I’d always been averse to fencing in my backyard until I came to “own” my pair of pointers, Sugar and Buster. I use the word own loosely because nobody ever really owns a pointer. Although very loving, my dogs are the most hyperactive and destructive canines I’ve ever associated with. A barrage of come heres issued has absolutely no effect on them.
Dogs must be kept under some kind of control for their own safety. When dog-training school failed, I was advised by a bird-hunting buddy to use shock collars on my 125 pounds of joy. Perish the thought. Besides, I’d observed the nominal results of shock-collar use by other dog trainers and realized that my high-strung dogs couldn’t be controlled by a jolt of electricity, even if you plugged their tails directly into a 120-volt socket. The solution was a chain-link fence around the backyard, despite the expense.
Being a civil engineer, I’m big on planning: determine the project objective, scope the project, prepare the design, prepare the bill-of-materials . . . and then hire someone else to make it happen.
Determining the objective was easy enough: build a fence that would contain two creatures that speed about the landscape like electrons about atomic nuclei.
Of course, the scope of the project would extend to the limits of my backyard.
The fence design was a little trickier. A four-foot-tall fence would never contain my high-jumping buddies. A six-foot-tall fence topped with razor wire, although tempting, would make my place look like a concentration camp. But a five-foot-tall fence would be perfect. For access, I specified five gates: three four-foot-wide gates, one six-foot-wide gate, and one twelve-foot double-wide gate adjacent to the driveway. The twelve-foot gate was planned to provide the National Guard access for disaster relief after my dogs inevitably achieve their ultimate goal: total backyard devastation.
The least expensive materials are fine for applications like keeping toddlers and small dogs contained, but my project required more heavy-duty materials. Although conventional chain-link fabric would be fine, I specified heavier terminal and line posts, heavier top and bottom rails, and that all posts be set in 2-foot-deep, 6-inch-diameter holes backfilled with concrete.
After laying out the proposed fence line, I hired my next-door neighbor, a landscaper, to implement my plan.
Dogs are champs at tunneling under a fence, especially if they can initially fit their muzzles beneath it. Anticipating my dogs’ primary targets, I constructed concrete-filled trenches underneath all the gates after the fence was installed. But the concreting work was far from being complete. For over a year I’ve been trenching and concreting along the fence where the dogs have engineered escape routes, and I still haven’t caught up with my sweet dogs. I was even pulled from writing this piece to concrete in one of their projects. In fact, the employees of the home improvement store I frequent start fetching me my usual four bags of concrete mix as soon as I walk in.
My dogs have a problem with dirt: if it’s in the ground, they want it out. By corralling my dogs, I unwittingly created another problem. My dogs are turning the backyard into something that rivals Craters of the Moon National Monument. So with 5-gallon buckets, I haul dirt from the woods behind the house and fill in their craters. Maybe the public would pay a fee to visit my Craters of 2105 West Buckeye Street if the dogs’ work went unchecked.
I borrow fill dirt from the woods because most of what the dogs dig out of their holes mysteriously disappears. Perplexed by the missing dirt, I initially thought, “Is the yard hollow?”
The answer came one morning a few weeks ago when my neighbor pounded on my front door and shouted, “Hey! Your dogs ate half of your backyard, and now they’re eating the cedar siding off the backside of your house.”
My dogs eat dirt and houses. Hollering expletives to myself, I jumped out of bed to salvage what I could.
Maintaining the fence and the backyard is heavy work. Since adopting the dogs, I’ve lost over twenty pounds and an inch in height from lugging 5-gallon buckets of fill dirt and 80-pound bags of concrete. I’m the incredibly shrinking master.
My dogs must figure that the back-breaking work they create is good exercise for me because they always give me a you’re-welcome look after I undo one of their projects. So I oblige them and say while wiping the sweat from my brow, “Thanks guys. You’re keeping me in great shape.”