Oh yes, I have a dog named Rascal. And he escaped four days in a row this week from our new house. Which was really not awesome at all, except the whole saga makes for a bit of a good story.
We just moved, and I'm guessing he's a little freaked out by the move, Elise being gone, and who knows what else that's swimming around in that little doggie brain of his. At first I wasn't too surprised, as he has always been a fairly adept escape artist, and tends to find the routes to freedom in each new home we move to. (Which, granted, has been a lot. I have lived in Salt Lake exactly three years and am now in my fifth house here. Long story). In fact, Rascal was given his name by the family that owned his mom and raised him for the first eight weeks of his life, due to his propensity even as a tiny little guy to escape from all manner of baby gates and fences erected to keep the puppies in certain areas of the house and yard. When I got him at 8 weeks, I quickly found that the name was more than apt, so I kept it. For five years this dog has been sleuthing out all paths away from our new homes, and I then secure those paths and keep him around, which is where I like him. This week, however, he was more committed to his doggie mission than I have ever seen before.
Rascal's first big escape happened Wednesday. We moved into this place on Saturday, and I suspect he would have escaped as early as Monday (when I went to work and left him for the first time) except that my friend Janie and her puppy were around and Rascal was happily distracted. When they left town Wednesday morning, I left the backdoor open for Rascal, so he would have free reign of the house and the giant backyard. It didn't occur to me that he could jump the fence on the side of the house, as it is pretty tall. But, it is also made of chicken wire, so he simply bent it in half and jumped right on over and out to blissful doggie freedom. Thankfully, people in Salt Lake are incredibly, unfathomably nice, and Rascal happened upon the best of the best of the good-samaritan-dog-lovers in the Avenues. On day one, he was rescued by Josh, arguably my favorite of all the happy, helpful people I dealt with this week, at 2nd Ave & T Street - a full 15 blocks from our house.
I was at work, in the middle of a huge and urgent project, when I get a call from an unfamiliar local number on my cell. I don't usually answer the cell at work, but I'm having surgery this coming Monday (see "My Alien Spawn," below) and waiting on the call from the hospital to register me for the surgery and telling me what time to show up. So, this week I'm answering all such unknown local calls on the cell.
"Hello?" I answer, while shuffling stacks of exhibits at my desk.
"Hi. Do you have a dog named Rascal?"
Shit. "Yes, why?"
"Well, I have him here with me. I was walking my dog and he came out from this yard and came over to play with my dog. I thought he lived there, but then we kept going and he just came along with us on our walk for the next couple of blocks. Then I realized he was sort of on his own and checked his tag. So you're on 2nd Avenue? I can just take him to your house if you want - I'm at 2nd and T right now."
Oh God. I explain to Josh that I no longer live on 2nd, that I now live 15 blocks from where he's at, and in my work insanity I ask if he's willing to take Rascal to my new house, to which he happily agrees. I'm sort of shocked that I even asked, but I was desperate. I'm also THRILLED that he is willing to do it.
"Sure, I'll just put him in my car and drive him up there."
"Are you sure? I mean, I can come and get him too."
"No, really. We're just on our morning walk, you're working. He's a great dog, it's no problem."
I explain that he is saving my life, ask his name, tell him my address and to stick Rascal in the house and shut the back door, thereby locking him fully inside the house.
Josh takes care of everything, and reports back with a text message.
Hey...You (didn't get your name;) Rascal is safe and sound - though obviously disappointed. He seemed to escape by a towel over a wire fence. CLASSIC prison movie escape. Very Steve McQueen. He and Killian had a good time. :)
Ok, so not only is this guy awesome, he is also hilarious, and made what was an exceptionally shitty morning much, much brighter. I text back to thank him and ask for his address, so I can drop off something to say thanks.
Just saying his escape was borderline outdated. SO 1963. No need to bring something, maybe we'll run into you both at Lindsay Gardens dog park some time. PS: tell the Cooker King he's always welcome on our morning walk (provided he realizes a return home is mandatory).
