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006 The Pig Dog

The effect of the Jumpr dog!

WHERNTO: notions 

image of 006 The Pig Dog

Jumpr was originally called Gordon Whitefoot by the couple who got him from the SPCA. I guess they either liked Lightfoot's songs or they thought they were being nomenclaturely clever. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that this dog wasn't interested in singing, but in jumping over their 3 foot high fence. No matter how they tried to stop him, he got over it, so after a short while they returned him in frustration.

We thought that Riky would enjoy a dog friend, so we headed over to the SPCA and one of the workers, Sandy introduced him to Jumpr thinking the two might get along. They played around for over an hour and Sandy remarked she never thought 2 male dogs would be so amicable. So it was decided and off we all went back home, Jumpr and Riky sandwiching my young son Kyron in the backseat.

We were initially very impressed with Jumpr who had obviously gone to dog-school. He didn't pull you around on the leash. When his leash got entangled in his feet, he figured out how to un-entangle it. He was happy playing second fiddle to Riky and there weren't any squabbles once the hierarchy had been established. In fact, we thought Jumpr might even teach Riky some of his elegant manners.

What Jumpr taught Riky to do was to jump the fence (and Riky, in compensation, helped Jumpr to forget all sense of decorum).

You see, the house we bought has a third of the acre surrounded by a four foot wire fence topped off with a strand of barbed wire. We never figured out why the barbed wire was put there because the fence certainly wasn't high enough to keep deer out. We therefore suspect it was more to keep the previous owners' children in.

Now Jumpr's difficulty was that he was a sort of roundish being, likely a husky-shepperd cross. In fact, my son soon started calling him the 'Pig Dog', because he did have a similar profile. He was very strong, to the point where he would easily out-pull Riky in a tug-o-war, but agility wasn't his forté. Three foot fences he could manage, but four foot ones were not to his tastes.

On the otherhand, here was an agile friend Riky, sleekly built and powerful! All Jumpr had to do was convince Riky how much fun it would be to get to the otherside of the fence. So one fine day, we go out to call the dogs, and Jumpr comes charging up to us all excited. We, of course, couldn't understand the commotion, but he led us over to the fence. It was then we noticed that Riky was nowhere in the yard. Since Riky had never run away even on leashless walks, we couldn't believe that the impossible had actually taken place. However, after a few loud "Riky's", sure enough our formerly ideal dog, stood at the gate wagging his tail vigorously!

We tried to pass off this incident as an anomaly, but a few hours later, there was Jumpr all excited again and Riky was on the otherside of the fence!

Ok! Time for defensive action! We spied on the dogs. Their communication was quite revealing. Jumpr would checkout different areas of the fence and Riky would follow him. Then there would be a pause where the two would look at each other with some sort of telepathy and suddenly, up and over went Riky.

So our course was clear. Bolster up the dips of the fence with chicken wire - that should stop him! Of course, we had to get the chicken wire and within that time Riky went over several times without Jumpr's guidance - once actually through the six inch space between the barbed wire and the regular fence (don't ask me how he did it, but i saw it with my own eyes!) and once he didn't quite make it and was found dangling from one leg, caught on the fence wiring.

Finally, the chicken wire was in place and we were sure we had ended this nonsense. Even Riky's athletic abilities couldn't overcome our ingenuity, so we figured all was well. Unfortunately, we'd forgotten about the mastermind, Jumpr.

The Pig Dog understood that there was no way he was going to go over like his friend. However, there was plenty of opportunity to go under, right? All one has to do is dig and dig to create passageway. So suddenly, Riky comes up to us all excited, and sure enough, there is no sign of Jumpr in the yard. Where was he? He was standing on the other side of the gate, waiting for us to let him in!

Over the next several weeks, Jumpr dug and we filled his tunnels with earth, wood pieces, stones, rebar and even concrete, but he always found a way out. Riky was far too dignified initially to go under, but in a short time he too followed whatever pathway Jumpr would create. Jumpr going out on his own wasn't a big issue because he'd just come around to the gate and wait, but when Riky started joining him, it all changed - they'd go touring the neighbourhood for a couple of hours at a time. They always came back, but this was not an acceptable situation at all! If you don't let your children run amuck, there's no reason to let your dogs do so.

I realized one day that we were going about it all wrong. We shouldn't be trying to protect the exit points, we should deal with the culprits directly! So when they returned from their excursion, there were no greetings of relief. I put on a very unkind face (my extensive experience as a teacher prepared me well for that sort of thing), and took them both to the back and leashed them to the stairs of the deck: misbehave and this will be your reward!

