Life has been much better for Violet Wiggins since we moved to a more rural setting. Mrs. Wiggins is our doggie companion. She appears to have had a rough start in life before she was found wandering a road somewhere in Arkansas, pregnant and emaciated.
She tends to worry, and her default setting is thinking she’s in trouble. We have a lot in common.
When we lived in Ulster County, a dog couldn’t roam freely. We were in a suburban neighborhood, and the woods behind our former house is populated by bears, and even more frighteningly, fishers. Mrs. Wiggins wouldn’t have stood a chance.
In Delaware County, she has a one-acre territory that includes a meadow, with an adjoining meadow that isn’t hers, but is under her watchful eye just the same. Most of the time, if we’re outside, she’s free. She’s good about staying close. Most of the time.
I used to let her out at night to do what dogs need to do without a leash. I just went outside with her, illuminated by the motion-detector light which snapped on as we went out, and waited for her. But one night, a set of startled eyes looked up as we went out, and Violet was off like a shot.
I yelled, I called, I swore, but she was long gone. I went inside, put on my shoes, grabbed a flashlight, and prepared for a long, stressful night of Wiggins-hunting. But by the time I was halfway across the yard, calling her name, the flashlight showed me two eyes bounding back toward me across the meadow.
She was absolutely delighted with herself, and that’s a rare feeling for Mrs. Wiggins. I rewarded her for coming back with two treats instead of one. We didn’t discuss the fact that she shouldn’t have taken off in the first place. She was guarding her turf from that evil deer and she came back as soon as it got well away from where it shouldn’t be. I couldn’t argue with her logic.
We don’t go out at night without a leash any more.
Yesterday we were in the barn together. I was pulling nails out of some salvaged floorboards which I hope will eventually replace the wall-to-wall carpeting in the house. She sat, observing me and observing the world, and all was well. But then she got bored.
Mrs. Wiggins’ stump of a tail disappeared around the corner, and her nose found something quite intriguing in the weeds beside the barn. Before I could even call her back, a very interesting, and probably horror-stricken, bunny tore off across the yard with Wiggins in hot pursuit.
That chunky little cattle dog can move, I’ll give her that. I ran in their general direction, but the trail was cold. I had no idea where they’d gone. It was not impossible that they’d taken off across the road into the meadow there, in which case not only were they gone, but there was a real concern that she’d be hit by a car on her return.
I yelled, I called her name, I swore. And within minutes, there was Violet Wiggins, up in that meadow behind the house, away from the road, returning after another successful foray against yet another dangerous intruder.
I’m torn, reader. I love this dog dearly and I love to give her the freedom to be outside, unchained, sitting in the yard with her paws crossed in front of her, watching her domain. It clearly makes her very happy. She visibly wilts when she’s tied up.
But it’s her nature to chase off intruders. We’ve got rabbits, groundhogs, deer. She cannot resist a good chase.
Fencing, at least fencing that would be effective, is too expensive. Electric fence is, in my opinion, cruel for a hyper-sensitive dog. I suspect she’d take off in terror, never to be seen again, at the first shock.
Her freedom may be too risky. Damn.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.