Fabulous. Just loved this guy. Not only did he save my big fella - and for those of you who don't know and/or couldn't tell from the photo above, Rascal is a BIG dog. Like comes up to your waist, just shy of Great Dane size kind of big. And though he looks like a friendly muppet, there are loads of strangers who would be understandably hesitant to approach and deal with such a giant beast of an animal.
Lucky for me, there were at least three more strangers who were willing to get close enough to him to check his tag and call me at work on Thursday and Friday. And again on Saturday, as I was headed out to my friend Bonnie's baby shower. I still can't get over how unbelievably kind my neighbors are in this town. It is a fantastic and fortunate thing, too, considering Rascal's unwavering commitment to his campaign to free himself from our new home.
Thursday, I should admit, was probably my fault. I left the backdoor open again. I hate trapping a big dog in a house. Granted, it's a big house, but still... dogs need to be outside, sniffing and peeing and barking at squirrels and such. So, I reinforced the fence where he had bent it down the day before, put some tall stuff in front of it, and had a serious talk with Rascal about his behavior. He acted like he was listening, but apparently he was not. After I left for work, he deftly pushed the stuff in front of the fence away and bent it down again, jumping over and out for another day on the town. Luckily, he was found by yet another dog-loving good samaritan who again called me at work. Thinking it was the hospital, I answered.
"Hi. Do you have a dog named Rascal?"
God DAMN it!
Thankfully, this guy was at the park a block away from my house, and was nice enough to take Rascal home too. Like Josh, he brought Rascal around to the open back door and locked him inside the house for me. He texted to report all was well.
All set, Rascal's back home! He's inside and back door's locked.
Well, at least if I have to deal with annoying dog issues, I'm lucky enough to encounter good-natured, helpful people that are willing to TAKE MY DOG HOME FOR ME. Who does that?? It's a kind of bittersweet good fortune I guess. Though better than a $300 visit to bail him out of doggie jail, by far.
So naturally Rascal lost his backyard privileges on Friday, and was securely locked in the house as I left for work. Friday was my last day at work for two weeks, as I was set for surgery on Monday and two weeks of recovery time. Additionally, I am being moved to a new spot in my firm when I return to work, which meant Friday would be a full day of training the new gal taking my spot, cleaning out my desk, setting up out-of-office voice- and e-mail messages, and tying up loose ends. So, I needed the peace of mind of knowing my dog would be safe - albeit bored - in my house.
But, as we all know, where there's a will, there's a way. And true to form, Rascal found a way. Around 9:30 a.m. on Friday I get another call on my cell while training my replacement at work. "Hang on," I say to her as I reach for the phone, "I have to get this." Thinking, rather optimistically I suppose, that this was, finally, the call from the hospital, I answer.
"Hi. Do you have a dog named Rascal?"
"Oh, really, because I have a dog here and this is the number on his tag."
"Yeah, sorry, I have a dog named Rascal. I just can't believe he got out!"
Anita, Friday's good-samaritan-of-the-day, informed me that she had my dog in her neighbor's backyard at 8th & H, which she was watering while they were out of town. Rascal came barreling into the yard in pursuit of a cat and she grabbed him.
"Has he been missing long? He was really thirsty."
"No. I just left for work an hour ago."
I tell her the business about the moving, and now daily-escapes, and how I really thought I had this situation nipped in the bud when I left for work today and LOCKED HIM IN THE HOUSE. I mean, come on, he's a smart dog and kind of a freak of nature, but I wouldn't call him exceptionally gifted or anything. Either way, she needed me to come and pick him up. So, I left my replacement-in-training at work and ran to pick up my asshole dog, contemplating the whole way how on earth he managed to free himself from the house without miraculously growing a set of thumbs and then using them to open the front door.
When we got home, the doors were shut and I didn't see any immediate evidence of his escape. The only clue was that I had forgotten to lock the front door. Maybe it blew open? As I was nearly certain my house had not been broken into - though it can be hard to tell a few days after moving when giant chunks of your life remain strewn about your house, half out of boxes, sitting in front of the cabinets and bookshelves that will be their eventual homes - this was the only thought that came to mind. Except the front door is the original, solid-oak behemoth that requires two hands and a bracing of one's feet before yanking back with serious force in order to open the thing up. It doesn't blow open. Ever. I returned to work frustrated bordering on stressed-out.
