Friday, November 13, 2009

CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE YELLOW, CANINE CAT BURGLAR

About 10 days ago, our young dog, Sofi, part German Shepherd, part Husky and now weighing about 70 pounds, began to show signs of going into her first heat. We were concerned because, to our best calculations, she was only 8 months old. But then, we could easily be wrong because we really don’t know her birth date for sure. Anyway, we hoped that we were wrong about her condition. But, because the signs of hormonal change were there, Enrique cancelled the walks with our dogs around the neighborhood until we could clear up the confusion.

A week ago, our doubts about Sofi’s situation, if we had any left, were ended. All night long we heard her racing from one side of the house to the other, banging her body into the fence, trying to catch the attention of the many dogs that romp down our street. While Sofi was busy making a show of herself the entire night, Helen, her still puppy companion, was barking on and off, seemingly every time another male dog came to the front of our house. In the early morning, we woke up to find six male dogs were making a huge noise, trying jointly to knock over our very sturdy iron rail fence – that stands 7 feet high. Sofi was at the fence, enjoying her newly acquired popularity. Enrique went out yelling as loud as he could and chased them away with a meter long staff that he uses for weapons training. Enrique then fixed up the chicken wire addition to the fence that Sofi had worn down over the past months by sticking her head over it to look out at the many interesting activities occurring on our corner, including passerby street dogs, truck vendors, and people waiting for the bus. He also put up an additional half meter of wire.

Now, I should tell you that most, if not all, of the street dogs in our neighborhood, actually have homes. At least they have houses where they go to get food most every day along with a pat on the head – if they’re lucky. It’s just that they aren’t allowed in the houses and, lacking fences or chains, they don’t have any reason to stay in their own yards. The houses in this new section of the city are tiny, and most have only one multi-use room and two small bedrooms. What with the occupancy per house being, by my best estimate, about four or five people, there just isn’t any space for a dog. Nevertheless, many people here say they "have" several dogs.

Enrique and I are lucky because we have a corner lot and that gives us more yard than most of our neighbors. We also keep our 2 dogs behind a strong fence, and they only get out when we take them for walks. To continue with my story, the six street dogs did not return after their encounter with Enrique. They apparently had tried with all their combined strength to topple the fence without any success. What with Enrique’s obvious anger and means of dealing with them, the six street visitors did not come back, at least they didn't when we could see – or hear – them.

We thought we had handled the problem the best we could. After all, the fence had withstood the combined weight of six highly motivated male dogs. We knew that no dog could get through the chicken wire without jumping as higher than a meter and then propelling himself through the 8-inch wide, diamond-shaped rails. In our judgment that would be impossible. When we no longer saw the six earlier canine visitors, we convinced ourselves that, even with Sofi’s continuing provocative actions, that we would not have any further problems. Of course, as you might imagine, we were wrong.

Five days ago, I left the house to go downtown early in the morning. As I waited on the bus on our corner, I saw an underfed, medium height yellow dog on the opposite corner, sniffing the air and looking over at our house. He was really ugly and looked just once removed from a fox or a coyote. At the time, I imagined that Sofi’s perfume had drawn him there. But, I was unconcerned. Enrique was home and, as we had seen in the past few days, the fence was a solid barrier against Sofi’s suitors.

Enrique was at home that morning and, after a while, he went out back to do his regular weapon’s training. He was carrying the meter-long staff. When he went out the back door, the two female dogs greeted him as usual and began to follow him around as he prepared to do his practice. Everything seemed normal. Enrique had just begun his practice when he saw something strange. At first he wasn’t sure what it was. Then he realized that some animal had dashed out of our large doghouse and was speeding around the side of the house. As Enrique ran around the corner of the house, he saw a scruffy, skinny yellow dog, trying to exit our property. He was furious at the presence of the intruder and began to yell and run after the dog. He also tried to hit it with the staff. When the dog reached the fence, he leaped and hurled himself through the small diamond shape rail just above the chicken wire. Just as he went through the fence, Enrique hit his back leg hard with the staff. The dog yelped and went away limping as he headed down the street.

Even with as mad as Enrique was, he was amazed. The dog was as agile as a trained circus dog. The evidence was clear. The yellow dog had entered our back yard without making any noise, sometime in the early morning. To do that, we agreed that the yellow dog must have had the skills of a cat burglar. He obviously had entered the property through the fence without making any noise, made fast friends with both Sofi and Helen, and had been in the doghouse with both females for perhaps as much as an hour. The remarkable part of this is that neither female dog had barked at the intruder. I guess his incredible savoir-faire overwhelmed the two of them.

Now we don’t know what actually went on inside our rather large doghouse. There must not have been a lot of extra space in there what with three dogs inside. Nevertheless, the weeks ahead will tell if the intruder was able to mate with Sofi. What we do know is that the yellow dog would have to have even more sophisticated cat burglar tricks in order to come back into our fenced yard. The same day of the unwanted dog's visit, Enrique requested fifty cinder blocks and made a block wall on the sides of our house. Only the gate remained unprotected with block. Then, Enrique took a large piece of canvas and lashed it to the sides of the gate. The canvas appears to be impassable.

I saw the yellow dog two or three times after that. With each appearance, he was limping a little less. He continues to come up to the fence at least once trying to see if he could get in again. He hasn't been able to pass through the fence and he just sniffs around and barks to Sofi. She comes to the fence and barks back, but had no way of doing more. Whenever Enrique or I see the male dog, we opened the front door and chase hime away. The yellow dog yelps loudly with fear and goes away fast, fearful or being hit again with a stick.

From what we can see today, Sofi has finished with her first heat. We are now breathing a sigh of relief and our new cinder block side walls are providing a lot of needed privacy for us as well as for our two female dogs. The dogs, of course, are not at all happy with the newly enforced fence that blocks their view of street happenings.

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