin has no idea how strong Susie is. It would not only take more muscle than I have, but also more muscle than all our neighbors have to keep her head submerged under water. I can't even keep her on her back to spray her belly with flea spray.

Speaking of muscle, a neighbor stopped by the other day to suggest that I drive steel reinforcing rods into the ground along the bottom of the fence, about six inches apart. This would discourage the dog from digging. The man had even obtained a number of rod ends from the construction crew and dropped them in a pile by our gate. He just happened to have a sledge hammer in his car truck.

"You can borrow this," he said graciously.

I've been hefting that sledge hammer experimentally now and then for a week. I couldn't possibly lift anything that heavy enough times to drive 100 steel rods into the ground.

I've decided to call the fence man.

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