An hour and a half later, I drove back home to meet the Qwest repair guy, who came to fix whatever the hell was wrong with the phone line at the house that was keeping me from having any internet connection whatsoever for a week. I was getting bitter about that. Mind you, I have been sick for weeks, can't eat much, have zero energy, and just moved into a house that needs shittons of work that I have increasingly found I am completely incapable of doing myself. (I'll spare you the story of how, in a simple attempt to turn on a spigot outside in the garden, I found a labyrinth of pipes in the garage with EIGHT on/off knobs; two main shut off handles officially covered in some sort of faded, indecipherable yellow warning stickers; two more on/off knobs on the ceiling, and three little electrical hub/knob things that each spew out tangles of colored wires that disappear into the back of a plastic box, whose little door opens to reveal an intimidating panel of programming buttons for a sprinkler system. I cried that night.)
I get home and meet the Qwest guy at his truck. He's getting something out of the back, and I wait for him on the sidewalk. When he comes around the truck to meet me, he briefly but thoroughly scares the crap out of me. He has these giant swaths of bright white zinc-oxide smeared across his cheeks making him look like a painted warrior, or a reeeeally creepy clown. Turns out he's just a strange dude who professes to like dogs but is probably lying, as he seems really scared when we get to the front door.
"Can you go put him outside, or shut him in another room please?" the Qwest guy snips at me.
"He's really nice. He'll just give you a sniff and leave you alone," I assure him.
"Yeah, they're all 'really nice' until you end up in the ER getting stitches and a shot."
"No really, he's never bit anyone, he's a super sweet dog."
But the Qwest guy refuses to come in the house until I put the dog somewhere else. So, I stick him outside and assure Doug (Qwest Guy finally introduced himself) that the coast is clear. While Doug does his thing, I rifle through paperwork on my desk and kill time looking out on my garden from the living room window. Which is when I notice a window screen wedged between the rows of corn. I also notice that the window I'm staring out of has no screen. So, that solves the point of egress puzzle anyway. I feel a bit better about this; knowing the escape routes is the first step in securing them.
And then Rascal lopes right out through the garden below me to the front yard, having escaped from his banishment to the backyard. Oh, the fun never stops. I run out and call him back, and he meets me on the front porch and follows me in. Doug is in the kitchen and is immediately unhappy with this. But now it's my turn to get testy.
"Listen, I can't put him outside because he runs away. We just moved, he's freaked out. I've got to keep him in here, but he's a nice dog, he'll leave you alone."
As if on cue, Rascal then comes over to Doug, gives him a sniff and wags his tail, then goes and plops down on the dining room floor. Doug gives a harumph and sighs, but seems pacified. He proceeds to snap at Rascal a few more times when Rascal walks into the room, and is generally pretty rude and unhelpful.
Turns out - big surprise - that Doug cannot fix what's wrong with my telephone line, and needs me to put in an order for either another service call, wherein a Qwest person could come out and spend what would "likely be hours" (at $85.00/hour) investigating the whereabouts of the trouble in my main line, or put in an order for a new phone jack - a quick and simple fix costing a flat rate of $99. I choose the latter, schedule it for the next day and shut all of the windows in the house before leaving my crazy dog and going back to work yet again.
Saturday morning I awake to a knock on the door from a new Qwest Guy who has come to install a new jack and, thankfully, has a remarkably normal looking face. (What a rude awakening it might have been to stumble sleepy-eyed to the door at 8:00 a.m. to find another scary clown with a tool belt!) This guy is friendly, nice to my dog, and makes fun of Doug's warpaint while cheerfully and quickly installing the new jack and hooking up my modem. Voila! Wireless internet is up and running, and I still have plenty of time to get ready for my friend Bonnie's baby shower. I'm in good spirits, having finally solved at least one of the many issues around this giant problem-riddled house, and I depart with the confidence that I can go out and share a delicious brunch with some wonderful women and know that I have now definitely closed off all possible doggie-exits. Ah.... With a big sigh of relief I grab the presents and head out to pick up balloons for the shower and the fancy-pants cake I ordered from Mrs. Backer's. (Side note: WOW! Mrs. Backer's makes a goddamn gorgeous and tasty cake! It was my first time. Uber spendy though, so be forewarned should you think of ordering one. But for a special occasion if you can afford it, it's the way to go.)
