If Aussie was to turn into a Marvel hero with super powers, her name might be Coonel. Thin.
I became obsessed with Col. Thin’s escape abilities. Called Harijap at Grass Roots Landscaping, the wonderful group that has plowed our driveway for many years, taken away fallen trees, and at times mowed the grass, and positively begged for him to come over and do something about our fence. I got down on my knees, but he couldn’t see it because we were talking on the phone.
“This is not a good time,” he said, “what with frozen ground and snow.”
“I think the posts are strong and they’ll hold a taller fence, so for now you won’t have to put in new posts. If we need something stronger and better we have no choice but wait till spring, but new fencing that is tied to existing posts would be a big step.”
I can’t say enough about Grass Roots. They do lots of beautiful landscaping and tree work, but what I most value is that they’ll come to help out in all kinds of urgent situations. Which they did now, too, buying new fencing that they cut up and attached to the old, giving me a fence of 6 feet. The old posts held up. At the end of the day Harijap came to the door.
“We ran short a very little bit,” he informed me. “There are 3 small places where we didn’t add the extensions, and we’ll finish them tomorrow. I think the dogs will be okay, they’re small places, won’t be easy for them to find them.”
I turned towards Aussie. “Check.”
Within 20 minutes I heard an ominous silence.
“Aussie! Harry!” I called out to the back yard.
They were gone.
Harry returned in an hour, Aussie in four. “Checkmate,” she said.
By then I’d been reincarnated. “The game’s afoot,” I told Dr. Watson, a/k/a my housemate Tim. Put on my hunting cap, took out my magnifying glass, went outside, got down on my knees and started paddling around on the frozen earth, examining every foot of fencing.
“What are you doing?” Watson asked.
“The curious incident of the dog in the night-time,” I mused. “Look at those pawprints outside the fence, Watson. It’s the footprints of a gigantic hound!”
“I think that’s a raccoon,” says Watson.
“Just look at the one-and-a-half inches of space between the gate and the edge of the house,” I told him.
“I don’t think she can get through there.”
“Elementary, Watson. Aussie can’t. Colonel Thin can cross through anything.”
I put wooden logs into every narrow crack around the gates. Picked up a ladder and leaned it over one gate, a tall wooden easel over the other. Looked down at Aussie: “No way you could get through the gates or over them. Check, Colonel. Thin.”
But that night I couldn’t sleep. Or rather, I’d sleep for a half hour and then wake up from a nightmare, all asweat:
“The garage door!”
“The front door!”
“Under the floorboards of my office, tunnel through to China, and out!”
Sure enough, Aussie was gone early the next morning, but came back to gloat and have breakfast. “Checkmate,” she said. “And I didn’t spend all that money on a new fence, ha ha ha!”
“A human playing chess with a dog is very undignified,” I told her.
“Especially when it’s the human that’s losing,” she shot back.
Grass Roots returned. I told them about Col. Thin. They fixed up the three remaining fences, then knocked on the door. “We walked along the fence and we think we found where she goes out. Behind the shed was a narrow opening—you couldn’t spot it because of the tree on the other side—and we closed it all up. It was real narrow.”
I thanked them. When they left I opened up the dog door and looked out. Instantly both dogs ran towards the shed, then came back, abashed.
“I think she got us, Auss,” said Harry.
“Hee hee hee,” I told them. “Education never ends. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.”
“There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you,” said Colonel Thin. “You have not seen the last of me yet.“