I’ve worked with a lot of dogs since we started to really get into the foster/rescue arena. Dogs of all shapes, temperaments, and energy levels. Through that experience, I have learned that bad things can happen faster than it takes a lightning bolt to hit the ground and I approach my responsibilites to my dogs with that in mind at all times.
My worst fear is failing in my duties and being the cause of a catastrophic event that results in harm to one of the dogs under my care. Fortunately, fear like that, for me, is very motivating. I double and triple check gates, locks, hooks, etc to make sure that every dog is going to be safe and secure wherever they end up in our home.
Most people that know me would tell you that this facet of my “dog foster” personality is borderline obsessive and more like a deep paranoia.
I tell you all of this so that you get an idea of how my mind works in relation to keeping my dogs(both fosters and the permanent residents) safe, so that you can keep it in mind as I regale you with a story from today.
A few days ago, I decided that the rug in our designated fostering room upstairs had reached the end of it’s life. I tore it up and threw it out of the second story window as opposed to going up and down the stairs umpteen billion times. Which left a big pile of rug stuff on the side of our yard.
Tomorrow is our trash pickup, so I wanted to make sure I got as much of the debris and rug into the trash bin as I could so that the rest can be a part of Thursday’s pickup.
Seems like a normal enough plan right? Not too many spots for a wrench….right?
Well, the gate on that side of the yard is about the worst gate that can be imagined for a yard that is tasked with the containment of four bully mixes. As a result, I have built a paving stone wall in front of it and we don’t use it in normal day to day situations. Unfortunately, in order to get the heavy duty bin into the backyard, I have to de-barricade the gate.
It happens way faster than you think
Below is a full-size version of the picture above. As you can see, the dogs can easily “dig” it open and have free-range of the neighborhood. Suffice to say that a sheet of wet toilet paper would be about as effective as a gate.
After I filled up the bin with old carpet, padding, and wood, I was hot(I live in Florida after all) and figured I would go inside and grab a quick drink. Now, in my defense, Coral has never attempted to escape while I’m home. All of our issues have been when I leave or I am in the front yard where she can’t see me. So it didn’t even occur to me to worry that she would get worked up and mount an escape attempt.
[For those that are interested, my mistake was that I had blocked off the house with an x-pen to keep the puppies outside so, in Coral’s mind, she couldn’t get to me(she has S.A. issues and is hyper-bonded to me). Naturally, for a dog with her personality, that was an unacceptable state of affairs.]
In the ten seconds it took me to get to the kitchen, she had blown through the “gate” and was across the street checking out the neighbor’s garage.
The what-ifs are still haunting me. What if a car had been coming, or someone was outside, or another dog happened to be coming down the street. These are all situations that would have ended very badly for Coral, and it would have been 100% my fault.
I’m human and I make mistakes. But, in the dog owner demographic, I am probably in the top .01% when it comes to making sure I do everything to keep my dogs safe, healthy, and happy. I’m overly protective of them and always picture the worst when “dog-proofing” things.
Now, it may sound like the statement above is designed to toot my own horn. That is not the case, It is designed to show that even a borderline psycho safety dog owner(me) can make mistakes and bad things can happen.
The lesson I learned from this situation is that vigilance comes with a 24/7 requirement. That is, you are either vigilant, or you’re not. The slightest lapse in concentration or misguided assumption about my dog(s) can lead to disastrous results.
Needless to say, my already over-the-top safety requirements for our crew now extend to me as well. It is important, as a dog owner, to be able to assess an environment and address any potential safety hazards that may be there. Even ones that seem insignificant! It is doubly important to make sure I am not making assumptions about what my dogs will or won’t do. Because, as you can see from this story, it only takes one second for things to go very, very wrong!