by Kathy Chittenden, NEBCR Volunteer
MY STORY: I adopted Rusty from my local humane society. He was the most handsome, unusually brindle-colored Border Collie or mix that I’d ever seen. He had striking blue eyes that were actually more white in color than blue. We immediately enrolled in obedience class. It was tough at first; we had to work through some problems towards other dogs and my first few classes left my hands stinging with rope burns from the lead as he tested his power. By the end of five weeks he was doing exceedingly well, and I was such a wonderful “dog-mommy” to him: I worked him for 5-10 minutes every morning and every evening. We played all sorts of tug games and chase games and ball games. He’d sit in my lap every evening and just eat up all the attention he was receiving. We were so happy together, so closely bonded; I can’t describe in mere words the incredible attachment, and love and pride, I felt toward this little guy.
We began agility classes and Rusty really blossomed. His attention tripled as we learned more and more. I began having daydreams of my beautiful dog winning agility ribbons everywhere we went.
The Sunday morning of my 6-week anniversary of adopting Rusty began as any other day. At 6:30 a.m. it was time for our hike around the big field in back of our house. The dogs were getting itchy so I let them out while I finished putting on my boots. I stepped out the front door, waved to my neighbor on her way to work, and then heard the sickening sound of a thud coupled with squealing brakes. I ran to the road, and there was my little Rusty. He was still breathing but his eyes were dilated and he wasn’t moving. I ran to the house for a quilt, asked the neighbor to drive to the barn for my husband, while I carried Rusty carefully into the house. I phoned the vet, and prayed like I’d never prayed before. We were instructed to drive over to the vet hospital. As my husband placed him on the back seat, Rusty stopped breathing; my beautiful, smart, one-of-a-kind, dog that I had poured my heart and soul into was gone.
To this day I ask myself “why?”; but I know the answer: We didn’t have a fence.
I know that many people out there considering adopting a dog have no fence. You may think:
- I can train my dog to stay in the yard.
- My dog will never be out unless I’m with him.
- My road isn’t very busy.
- Or any number of other reasons.
Please consider the following:
- Vet bills, which can become astronomical if your dog gets hit by a car (assuming that he lives).
- The gut-wrenching feeling of seeing your dog get hit by a car.
- The devastating loss of your dog.
- Having to bury your best friend.
Furthermore, there are other possible ramifications of not having a fence:
- Lawsuits, which could amount to many thousands of dollars and the loss of your dog, if your dog chases and bites joggers/cyclists/the UPS delivery person/neighborhood children.
- Fines and possible loss of your dog if he is a wanderer and is picked up by animal control too many times.
- Extreme anxiety if your dog leaves your property and disappears, possibly forever.
- Poor relationships with the neighbors, possible fines, and the specter of loosing your dog if he becomes a nuisance because of wandering.
- The danger to YOUR dog from wild animals, unfriendly dogs or people wandering into your yard unencumbered
Doesn’t a fence seem a lot easier to deal with?
There are many options for fencing:
- Radio or invisible fences are the least expensive option, but for a Border Collie, the least effective as well. Border Collies sometimes would rather take the shock and leave if there are more exciting things happening on the other side of the fence – for example, children playing, livestock across the street, or cars to chase. If you decide to put in this type of fence, you should only adopt a dog that you know will be contained by it.
- Chain-link fencing is strong, but unsightly, and a determined dog can easily climb a chain-link fence because it is rigid, is heavy gauge so that it doesn’t cut into tender foot-pads, and has “foot holds” spaced just right for canine feet. Still, it would contain all but the most determined dog, and cannot be destroyed by chewing or clawing.
- Woven wire is a good choice because it has smaller-gauge wire that can hurt when climbed and it flexes so that a dog does not get a confident footing. But it must be at least 4′ high to be effective, and it doesn’t provide a sight barrier. So, the dog might not get out, but might still bark at distractions.
- Stockade fence is also a good choice because, besides being impossible to climb, it has the added advantage of preventing the dog from seeing everything that’s going on outside the fence, and so minimizing temptation. It also keeps people away from your dog.
If your dog is a digger, any hard fence would have to be buried a foot into the ground. If you feel you can’t afford to have a fence installed, you can install one yourself for much less and easily. You might not like what driven steel posts look like, but you can think of it as a temporary solution until you can afford a nicer, professionally installed fence.