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News & Views September 2015 Issue

A Fence That May Fail

Electrified boundaries can’t completely replace a dog owner’s guidance.

For years I felt terrible that Franklin’s actions caused the death of another dog.

Down the hill from the cemetery where I used to let Franklin run around freely was the backyard of a family whose dog often hung out there. Ollie, a Tibetan terrier, was the most delightful dog you’d ever want to meet. Playful and game, he loved people as well as other dogs. And when Franklin would sense his presence outside or see him through the trees leading from the steep slope to Ollie’s, he would gleefully sprint down, and the two dogs would have a wonderful time cavorting. Nobody minded. In fact, because the bramble was too thick in most spots for me to make my way through, a member of Ollie’s human family would often walk Franklin back to my house when the two dogs were done playing.

One day, however, something attracted Franklin’s attention at the front of that family’s home, so he ran from the backyard to the street and then darted across the roadway to chase whatever was beguiling him. Presumably, Ollie couldn’t follow because his home was rigged with an electric fence that would shock him if he crossed the line. But loving Franklin as he did, through the fence and into the street he ran to catch up with him — and was hit by a car and died upon impact.

Who would have ever thought this adorable dog could be involved in such an awful chain reaction?

I cannot tell you the sick feeling I had in my stomach as I ran down a clearing in the hill, hearing cars screeching and honking and noticing a small knot of people gathering. Was it Franklin? Ollie? Were they okay? I knew something bad had to have happened.

When I finally made my way to the scene, the woman of the household was kneeling over Ollie, sobbing, her three young children standing by her in shock. I was stricken. If I hadn’t let Franklin run down to that family’s yard in the first place, even though they always welcomed him enthusiastically, the chain of events that led to Ollie’s death would never have been set in motion.

But the story, I have since learned, is more complicated than that. Electric fences, it turns out, are not foolproof. And while I most certainly didn’t have Franklin well trained, the installation of the fence didn’t confer the complete protection on Ollie that his family believed it did.

I still feel terrible about what happened to poor Ollie — to his whole family, for that matter. I also know now that the blame wasn’t entirely mine. That won’t bring Ollie back, but at least it relieves my guilt to some degree.

For more on electric fences, see the article that begins on page 4.

Happy tails to you,

Lawrence Lindner
Executive Editor

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