Monday, January 31, 2011

Open gates

"The gate is open," a cry that can strike fear in the heart of just about any dog owner these days.  It has taken me several days to get it together to post about this since I was so mad, angry, lusting for blood when it first happened I didn't dare post anything.

Last Thursday at 3 a.m. I got up to hand the gate keys to the snowplow guy. I then waited for him to go out and unlock the big gates and bring the keys back to me.  The very last thing I said to him was, "don't forget to close and lock all the gates".  Get that part?  All the gates!

Over the years I have gotten myself something of a reputation for being lacking in sympathy when the cry goes out that someone has lost a dog or dogs because a gate was left open or a door not shut properly, or whatever.  If I respond at all, my very first question is why wasn't the dog or dogs trained to honor gates and doors, open or closed and why, oh, why, weren't the dogs taught to come when called.  Each time I would write such a post after I hit the send button I would always wonder just what sort of bad luck I was bringing down on myself due to my stance.

Back to Thursday.  When I got up, I just glanced out the window to make sure the plowing had been done the way it was supposed to be done.  At the same time, I made note of the fact the big gates were shut and locked, never thinking to look any further.  I opened the office door and let Sanity and Ellie out.  Next I headed downstairs to the kennel room and let out all the dogs who were staying with me.

With everyone outside I made my way back upstairs and went straight to the kitchen porch to collect buckets, unthaw them and put out fresh water.  Having taken care of their morning toileting, all the downstairs dogs were hanging around the porch waiting for the water buckets.  Put fresh water buckets down and headed to the kitchen sink to start washing dog food pans.  Barking.   More barking.  Even more barking.

Wait a minute!  That barking didn't sound right.  In fact, that barking sounded all wrong.  I dropped the pan in my hand to pretty much fly to the office door and check on dogs.  I could see even before I opened the door that all the downstairs dogs were accounted for since they were all lined up at the fence.  Not just lined up but staring intently at the street.

When I got the door open and stepped out on the porch my stomach sank and my heart started to race overtime.  Both the small gates were standing wide open.  For heaven's sake, we have not one but two gates that must be unlocked, unlatched and opened in order to get in or out.  The point is one of safety.  Well, so much for safety in this case.  Not only had said gates not been locked or even latched, they had been left standing open.  And just where, oh where, were Sanity and Ellie?

Ah, yes.  That barking that wasn't right was coming from them.  They were both all the way out at the street at the far corner of the property barking at a walker.  At least I think it was a walker, couldn't really see much because of all the brush, but I could have sworn I saw the tail end of a coat, walking, not running.

I called, "Sanity, come" and "Ellie, come". Only had to make that single call to each of them.  At once without any hesitation, they stopped the barking, turned on a dime, spit out nine cents change and beat feet at top speed all the way back to the house and inside.  I was so shook I simply called all the rest of the dogs to come back in as well.  To H*LL with the gates for the time being.  You can sure believe I was pretty snarky towards the snowplow guy.

A bit later, when the day really got going the gates did get closed and latched and all the dogs got to go back out and play in the snow.  Have you trained your dog to come when called no matter what?  Now I have to go back to the training board and refresh gate manners where Sanity and Ellie are concerned.  But, oh how beautiful a reliable recall is to behold.


  1. Pam and Cabot9:17 AM

    oh.... my..... gawd.....

    Is this guy still in your employ?

  2. Thank god for a solid recall. Works when they find a snake as well. Thank you Mr. Koehler!

  3. I would be murderous! I have a normal greyhound who *might* come back if she felt like it, she's more like a cat and not even food motivated. My other is a very shy scared hound who when gets loose panics and runs until she feels safe. Zero chance of recall when she's in a panic! Not even sure she's looking at what in front of her when she's in that state.

    The worse/best day of my life was when the SUV grate fell down and she wiggled sideways out of the SUV 6" window crack and hoofed it up a double lane busy road, off through a field, through a large cemetery, down another hill, and into the woods. I was hysterical, trying not to sob and walking though the woods trying to sing and sound cheerful! I was trying to stop sobbing enough to call my rescue group to ask for help fliering and to get a live trap out to the area, when the cutest little girl ever stepped out from behind a tree. She was shaking and so scared but gave me direct eye contact and I just breathed a sigh of relief. On the other side of the woods was a busy 6 lane highway so I had been waiting to hear a crash.

    I just turn and started marching away from her calling out "Let's go Piggie" in my most confident voice. Poor girl was beside me in the blink of an eye. She was so scared and I had spent years training her that *I* am her safe place. Then I full body tackled her and threw up in the cemetery on the way back to the car.

    Full steel window grates have been the best purchases I've ever made! The SUV grate ended up on the side of the road.