After an hour or so, I went to check up on them to examine the state of their repentance. Riky sat quietly in shame. Jumpr was sitting too, but looking around. Suddenly, I noticed that his leash wasn't attached to him! He had figured out how to wriggle free from his collar, but because he knew he was being punished, he just sat in the same spot! I thought I detected a bit of a smirk on his face, but it's hard to tell on that face! This scene occurred a few times, but the dogs soon figured out that we didn't want them running off from the yard, so we had reached an understanding.

Jumpr and Riky had a lieutenant-general relationship. Whenever there was an important issue to be resolved in the yard, Riky would send Jumpr ahead to investigate with his usual thoroughness of checking out every molecule of earth, water and air. When it was time to defend the territory, Jumpr would lead the charge with his ferocious bark that made one certain there weren't any pig genes in his ancestry. However, Jumpr is the epitomy of the bark being worse than the bite. When Riky was around, Jumpr was in his glory, prancing and brave. However, if Riky wasn't there to defend him, it was a completely different matter. Classic evidence of this occurred with the neighbour's little terrier, Mini, with whom our dogs would playfully fence-fight.

Jumpr had pulled off one of his escapes and was heading around the fence to take up his usual post at the gate, when who should appear out of nowhere, but Mini. Though a quarter his size, Mini had a presence, and in that moment it was uncertain what that presence had in mind. It took one bark and Jumpr moved faster than we'd ever seen him, straight to the gate which he tried to push open with his front paws. Luckily we arrived briskly to rescue him from that terror.

Something that has proved fascinating is the relationship our dogs have with crows. We have tall trees surrounding our house making it an ideal spot for bird visitations of all sorts. At certain times of the year, there are eagles, sparrows, chickadees, owls, towhees, robins, woodpeckers and even hummingbirds. It is really quite a spectacular birdfest, which is completely ignored by our dogs. However, crows, for some reason are a different matter as far as they are concerned, for as soon as a crow flies overhead they would bark continuously and give chase, the lieutenant leading the way of course.

I must admit I don't understand the point of this chase since there is a vertical separation of over one hundred feet between the dogs and the crows. We have a theory that the crows, who can be just as vocal as our dogs, are actually teasing them in some way that our dogs can understand. This would seem to explain the dogs' selective focus and response to only these birds.

After he'd been with us about a year and a half, Jumpr developed some walking problems. Being part shepperd, hip dysplasia was a possibility, but what seemed to aggravate it were the 8km runs my son and I did with the dogs from his music teacher's house. Gradually, he could barely walk downstairs in the morning (he slept with Riky in our bedroom) so I'd have to carry him out. His bladder control went too and sometimes in the morning, I'd find him trying to lick up his own urine, trying to make up for the accident he felt responsible for.

Despite all this, his spirits were high. He liked staying outside and sit under the alder trees by the fence at the back of the yard. He'd hobble out to his particular spot and just lie in the tall grass for the entire day and sometimes we'd carry him back when it was time to eat. Gone was the desire to investigate. Gone was the mischief.

Jumpr's walk continued to deteriorate, but his bladder control came back. Then one day we noticed that his trips to the alders weren't as awkward and he'd make it back on his own at dinner time. Gradually, the walk got stronger and stronger. Then the rolly-poly bounce came back. Then the ability to run. One day, we were even happy when we caught him trying to dig and escape under the fence.

Jumpr was back and surprisingly, stronger than before! We attribute the recovery to his being strict vegetarian and some form of communion with the grass and alders. It is surprising how diet, rest and seclusion, combined with a supportive environment can create what appear to be miracles.

He seemed to recognize his new strength too. On walks, he'd pull you along relentlessly, always in a hurry to go goodness knows where. In the past, he'd been what people would call a lumbering lumox, crashing into things, stepping on our toes, but now you got in his way at your own risk! Riky, despite his rank as general, regularly got knocked aside with hip-checks that would be the envy of any hockey player. Jumpr would come charging through open doors (and sometimes closed ones), scattering objects and living entities like a bowling ball scatters pins.

His favorite activity seemed to be to steal a cushion and parade it right in front of us, delighting when we'd take it from him and swat him on the head with it. Occasionally, he'd even do his thieving skillfully behind our backs and we'd have to retrieve the cushions from our yard.

Somehow, even though no one can stand this menace, everyone likes him. He is always the first to greet or to play, or even to just sit beside someone of any species (and we have quite a few in our home) to provide a moment of companionship.

The Pig Dog is just a juggernaut of joy.