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Selected Podpieces

Requirements For A Bolter

When My Companion and I decided to move to Cape Cod last year, we made a list of requirements for our new home. Of course, a water view would be terrific. But there were a few real essentials, like a quiet street, a yard suitable for gardening, a neighborhood good for walking, and a public library no more than a short drive away.

The water view was – well, just a touch beyond our means. But we were lucky enough to find a house with almost everything else we wanted, and it wasn’t too much more than we wanted to spend.

The street turned out to be very quiet indeed: a short cul-de-sac that we share with only three sets of neighbors. We lived here happily for six months. Then we adopted the Rescue Squad, Thurber and Pippin, and suddenly the lack of traffic became of much greater importance, because Thurber turned out to be a Fence Jumper.

Thurber is a little 30-pound fellow with a lovely long white and brown coat and beautiful kohl-lined eyes. He has the head and shoulders of a big dog, but short stubby legs, like a corgi or basset hound, so we assumed that the fence that kept our golden retrievers enclosed would do fine for him. Imagine My Companion’s surprise when he took Thurber outside and, without so much as a by-your-leave, Thurber sprang up and sailed over the four-foot barrier.

For the next ten minutes he toured the neighborhood. We caught glimpses of him racing through Doris and John’s yard, galloping through the woods, charging past Tony & Carol’s front door, racing around the corner of Sue & Charlie’s garden shed.We stood and watched. If there’s one thing I know from forty years of living with dogs, it’s that if you chase a dog, he’ll kick up his heels in delight and go faster. So we waited; and finally he came roaring up to the front door, where he screeched to a halt and stood grinning, a foot-long tongue lolling crazily out the side of his black-lipped mouth. When I opened the door he trotted inside, drank deeply of the sweet waters in the communal dog dish, and flopped down for a snooze.

We were very glad indeed that we live on a quiet cul-de-sac, a good distance from the traffic of Route 28.

That afternoon My Companion went out and bought a roll of fencing, with which we raised the height of the dog enclosure to six feet. So far, this has contained Thurber. Unfortunately, Thurber is not only a Fence Jumper but a Bolter. Open the door just a crack, blink your eyes, and he’s gone. He has yet to go far; he mostly charges around in circles through the yards of the houses surrounding ours. I suspect the neighbors do not appreciate his visits, and will appreciate them even less in the summer, when they’d rather not see a brown-and-white flash tearing through their hydrangeas.

We are doing our best. Every day Thurber and his little buddy Pippin work on important commands: Sit. Stay. Down. Come. Thurber is delighted to practice these commands in the kitchen, and gazes adoringly into our eyes for minutes a time. He runs happily down the hall from living room to study when My Companion calls “Come.” He will lie down and stay in one position in the dining room while I walk all the way to the bedroom and back. He loves obeying. Inside.

Thurber is not an easy dog to own. He takes constant attention and alertness. But paradoxically, it’s likely that this fault of his – his tendency to leap fences, his desire to run free – is the reason we have him. He is so sweet and good-tempered, and so well-trained in many ways, that it’s clear he used to be someone’s beloved pet. People give up their dogs for many reasons, but it seems probable that Thurber jumped one too many fences, ran through one too many neighboring yards, and never got himself back to his old front door. He was lucky to be rescued from a high-kill Animal Shelter in North Carolina and transported to a foster home in New England; we were lucky to adopt him, and now we love him. With a lot of work, and a bit of luck, we’ll keep him on our quiet cul-de-sac for a long time.

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