Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Escape Artist

So last week I went on vacation. It was a great vacation -- 10 people (two full families with assorted attachments and hangers-on) on a cruise in the Caribbean. Very fun and relaxing, and I did definitely need a break.

I called our usual petsitter (whom I highly recommend) and also called in a friend to help supplement with extra visits, as our sitter was very busy over the holidays. The dogs and cats were to be visited twice a day.

I mentioned briefly that my husband had wondered if Laev had escaped her kennel once, a week or so before. He had put her in, he thought, and then left and returned home to find her at the gate to greet him. However, this was an isolated incident -- I even tested by leaving Laev for quite a while, and she stayed in. No other escapes, and she's in the kennel for at least a while almost daily. I wondered if perhaps Jon had been distracted while he kenneled her; he's been known to do such things with a book in his hand. :-) But just in case, I let the petsitter know and left an emergency recall whistle on the counter.

This whistle means one thing -- copious amounts of cream cheese to the dog who gets here promptly. I have it because originally, I used a whistle where Laev was too far to really hear my voice (she looked around for the source of the sound and then noticed me) and then I realized that it could be trained as a cue itself (duh!) and used by more than one person.

But, Laev has been in that kennel for almost three years with a perfect safety record. I figured it was a freak thing -- the door wasn't latched properly or something.

So, Sunday morning we flew out to the Caribbean. Sunday evening, I was spazzing out because of phone calls from my pet watching crew....

It seems Laev didn't wait long before making her move. Thank God I had left Melissa's number on my voice mail, because the person who found her -- after she had escaped both her kennel and our surrounding 5' fence -- was able to call her. Laev's collar tag reads "ALONE = LOST!" and I'm glad the family believed that instead of thinking that she was just a roamer.

So Laev went back in the kennel and promptly got out again. My poor pet-sitters blocked the gap under the front gate through which she left (Laev does not dig new holes, that I've ever seen, but we know that she will take advantage of holes made by others -- and she's lithe enough to use raccoon paths, etc.) and went over her kennel minutely. They reattached the sides to the floor where staples had worked loose, they rewired the sides themselves to reduce flexing between panels. Yet they'd find Laev outside the kennel (but still within our perimeter fence, at least). Once Laev was so happy to be running free that Amy had to use the whistle to get her back to the house. Good thing it was there!

So Laev's lifestyle got a lot more cramped; she stayed in the crate indoors except for brief potty breaks. This wasn't ideal by any means, but it was the safest option remaining. The dog is an eel, when it comes to body movement, and no one wanted to risk losing her again.

So Laev was just a bit... WIRED when we returned Sunday night. Fortunately, we had training scheduled for Monday night! I am very, very grateful to my excellent pet-sitters, who had to deal with such a stressful situation (above and beyond what they signed up for!).

Our best guess at the moment is that Laev is using her dog house as a launch point to go over the 7' kennel walls and then dropping 9' to the ground. (The kennel roof was destroyed in a storm this year.) We've moved the dog house, and we're looking into new kennel/roofing options. Sheesh! At least she's safe for now.

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