Birthday Surprise(s) Part 8

Yes, the new puppy, barely two weeks in our care, was in EFFing heat.

I’d been suspicious that this might be the case, not only due to her 10 months of age, but also the fact that Moose pretty much had his nose buried in her dog-cooter for 9 out of any given 10 minute period during the day.  When the dog began to actually spot blood on our floors, though, I knew she was definitely in heat and we were definitely in trouble.

“It’s not as bad as a cat being in heat,” the wife assured me.  “Dogs don’t yowl all night long like Avie did,’ she said, referring to our long lost cat from our Princeton days.  However, while dogs might not yowl in heat, they certainly seemed to make up for it by bleeding all over the place.

The wife made her a diaper out of a towel, but it was held on with tape and only lasted for about 10 minutes before she had to go potty and tested its named function for us.  That diaper didn’t stop nothin’.

This knowledge in mind, it was going to be incredibly important that we get our invisible fence training done soon, because we couldn’t leave her bleeding and peeing in the house or garage and certainly couldn’t risk her heading down the hill to visit with the neighbors’ annoying, barky, car-chasing dogs.  This last point was driven home particularly well when, after removing Maya’s diaper to go potty, I popped back in the house to drop it in the laundry only to return to find her missing from the yard.  I ran to the edge of the blacktop and had a gander down the hill.  Sure enough, she was down the hill in our next door neighbor’s back yard, but was clearly headed in the direction of the neighbor dogs across the street.  I called after her and clapped for her to return.  She looked up at me with an expression I read as saying “Did you truly think that was going to work?”  Then she shrugged and kept going.

I started to scream and rant from atop my perch on Mt. Tested Authoritarian Dog Owner, but instead decided it would be fruitless other than to convince any neighbors who might be in earshot that I was well and truly fruit loop.  Instead, I grabbed a leash, hopped in the car and headed down the hill.

My relationship with the neighbor dogs is not without its problems.  They’re not bad dogs, per se, but they do quite a bit of barking at me and my dogs whenever we walk past their house, which is the only paved route between us and the rest of the neighborhood.  One looks like some sort of shepherd mix, another a beagle mix and the youngest a boxer mix.  Whenever we walk or drive past, they come out to bark and snarl and give chase, though they can only get so far before their own wireless fence system kicks in.  Still, they’re more than willing to test its boundaries in order to try and menace Sadie.  (Sadie, for her part, is menaced not in the slightest and could take all three of those dogs if she wanted to, but she’s terrified of the constant beeping of their collars as they crash against the boundary and are shocked back into their yard, so she spends all of her time straining at the end of the leash to escape, making them think they’re scaring her and egging their behavior on.)

When I got out of the car, Maya was already in their yard and seemed to be making friends with the shepherd mix.  When they saw me coming down the driveway the dogs came running to snarl.  That is, until I stepped into their yard at which point they looked very confused and got quiet, cause I was violating the rules they thought governed their universe.  It was our unspoken deal, I imagined they thought, that I was to stay in the street and they were to bark at me from the yard.  Furthermore, I was pissed off at Maya.  They did not know how to handle this angry incursion, so they ran away and barked at me from a very safe distance.

I hauled Maya back up the hill in the car and informed the wife it was time to train the dog with her “purty” collar.   Implied by my statement was that she, the wife, would need to do the training.  She inferred this successfully.

A few days before this, I had spent half an hour preparing for this moment by walking the invisible fence perimeter with one of the “purty” collars and planting flags whenever it beeped.  I had decided then that if anyone was going to train Maya, it should be the wife since she wasn’t getting nearly the same level of poop and pee (and now blood) duty that I was.  So the wife took the dog and a collar and went out to go train her.

She came back after 10 minutes complaining that the collar would not consistently beep at the boundary flags, so there was no point in training Maya until it did.

I was further annoyed.

One of the only troubles we’ve had with the wireless fence system is that it’s great when you’re talking about level ground with not a lot of brick or metal or dirt or pavement to block or bounce a signal.  However, this is West Virginia, we’re all about a hill here and our house is on top of one of those hills, with sides that slope down at the edges of our property.  If a dog is able to duck under the signal before reaching the actual boundary of that signal, the signal just keeps sailing along at the level of the flat portion of the yard and the dog can potentially get pretty far before the collar says beep one, if it says beep at all.  (At least, this is my understanding of how it works based on trial and error–mostly error.)  When we first moved to Lewisburg, we had to buy the second transmitter not only to cover more ground but also to try to better coverage in several deadspots that developed close to the house, we think due to signals bouncing off the brick of our home’s exterior.  So we now have one transmitter in the house and another in the woodshop.

I went out with a collar and tried my luck, thinking that the wife was crazy because the thing had beeped for me properly when I’d put the flags out a few days earlier.  It didn’t.  Oh, it would eventually beep, but never in the same place twice, and I was often able to get pretty far past the flags before the system took any notice.  Grrrr.

So I marched back and forth to the transmitter in the woodshop and the one in the house adjusting the range dials to try and dial things back just enough to still give the dogs plenty of space, but also consistently beep in all the right places. Eventually, I found settings and even repositioned one of the transmitters until I was satisfied.  Then I sent another 20 minutes repositioning all the flags.

When it came time for training, I brought Maya out myself, convinced that if I sent the wife again the transmitters wouldn’t cooperate and I’d have to eat crow and go redo everything again.  At least if I was the only one there I’d be the only one to witness it.

My method of training with the invisible fence is not to try and trick Maya into crossing the boundary, for that wouldn’t be fair or nice.  Instead, I walked along the boundary’s edge with her, telling her not to cross beyond the flags and calling her back whenever she came close.  We did this at the top of the driveway, where the wife had tried earlier.  Maya mostly obeyed, but eventually strayed across the boundary and I heard the collar start to beep.  Much like the wife’s old dog Honeybee, she kind of looked around to see what was stinging her, but didn’t seem all that put out by it.  This wasn’t good.

I removed the collar and tested it on myself by holding the shock prods on the back of the collar to my hand and then walking across the boundary.  It shocked me and was certainly not pleasant, nor something I would want on my neck, but I could tell from the intensity that the collar was only set on #2.  The range of the Purty Collar is between setting 1 to setting 4, with #1 being just beeps and no shock and #4 being Shock-the-Ever-Loving-Shit-Out-of-You, with #2 and #3 being lower levels of #4.  I set it to #4.

Maya continued to be good as we walked the border.  That is, until we reached the side of the yard nearest the neighbor dogs’ house.  Then she peered down the hill toward them, looked back at me once, and trotted on through the flags like she was headed down the hill to see her new boyfriends.  I tried to call her back and told her “No.”  I said it emphatically enough that she even stopped for a second.  Then she gave me another “Did you truly think AGAIN that was going to work?” expression, but only got as far as “again” before the collar started beeping.  It gives the dog a couple of seconds to change its mind and return within the confines of the fence field before it shocks.  I began calling her, telling her to come back, knowing she was about to get hit if she didn’t.  She didn’t.  It shocked her and Tiny Dancer, with a loud yipe, began to dance.

“Come on, Maya!  Come on, Maya!” I called, clapping my thighs with my hands.  She ran away from where she’d been so viciously attacked, but the look she gave me was one of understanding.  It said: You did this.  She ran past me, clambered up the steps of the deck and went to the back door.  She was done.

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