Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Gentleman's Agreement

I was not enthusiastic when K first suggested we fence off the property. Aside from the obvious: cost and effort, it ran counter to my notion of “ownership” and "property." I wasn’t opposed to creating pasture area, obviously. So we had fenced in an area for our goats, when I noticed how a dachsund-width “path” was being worn from all along the pasture fence line up the hill to the “bad neighbors‘” house.

K's position that fencing exists for the dual purposes of keeping in and keeping out was a salient and compelling one. After much haggling, grunting, squatting, and post-pounding, a fence was erected the entire length of the property between our land and the “bad neighbors’” slice of property.

Then came the Danes. When we lived in the trailer, we didn’t spend much time indoors, so the “fence” was mostly an area the doggy door opened onto for middle-of-the-day potty purposes. The fence itself was only a 4 foot field fence secured to t-posts. My joke was that the fence itself represented a “gentleman’s agreement” between us and the dogs. Since we only intended to live in the trailer for a few months (famous last words), the t-posts were placed about 10 feet apart, and the fence was basically clipped to the posts in three spots. A committed dog could have easily burrowed under, and an able-bodied Dane could have easily jumped over it. To our understanding, the fence represented a barrier, and the dogs honored that barrier.

So we happily lived under the mistaken and misplaced trust in the existence of said gentleman’s agreement. One day, I came driving up the road and turned into the driveway. I thought I saw Emmett running out in the yard north of the trailer as I turned in, but since that area wasn’t fenced, I dismissed this as a shadow or hallucination. Sure enough, when I walked into the trailer, Emmett was among the wiggling, wagging mass of dog that rushed to greet me.

A few weeks later, K was home when the UPS truck turned into the driveway to make a delivery. Hearing the truck, Emmett barreled out the doggy door and completely forgot his ruse, hopping over the fence and running around to greet the delivery man. K stepped out the front door just in time to see Emmett running around the trailer. She exclaimed, “Don’t worry, he’s gentle!” and called for Emmett. The driver pulled a dog biscuit out of his pocket and said with a smile, “I know. It is good to know his name now.”

As it turned out, Emmett had been greeting the UPS man thusly for months.

We have been re-configuring the dogs’ yard now that we have been living here at the house for over a year and have a better sense of how we use the space, and what would be most convenient for all of us. This weekend, I expanded the existing dog yard, bringing it around to the front of the house in anticipation of the installation of an upstairs doggy door. I pulled out the posts at the previous edge of the yard and swung the fencing out, extending it about 40 feet. Emmett lay in the dog yard watching me work, sprawled out at the place where the fence had been previously installed. When I called him to urge him into the newly fenced area, he lay at the edge in the “old“ yard, crying, and refusing to step across the line where the fence previously existed.

My only question is how long this gentleman’s agreement lasts.

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