Upon leaving Mrs. Backers, cake in hand, my cell phone rings. I miss the call before I can dig the thing out of my purse. By the time I feel it in the depths, a very cheerful man has left me a voicemail.
Hi, my name's Bart [something-or-other] and I have your dog Rascal here. My wife and I are out front with our kids and he just came over to play. [Bart chuckles, and I hear the sounds of his children squealing with delight and Rascal barking.] He's here with us in front of our house at [address just around the corner from mine] and he's just fine. So just come on over and grab him, or give me a call if you need directions, or want me to meet you somewhere or something. We're happy to help however we can! Thanks!
First off, I'm a time-challenged girl, always have been. Though I've made significant progress in this department in the past year, my successes are recent enough that I still feel excited and proud of myself when I'm on time, not to mention when I find I even have a few minutes to spare. Saturday, well-adjusted on-time gal that I am these days, shower goodies in hand, I am four blocks from the restaurant and have a solid 12 minutes to spare. I had been thinking: Nice work self! After listening to Bart's voicemail, this thought quickly changes to: Fuck me. This now ruins my promptness for the shower and goddamnit! I know I shut and locked both doors and all of the windows. The garage door is definitely shut. How the hell did this dog manage to thwart my efforts once again?!?
Second of all: Only in Salt Lake are people really this ridiculously, genuinely nice. I'm from the midwest, and people are pretty friendly there, real helpful and down-to-earth folk. But this kind of thing rarely happened in St. Louis, and by "rarely" I think I can safely say never. Thank you friendly Salt Lakers, truly, for being the best neighbors a single gal with an insane dog could ever hope for.
And Bart Something-or-Other and his uber-cute wife and gaggle of adopted children were maybe the sweetest people ever. They are outside doing yardwork as a family when I pull up, and Rascal is sort of hopping and galloping around the kids and playing with them in the yard. Everyone is laughing, enjoying Rascal, and they greet me with giant smiles and warm hello's when I get out of the car.
"Oh, what a GREAT dog you have! We just love him!"
Yeah. He's real great. Easy enough to love until he's your charge and has you running all over the neighborhood every single day bailing him out of trouble. I gave them the rundown on the Rascal saga of the week, and they offered to help anytime, however they could, and promised to keep an eye out for him now that we're neighbors. I moved the cake and helium balloons to the front seat, making room to load Rascal up in the back.
"He can come over and play with us anytime!" Bart assured me as I drove off and left him and his adorable family waving goodbye to Rascal from the curb.
Thankfully, we weren't far from home and I had enough time to put him back inside and look around to ascertain his exit strategy and, hopefully, barricade it. This time it wasn't too hard to find. Though I had shut the matching living room windows (the left of which he escaped through the day before), I either didn't shut the right window enough, or the dog is smarter than I thought and managed to open the window further with his nose. Either that, or finally grew that set of thumbs. (Go-Go Gadget!) After opening the window to a suitable height, he then jumped THROUGH the screen, which though it remained attached to the house, suffered a fatal, Rascal-sized blowout. Now it is essentially just a frame with tattered, triangular-shaped pieces of screen jutting outward in perpetual salute to the Wasatch Range.
So, here we are. If I leave the house now, it is with both doors and all windows securely shut and locked. I have instituted "perimeter checks" before walking out the door. I now have two screens requiring replacement in this house, and a dog that looks at me as if I'm punishing him every time I leave him alone. Maybe if I ever get the fence fixed, I can start allowing him at least the use of his doggie door and subsequent backyard access when he's alone. In the meantime though, I'm praying the temperate weather continues. And contemplating a call to the dog whisperer...