Doggie Dilemma

Sleeping BeagleIt’s a rainy fall day here on the farm, not terribly cold (57F), but still it is nice to have the wood stove purring along in the living room. My pant legs are still wet from walking dogs in the drizzle this morning.

I adopted two middle aged Beagles in Mid-August. They had been at the shelter for almost 10 months. Two months later I think they are finally feeling secure. I don’t know their back story except that they are a mother\son pair, and they had been briefly adopted and then returned to the shelter early this spring.

We are still working on re-house training, because a dog in a pen, surrounded by other dogs in pens, does not have the same expectations for control as a house dog. We’ve come a long way – or maybe I have just succeeded in training myself. My bedroom is the safe spot and their home base, their crate so to speak. I have a vinyl floor, so easy to clean up any accidents.

And there begins my dilemma. I know that my 10 by 12, dry, well-lit, room with a comfy bed (plus access to my bed), is much larger and nicer than where they were, but still when I close the door, I feel like I have locked them into a cold metal crate. When I am home they have access to the whole house.

I know that when I am home they still just tend to curl up in their bed, or on the sofa and sleep, but ……

Outside I have a number of confinement systems. They have lines strung between two trees their leashes attach to to give them room to explore the back yard. In the side field they have posts with 16 feet of rope giving them each an unimpeded 32 foot diameter circle of freedom with access to sun and shade, and water. Another set of ties in the front yard for diversity, and now access to the garden plot for unleashed sniffing. Plus a rug on my little back porch. If I am outside, they can be outside.

Two to three times a day we go for a long walk, up through the woods, around the hay fields and back on 16 foot retractable leashes.

They appear to be happy, and yet I feel I am keeping them from real pleasure. All my life I have lived where the dogs could just go outside and run. In our farmhouse, we did not have a dog door, but in the spring, summer and fall, the dogs could just open the door and go in and out at their pleasure. We had a leash law, but it was considered a law for ‘in town’, or dogs that had created a problem in the neighborhood.

A couple of my favorite memories of those neighborhood dogs.

Our neighbor had a beagle who would show up at milking time twice a day to clean up the pan of milk we always put down for the barn cats. It turns out he was making a circuit of all the local dairies. Our neighbor couldn’t figure out why their dog was getting fatter and fatter, even though they were scrupulously watching what they fed him.

On walks around the block (4 miles – country blocks are big), I would start out with my dog and maybe a cat or two. By the time I got home I would have been joined by several of the neighborhood dogs and frequently an extra cat.

Speaking of cats. Our current cat likes to go walking with us, especially on that early morning walk before dawn. He likes to go racing past us and into the woods or hedgerow, only to pounce back out a ways down the trail. Walking now with a headlamp I see the deer,rabbits, raccoon, neighbor cats, and fortunately I spotted the skunk before we were too close.

The dogs love our walks, but I know they would love to roam on their own more. The winter I spent in South Carolina, my aging hound and I would go for a long walk through the woods every day. I’ll bet she ran, walked, sniffed 10 miles for the 1-2 miles I walked. She would come home and flop down for a good snooze afterwards. In her last year here on this farm, she would still occasionally head out into the neighbors field for an hour or so. I assume she was looking for muskrats down around his pond. Going deaf and blind, I worried about her, but she was so content when she returned.

These two are much more energetic, and they have that beagle bark when they think they are onto something.Each has slipped the leash a couple of times, and the joy they express, running nose to the ground, in and out amongst the dense brush, coming home muddy and tired to collapse on the rug, is marred only by my concern and efforts to catch them to abide by the status quo.

I know they are well cared for and loved. I know they are happy. But gee I wish we could embrace free range dogs, cause I know what they are missing.