Creature Comforts

A roundtable discussion

The following is a transcription of a roundtable discussion about the new Daverio yard containment system (aka fence), its effectiveness, and its impact on the daily existence of the family contained therein.

Facilitator: Wyatt, the cat.

Panel of Experts: The Daverio dogs – Walter, Miriam, Shultz and Kevin.

WYATT: Welcome, all, to our first and probably only roundtable discussion about the backyard and its wonders. Thanks to all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules of barking. sleeping on the couch, barking, grooming each other obsessively, barking and barking to participate in this important meeting. Virgil and I, being indoor cats, and the turtle, tortoise and fish (ok, maybe not the fish, so much) are all curious about your experiences with the long-awaited fenced-in backyard. We are recording this to share with the general public, so we will ask you to please keep your answers and comments concise and to the point. I also ask that during this meeting, though it will be difficult, you refrain from touching, grooming or wrestling with one another, and most especially, me. Please refrain from using inappropriate or inflammatory language; I will agree to do the same, provided you stop climbing all over me, Miriam.

MIRIAM: Sorry – can’t help it. (turning to the others) He’s just so soft and squishy and fun to tip over (a murmur of assent).

WYATT: Ahem (smoothing out his ruffled coat). Now then, let us begin. Let me first say that I have some personal experience with being outdoors, if only briefly, when I once spent an entire night on the back deck. I came to regret my snap decision to run out with the bat that was shooed out of the house that day, as I was unprepared for the vastness, darkness, and being away from my food dish for hours. I bravely made it to the bottom steps of the deck, but felt overwhelmed, lost my lunch, and reconsidered exploring any further. Apparently, they ignored my cries for help by the back door until early the next morning when the sun was already coming up. It was not one of my favorite experiences. Though lately, it seems the back door just hangs open sometimes, waiting for all of you to make your ways out or in, and I have been tempted on a few occasions to give the outdoors another go.

While I have been taken outside on a few very brief outings manacled by a harness and a leash (I flatly refuse to walk fettered like that) all of you have many years of experience with this. Your thoughts? Walter, let’s begin with you.

WALTER: Thanks, Wyatt. Leashes are ok, I guess, since it’s the only way they (people) will take us anywhere, and I like to go places and see things. Without the collar and leash, we dogs can forget about going anywhere, so I’ve come to appreciate it as my ticket to ride (or walk).

WYATT: Yes, I have noticed how noisy and excited all of you get when the leashes are carried to the front door. Kevin, you especially.

KEVIN: Leashes are awesome! Car rides are awesome! Being outside is awesome!

WYATT: Got it: awesome. But, Kevin, why do you try to grab all the leashes in your mouth while the people are trying to hook them to all of your collars? Isn’t that a hindrance to the prime objective, going outside?

KEVIN: Because it’s fun, duh. Pulling Walter around by his leash is hilarious – he hates it.

WALTER: Because it’s annoying, you little…

WYATT: Now, now, please don’t talk out of turn. So, please explain to the group how your lives have changed this summer. Shultz? (silence) Shultz? (nothing) SHULTZ!

SHULTZ: (startled) Oh! Uh … huh?

MIRIAM: Permission to speak?

WYATT: Please.

MIRIAM: Shultz is soon to be 16, and he’s sort-of, um … slow. He pretty much meanders in a small spot in the yard, and half the time, waits for people to carry him up the stairs. He’s lucky to remember (or hear) his name.

SHULTZ: I like to roll.

WYATT: Roll?

SHULTZ: Rolling is nice. Especially when it’s warm and sunny.

KEVIN: Rolling is awesome! Rolling on smelly stuff is the best!

WALTER: Agreed.

WYATT: Please explain.

MIRIAM: You know, just flop down on the ground an rub your neck and back into the grass, roll around with your belly in the sun. I love it, too.

WYATT: Hmm, must be a dog thing. What’s out there besides smells, grass and sunshine? Kevin?

KEVIN: Squirrels, rabbits and birds, but they stay out because I am fierce.

MIRIAM: Me, too.

WALTER: Almost caught a rabbit.

MIRIAM: We were so close!

KEVIN: I almost got that squirrel on the wire.

MIRIAM: Yeah, only 20 more feet to jump, and you’d have had him (general snickering).

WYATT: Back on topic. The new fence is very tall and solid, but there are some obvious gaps any one of you dogs could slip through, especially around the gates. Kevin, you’ve escaped in the past, and have been known to run top speed around the block. The people had to go out and chase you down. What’s to stop you from chasing that rabbit out of the yard and down the street?

KEVIN: It’s this new collar with the beepy box. Beeps are bad. They bite your neck.

WYATT: I’ve noticed the new collars. Can you elaborate on what that’s all about?

KEVIN: Running is awesome! Rolling and barking are awesome! Sniffing is awesome. If you stay away from the beeping, everything is awesome! I like to eat slugs.

WYATT: I see. Walter?

WALTER: The way I figure it, we’ve got lots of room to run and stuff, but if you get too close to the edges of the yard, the beepy box bites your neck. I just steer clear of those spots, and especially near the gates, and it’s all good.

KEVIN: Me, too.

MIRIAM: You guys are wusses. A little pinch on the neck won’t keep me from going where I want.

WALTER and KEVIN: (unison) You’re nuts!

WYATT: Shultz? (silence) Shultz? (nothing) SHULTZ!


WYATT: What’s up with the beepy box?

SHULTZ: Beep? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

WYATTT: The box on your new collar – what do you think of it?

SHULTZ: Oh! Well, it bit me once. For no reason. I was just sniffing under the trees by the fence. I don’t go there anymore, and it’s fine, now.

WYATT: Time’s up, and we’ll have to end here. By my understanding, the new fence has allowed the dogs some long-awaited freedom, but the beepy box on their collars seems to deter them (except Miriam) from testing its penetrability.

It seems to be sort of invisible forcefield, but I’m only speculating.

Only Miriam has what it takes to break through to the world beyond the fence, and she tests it every day. The others are content to be contained. For me, I am happy to watch from my window.

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital.