Friday, September 22, 2006

summer reflections part 1 - year of the dog

As my wife heads off to teach school, summer has officially ended in our household. Although both daughters headed off to college a few weeks ago, so it was a little less sudden and dramatic than years past. Actually, there was enough drama this summer that we really didn't need any this fall.

You know how the Chinese celebrate their years by naming them after animals? Like 2004 was "Year of the Monkey," 2005 was "Year of the Rooster," and 2006 is "Year of the Dog." I don't usually follow those "year ofs" but our friends from the other side of the world aptly named this year. As you may know, we have two beautiful Siberian Huskies. They really are intelligent and majestic looking.

"Pippin" (named after the hobbit) is a cat in dog's clothing. He walks around like he owns the place and obeys only when he's in the mood. He could care less if you pet him, but sometimes he'll lower himself and allow us to pet him. Hail to King Pippin!

"Fiona" (named after the Ogre) never met an arm, or leg, or foot, or pants, she didn't want to lick. She cannot get enough human interaction. She's like that pesky little sibling that wants to be doing everything you're doing ALL THE TIME!

When we were looking into dogs, we heard all the warnings. "Make sure you have a fenced back yard, they are escape artists"..."Huskies aren't very good at finding their way home", etc. We thought, hey, we've got a fenced back problem, right? WRONG!

This summer they got out of our backyard, which has slowly evolved into an impenetrable fortress, at least twenty times. Probably more!

It all started during the pre 4th of July firework testing period. Pippin, we discovered, is very spooked by fireworks and his reaction is to run away! With Pippin leading the charge they dug their way out of our yard...the canine version of The Great Escape. No problem...

Operation: Concrete Bricks
We'll take care of this. I'll just put some concrete bricks down in the escape area. No way they can get through those. Yeah right! The next day the concrete bricks were moved and the dogs were gone. There was a little note by the bricks written in Pippin's distinct flair, which read, "You're an idiot. Do you really think a couple little bricks are gonna keep me in? Puh-leeease!" (Side note: I won't even talk about the husky retrieval process in this blog. Suffice it to say, they don't come a-runnin' when you call their names.)

Operation: Concrete Bricks Part 2
My mom had a bunch of pavers that she didn't want, so I thought I'd put those around the perimeter of The Fence. I stacked them at least two high. The Dynamic Duo scoured the perimeter of our yard, found a weak spot, moved the bricks, and were gone. (According to a husky website, Siberians only need a four inch hole to escape. I believe it.)

Operation: Barbed Wire
"All you need to do is bury a wire under your fence. You won't have any more trouble" That's what experts said on website after website. Oh sure, and I suppose you believe huskies only shed once or twice a year too, huh? Sucka! I know, I'll go one step further...Barbed wire! Ah, that controversial invention that caused historic riffs between free-range grazers and the farmers of the Midwest prairies. Surely that would prove to be a formidable deterrent to these canine Houdinis! I watched through the kitchen window as Pippin carefully stepped around it and before I could run out and stop him....GONE!

Operation: Chicken Wire
This was actually one of my best ideas. I spent a Saturday attaching chicken wire to the fence such that it would bend at ground level and put a layer of chicken wire about 3 feet around the perimeter of the fence. It worked...for a while.

The frantic message on our answering machine said something like, "Your dogs are in our protected wetland and theyre killing all our neutria!" Sure enough, we got there and they were "playing" with a large black rat-like creature that didn't this was just a game.
Notice the chicken wire with the added 4x4s for extra protection. Child's play!

Operation: Concrete Mixer
One day, the bricks and the barbed wire and chicken wire were placed strategically enough that they couldn't quickly escape, so they dug under the gate, despite the presence of buried concrete and gravel filler. So, I dug a trench, mixed some concrete and filled in the gaps. Unfortunately they found out that if they pushed hard enough on the bottom corner of the gate, they could tweak it enough to get out. I then secured, problem solved, right? Uh...NO!

Operation: Guillotine
It's not what you think (although at this point fantasies of dog murder filled my dreams). Pippin the Magnificent and his lovely assistant discovered that the gate on the other side of our yard, which was really just a piece of wood dropped down like a guillotine would move if one of them would pull it back while the other crawled through. At this point I was surprised by nothing. I half expected to uncover an elaborate tunneling system like the one found on Iwo Jima after WWII. I decided to "secure" the guillotine board and, finally learning from earlier mistakes, poured concrete underneath it to avoid digging.

SIDE NOTE to my dear readers:
Have I mentioned I'm not really a "dog person"? If you've made it this far, I applaud you. I know you must be thinking we are such dog lovers that we are almost freaky about it. The truth is, I'm just really stubborn and determined not to be beaten by these Conniving Canines. By this time, I had already invested so much time and energy into it that to stop now would be akin to admitting that dogs have passed up humans in the evolutionary chain. Since Im a staunch Creationist, it would rock the very core of my belief system and no four legged critter is gonna get the best of me! Yeah right... Back to our story...

Operation: Craigs Kennel
After another escape followed by hours of searching, we resigned ourselves to the reality that they could never be left alone outside. We needed some place to put them while we were gone so the search began. We had tried small kennels earlier, but didn't have good luck with them. I found a great dog kennel on Craigslist and thought it would fit perfectly in our garage. The garage is concrete and the kennel was made of cyclone fencing. This should work perfectly! Until they discovered that the bottom of the cyclone fencing wasn't completely secured.
Our garage may never be the same. After hours of rewiring and fortifying, I finally gave up and the kennel now belongs to a neighbor down the street whose normal dog finds it delightfully restraining.

Operation: Could-It-Really-Be-That-Simple?
One day we discovered that they really felt comfortable in our hallway. They laid there all day content as if they were laying on a beach in the Bahamas. We already had a baby gate there to keep them out of our bedrooms so we left them locked in the hallway one night as we went out to a movie. When we came back...ahhhhh! They were still there relaxing comfortably. Finally a solution! It worked for weeks so we felt comfortable leaving them in the care of our next door neighbor girls. We took off for several days on vacation leaving behind very detailed instructions to keep them happy and relaxed. I was able to leave thoughts of our dogs in Oregon as we traveled to Idaho for a visit with my sister. That is, until the second day

"They did what?!?"
"Curt, I dont know how they did it but they got out of the hallway opened the back sliding glass door (Yes, Fiona can open it from inside, Pippin from the outside.). Then, they,they..." (tears and sobs)

"Slow down...its okay...what did they do next?"

"Then, they escaped from the back yard and killed one of the neighbors cats and shes going to SUE!!!" (cooler heads prevailed and she didn't, thankfully)

WHAT?!? So much for a peaceful vacation. But, it finally led to a solution. We already had one individual sized kennel. You know, the molded plastic kind with a little gate? We had tried it with Pippin when he was a puppy, but he cried all night and we needed some sleep. Apparently, that was our first and most damaging mistake. That was the day when he realized HE was the boss of us. So we arranged to buy another molded plastic den of safety for our Fiona and "viola!"

Since we werent home to hear them cry, they were crate trained by the time we got home! Now all I have to say is, "Okay puppies, lets go!" and they run to the garage door, sit and wait for me to open it, then run into their crates and lay down. Ahhhh. Now, wasn't that easy?

So that was just the summer portion of "Year of the Dog." Tune in later to hear about our Summer of the Cars. It makes our dog experiences look like...well... a walk in the park.

1 comment:

Erica Hanson said...

Ok so your family is AMAZING! Sheryl sent me your blog link. You have to visit mine too: Looks like I will be traveling to the same places your family is! Let's keep in touch and share about our travels!

God Bless,

Erica Hanson

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the latest on the sells

As of May 27, 2009...

Wow, it's been almost a year since we've updated this. Our family had a wonderful experience traveling to Uganda two summers ago, which prompted us to keep a journal on this blog. You can read our daily journal from our month long trip

This year brings new adventures. Our eldest daughter, Courtney, after graduating from George Fox University with honors, left for her third trip to India to spend nearly a YEAR to work at Happy Home for the Handicapped in Shimoga, India. You can read about her first trip to India and the impact it had on her life here. She'll also give us new updates from her current trip on this site (here). As of this writing, she is just starting to settle in and is very excited to be there. She has been looking forward to this for a long time!

Meanwhile, Hillary spent all of last year
touring the western U.S. with Matsiko, the choir of children we grew to love as our own in Uganda. She journalled about her experiences in Uganda if you'd like to see what that was like. At some point during this tour, she felt led to join the U.S. Army. Quite a big decision, and one she didn't take lightly. After moving through Basic Training with flying colors, she is now at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio training to become a combat medic. It's a very intense training, but we're sure she'll do well. Our whole family was able to travel to South Carolina to watch her graduate from Basic Training. What an awe inspiring experience!

Leslie is having a great year of teaching 5th graders. She's also in a Master's program, which takes a good chunk of her time. She's still finds time to read a TON of books. Literally, a ton!

Curt was overwhelmed by his experience as a first time overseas traveler and kept up his journal here (you can also read his random posts on everyday life here). The busyness of life and keeping track of his traveling kids has slowed down his writing, but he hopes to begin writing on a regular basis again soon.