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It's dog-5, Scott-0 when it comes to keeping his shepherd both locked up and happy

One of my hobbies is tryin’ to keep our canine unite, Sophie, in outdoor protective custody and happy at the same time. It’s cheaper than collecting stamps or even rare political promises. You also end up with all sorts of building materials you can play with afterwards.

Protective custody is just that. Protection from herself. To render her incapable of herding things like moose, skunk, deer, bear, porcupine, turkeys, roving clusters of idiot free-range pets and other stuff that might go wandering through yer homestead, fenced or not. The down-side effect is that unsolicited “sales associates” are also protected (which proves you can’t have everything).

But to any shepherd, locked up and happy don’t belong in the same sentence together. They need to be “sheppin’” something, even if it’s only the cat and a few squirrels. To have the freedom to oversee, inspect and patrol its borders or it just won’t be able to do the job and, therefore, be happy with itself. Self-esteem is very important in dogs. It seems people can get along nicely without it, but not dogs.

Anyways, who the heck wants to be cooped up inside on a beautiful day when they could be outside sniffin’ the breeze for intruders and the deposits they make. By the same token, I can understand her angst when some uninvited guest tags the driveway while she stares out through the fence in mortal indignation, helpless, or so it seems. It sure tends to build up her determination to be unconfined.

Somewhere in our little princess’ sizeable fur coat there seems to be hidden: wire cutters, mill file, cordless sawzall, rope and pitons, sledgehammer, pick-ax, battering ram and a pogo stick or at least a pole vault. For a time, I figured she had a dog version of a catapult, but I could find no evidence of one, trusting, of course, that I’d know one if I saw it.

For three full months this summer I’ve kept busy swattin’ hornets and re-doing our dog yard/potting shed, last year’s attempt having been burned for kindling or used as mulch. Some of it, I’m sure, has become fertilizer somewheres after it came out of Sophie’s ‘USB’ port. This year’s theme: rock, block, logs, steel and welded wire.

I was optimistic from the start, having shut out of my mind most of last year’s fun and games. And because it’s so close to the front door, I deemed it necessary to keep it tasteful. This necessitated blowin’ $800 on the materials I mentioned a big ago. Add in all the incredulous outcries, the moaning, groaning and the actual labor served up on a daily basis to improve on a system you simply cannot make work as good as expected. Dogs are incredibly incapable when yer not looking! Last year’s experience could only be explained away by the enlistment of one of the local beaver by our ‘faithful companion.’ Whatever woodwork I threw at it the night before became shavings the next day; hence the materials chosen for this year’s motif, but to no avail! She remains free on willpower alone but stuck in the house for her own damn good.

I’ve tried to explain it to her but she bats that ol’ brown eye/blue eyed Aussie thing at me and jiggles her ears up and down. If I try to be serious, she curls up a lip like I just farted (one of the things that has endeared me to her!).

She’s out third dog out here in the woods and fer sure the most entertaining, needy and expensive to maintain. Twenty-seven years ago we had a wolf/husky cross and a blue merle aussie, both beautiful girls, to help raise our two boys and make sure they didn’t get lost. To do this we let them run free all the time. Sophie’s work load is a lot less congested but she gets a taste of the old days when the grandkids come over to play; otherwise, she’s bored poopless.

We don’t let her run loose when we’re not home and this might explain her neediness. I think dogs need to ‘feel’ free even if they don’t actually do anything that requires freedom. A feeling everyone can relate to, I’m sure.

One day I took a piece of chalk and outlined Sophie as she meditated on our front deck. Then I went to town for a couple of hours, picked up some more stuff for her yard, came home and found her still inside the chalk (no surprise). So after I made some ‘improvements,’ I put her in her ‘yard’ and made a ten-minute dump run. She was lyin’ next to that chalk outline when I got back.

I didn’t even bother to figure out how she did it, the little conjurer incarnate won’t tell me and she likes to swim too much to be waterboarded effectively.

I felt like givin’ up on the idea ‘cept I seldom give up on a lost cause until I hear bone cracking and ligaments go pop. So I went to the fridge, snagged a beer, grabbed a pad and pen, went out to sit on a swing and throw a Frisbee fer the nut.

This is fer ‘good dogs’ everywhere.


You lock me up and go away and don’t come home ‘til the end of the day.

Leavin’ me here to sit and stare, there ain’t no way you can call this fair!

I ain’t no ‘watch dog,’ I’m a do-dog, see; this pen don’t cut it, I’ve gotta be free.

I’ve got all day to work myself through it in hopes that someday you’ll say, “Aw, screw it!”

Just leave me to roam around and do my stuff, to scratch and sniff ‘til I get enough

of protectin’ our place the best that I can from intruders and such, ain’t that the plan?

I promise to stay home and not get lost. Just think of this pen and all that it cost.

And when I break out for one reason or two, it’s because of my nature, you know it be true.

You don’t have to worry ‘bout me chasing skunks or porcupines, Mormons or kids in trunks.

I’ll sit here quietly a mindin’ the store just like those other dogs you had before.

If I smell a cougar or hear a moose I’ll crawl under the deck and just hang loose.

It’s my livelihood at stake, I fear incarceration as it makes me crazy to the point of constipation.

I was born free to die free, if I keep my nose out of trouble,

just like people who don’t like to live in a bubble.

To keep me happy in a consistent way, I need room to roam and roles to play.

I need yer attention and that goes double or my mood will usually be found in the rubble.

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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