Like a rolling stone

Unique so­lu­tion to old prob­lem

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION - GWEN ROCKWOOD Gwen Rockwood is a syn­di­cated free­lance colum­nist. Ar­chives of The Rockwood Files can be found on­line at nwaMother­ Email Rockwood at rock­wood­

Our bea­gle, Char­lie, has forced our hand. Lately, he has taken the art of break­ing out of the back­yard fence to a whole new level, so we had to get cre­ative.

This mis­sion to keep Char­lie at home has been go­ing on a long time. Af­ter we adopted him five years ago, we asked a dog trainer to help us teach him to obey com­mands. Over­all, the train­ing went well. He learned to sit, shake hands and to high five with his paw.

The only com­mand that didn’t stick? “Stay.” The trainer warned us it would be dif­fi­cult. Even though Char­lie un­der­stands what we want him to do when we say, “Stay,” ul­ti­mately he obeys the wishes of his bossy bea­gle nose. And his nose knows only one com­mand — “Go!”

When he catches the scent of a squir­rel, rab­bit or any­thing within 100 yards of our yard, Char­lie’s ears and brain turn off. His legs take orders from his nose, and off he goes — like a bea­gle-shaped bul­let.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is Char­lie’s mixed breed her­itage. Our vet­eri­nar­ian thinks he is part Ital­ian grey­hound — a breed known for speed. So, when you com­bine a Bea­gle’s scent ob­ses­sion with a grey­hound’s speed, you get a dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion — stub­born and fast — two words that de­scribe Char­lie best.

Lately, it seems Char­lie’s wan­der­lust has been worse than usual. Ev­ery time we think we’ve made our fence a fortress, he finds a new way out. A few weeks ago, he started forc­ing his body through the wrought-iron spin­dles of the gate — a space that seems far too nar­row for him to fit through. But, some­how, he does it.

So when Char­lie needed to go out for a potty break, we put a har­ness on him and hooked it to a long ca­ble tied to a tree. It gave him plenty of room to walk around the yard, but wasn’t quite long enough for him to reach the fence and squeeze through. We only left him out for half an hour, but when we came back to get him, the ca­ble was hooked to an empty har­ness. Char­lie had pulled hard enough to wig­gle out of the har­ness and slip through the fence bars again.

The tim­ing couldn’t have been worse. It was July 3, which meant that as soon as dusk fell, peo­ple around us started set­ting off fire­works. Char­lie must have thought it was the apoc­a­lypse be­cause, in­stead of run­ning around for an hour and then com­ing home like usual, he stayed gone half the night. We’re guess­ing he must have hun­kered down in the woods and waited for the bombs to stop fall­ing.

At three in the morn­ing, we heard his fa­mil­iar bark in the front yard and opened the door to find him stand­ing there — dirty, smelly and freaked out from fire­works.

In our quest to find a so­lu­tion, we asked our friend Lil­lian — who is an ac­com­plished seam­stress and crafter — to help us with an un­usual plan. We gave her a dog har­ness to see if she could add some­thing to it that would stick out and pre­vent Char­lie from be­ing able to squeeze through fence bars.

A cou­ple days later, she came back with an in­ge­nious idea. She took the chunky plas­tic rings from a tod­dler’s stack­ing toy and slipped them around the buck­les of Char­lie’s har­ness. There are five rings to­tal, stick­ing out on each side of his body. They’re firm enough to keep from be­ing squished through fence bars, but they’re light enough not to weigh Char­lie down. We put him into the odd-look­ing har­ness and watched to see what would hap­pen.

So far, the dog har­ness (also known as a dog­gie fat suit) is work­ing like a charm. Ev­ery time he tries to squeeze through the fence, those over­size Froot Loops get in the way. Per­haps we’ve found the an­swer!

But if he does even­tu­ally fig­ure out how to slip through the bars in his new-fan­gled har­ness, he’s go­ing to get a lot of strange looks in the neigh­bor­hood. It’s not ev­ery day you see a skinny bea­gle wear­ing a har­ness with what looks like chunky Olympic rings stick­ing out in ev­ery di­rec­tion.

And to that we say, “what­ever works.”

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