The Great Escape

Last weekend we were given a reminder that you can’t let your guard down with a puppy.  Thankfully all ended well, but it was a sobering experience that left me shaken.

Back when we were debating getting a dog, we knew that we had to get some fencing work done for our yard.  Our house is on a quiet crescent, but there is a pedestrian lane that runs on the South side of our house.  It connects our street with one of the busier streets in our neighbourhood, and continues on the other side of the street to a park.  Our backyard has a fence around 95% of it, however, the space between the side of our house and the lane was never closed in with a fence or gate.  This was an issue that we knew needed to be resolved if we were to get a dog.

After we knew we were getting a dog, I called around to get quotes and we found a contractor who committed to doing the work.  It was scheduled to happen the week after we brought Kona home.

Well, the two weeks after Kona joined us it rained a lot, and the guy kept postponing the work.  We became frustrated with this contractor, and given the small area, we decided that P would just do it himself.

Fast forward three months… puppies keep you very busy and our fence plans had not been addressed.  While initially Kona was always on leash in the backyard, she became reliable and we would often play fetch with her (off leash) there.  Occasionally she would express interest in the corner of the yard near where the fence was missing, but we would distract her.  We grew complacent and stopped worrying about the fence.  It was still on our to do list, but seemed less urgent.

There is constant traffic along the lane, which periodically gets Kona’s attention but for the most part she ignores it.  Sunday evening after dinner I was playing with Kona in the backyard.  She was fairly relaxed but we were doing a bit of fetching.  Our neighbour walked along the lane with her miniature poodle Sophie, who Kona knows and has played with in the past.  They called to Kona, and she ran to the fence.  I rushed over to make sure that I was with her as she greeted them.  They kept on going, as they were headed to the park, and Kona tried to watch them.

She then turned, and walked along our back fence in the opposite direction from where the gap is.  I thought she had forgotten about them already or had lost interest.  She stopped and started to dig in our garden, and I went over to discipline her.  I was just about there when she bolted, and headed straight to the side yard without the gate.  I went running after her, but there’s no way I can keep up with her speed now.  I was calling after her and she kept running.  By the time I got to the front of the house, she had already gotten to our street, and then done a 180 degree turn and began running down the path.

I was wearing flip-flops which were impeding me, so I chucked them off and continued barefoot after her.  By the time I got to the path, she was already almost at Wootten Way.  Sophie and her owner were across the street and had no idea what was going on.  I was yelling ‘Kona” and “help” – hoping that our neighbour would see us and perhaps get to Kona before I did.  No such luck.

I can’t tell you how terrified I was in that moment.  Looking back, I realize that I was in utter panic mode.  I was just beside myself – here I was running at top speed in bare feet, down the lane and across the street, and I could do nothing to protect Kona. Thankfully there was no traffic, as Kona just kept running, across the busy street, and didn’t stop until she reached Sophie, who was already at the park entrance.

When I finally caught up it was all I could do not to cry.  I was so upset and with the adrenaline dying down, the emotions were welling up.  Sophie was carried by her owner, who leant me Sophie’s leash so that I could walk Kona back to our house.  Our backyard neighbor, D, came out to see that all was ok (she and her husband were in their backyard and they heard me yelling and saw me running).  It was hard for me to keep my composure as everyone expressed their concern.

I got Kona home and inside our house and then had a bit of an outburst.  Not long after G, D’s husband, stopped by with a bottle of wine for me, as they thought I could use a good glass.

Needless to say it was a scary moment, but we’re thankful all went ok.  While it was a negative event, we did get a lot out of the experience and were reminded of several important lessons:

  • Don’t become overly confident in puppies – they are still puppies and when faced with an exciting distraction all of their training goes out the window.
  • Always wear proper footwear when out with your dog in case you need to run after them.
  • Keep a leash on you, even in the backyard – jailbreaks happen.
  • Keep a collar, with dog ID and your contact info, on at all times.
  • YOUR BACKYARD NEEDS TO BE COMPLETELY ENCLOSED!!!

On top of all the puppy lessons, it was a great reminder of what wonderful neighbours we have.

I’ve also learned a lot about how I will respond in a dangerous situation.  I threw all caution to the wind and ran after Kona, putting her safety ahead of mine.  I didn’t even think about the fact that there is often broken glass in the path (thankfully at the sides, and not down the centre where I ran).  In retrospect, I’m not sure if I even looked when I crossed the road.  Both scary thoughts.  If you don’t protect yourself first, you can’t expect yourself to protect someone else!

So, getting a fence installed is back to being our number one priority now.  Once she’s done something once, she’s apt to do it again.  We don’t think she’d repeat this for a dog or people she doesn’t know, but there is constant traffic there and we’re not going to take any chances.

In the meantime we’ve installed a temporary barrier.  While it is not a 100% blockage, it is enough to slow her down and impede her escape while we catch up and grab her.

I’ve since heard similar stories from other friends about puppies getting loose and having near misses which makes me feel a bit better and less of a delinquent pet owner.  P now appreciates why I’m so paranoid when he brings Kona out front to the car without having her on leash (no longer permitted!).

Hopefully by sharing this story others can learn from my mistakes without having to go through an experience like this themselves.

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