It has been said that good fences make good neighbors. In my opinion, good fences go a long way to making good pet owners and good pets, too.
Nine times out of ten, when I let my dogs outside, they find something to bark at, whether it is the construction crew next door, the mom across the street arriving home from work or the new neighbors’ tiny dogs. Or a squirrel. Or a leaf. Sorry, people. My dogs bark.
The thing is, I’m pretty sure without that charming, vinyl-coated, chain-link barrier, their barks would become a full-tilt-sprint-turned-slobbery-greeting of every construction crew, mother, tiny dog, squirrel and leaf within their field of vision. And let’s face it: the slobbery greeting the tiny dogs and the squirrels receive might be a little more thorough than the one the leaf gets.
By having a fence, I am a hero to the construction crews, working mothers, tiny dogs, squirrels and (yes!) even leaves in my area. I’m also a hero to my pets. They are safely confined from the dangers of the world outside of our yard, namely the cars that threaten to break the sound barrier on our road.
I was reminded of the other dangers that face unconfined pets during a phone conversation the other morning.
Rhonda’s trouble began in the midst of divorce and the financial difficulty that often goes with dividing up a household. Through the tough times, Rhonda’s two dogs were a great comfort, and eventually things were looking up. She found love again and made plans to remarry. Devastatingly, Rhonda’s fiance passed away, leaving her alone again, now with his two dogs and the two she already had.
The strain of single life and continuing financial problems led to foreclosure. Between homes, unable to board her dogs and unwilling to surrender them to a shelter where they might be in danger of euthanasia, she made rather unconventional arrangements to care for them.
She set the dogs up in a pen on a small piece of property she had managed to salvage. Despite her daily visits to feed, water and play with the dogs, they frequently dug out of the pen and were involved in scuffles with other dogs and even coyotes. No doubt, the dogs’ persistence in leaving the yard had to do with certain, ahem, natural urges. With the help of a kind woman in the community and FOTAS, Rhonda made arrangements to have all four dogs neutered at the SPCA.
Not long after the dogs were sterilized, Rhonda was able to make arrangements to live on her property with the dogs. By this time, they had all but destroyed the pen. While Rhonda wanted to build a fence for her pets, saving money was a one-step-forward-two-steps-back process. Just when she felt she was making progress, one of the dogs would dig out, incurring hefty fines from Animal Control. It seemed the only solution was tethering the dogs to stakes in the yard. Rhonda made a vow that chaining the dogs was temporary, just until she could get the money to build the fence. But last week, one of the dogs slipped her collar and – BAM – she was hit with another fine.
“I hate chaining my dogs,” she said to me. “I hate it with a purple passion. My neighbor wants to know why I don’t just get rid of them, but I can’t. We’ve been through too much.”
Rhonda is an example of a dog lover that wants to do the right thing, but circumstances dictate something else. This is where organizations like FOTAS and the SPCA need to step in and help the pet AND the pet owner. And that is just what we are going to do.
On Feb. 28, Rhonda and her four dogs are getting their fence. FOTAS and the SPCA are teaming up to give it to her. Fences4Fido is a collaborative effort between the two organizations designed to help these deserving animals and their owners get rid of the chains that bind, whether it is the physical chain around the dog’s neck or the financial bind in which well-meaning people sometimes find themselves.
If you’d like to help sponsor this project, please go to www.crowdrise.com/Fences4Fido and make a donation. Rhonda’s fence will be made of sturdy material but not terribly fancy. We are talking hundreds, not thousands of dollars. Any small amount will help us free Rhonda’s dogs without putting an extra encumbrance on two already burdened shelters.
If you are interested in volunteering for the project, touch base with Heather Dry at volunteer@LetLoveLive.org. On behalf of the SPCA, FOTAS, Rhonda (and Mitzy, Barney, Sugar and Bean), thank you!
Chrissey Miller, CAWA
SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare