Way back in the eighties and nineties I raised Catahoula Curs. Started out with one female named Pawho. Bred her and got fifteen* puppies! I ended up keeping two puppies, one I intended to keep, because she was pick of the litter, a beautiful glass-eyed patched leopard I called Fanci. I got stuck with the other one, a brindle and spotted-up leopard male we named Caddo. Both turned out to be great dogs and very intelligent. I am convinced if I had spent more time with them, and knew what I was doing, I could have run Fanci in obedience trials. Caddo, on the other hand, was trainable, but he sometimes acted like a big duffus.
Yes, the fact that I had Catahoulas had something to do with the name of my books. That and the fact that my maternal grandmother was from that part of Catahoula Parish that became LaSalle Parish when it was split off in 1910.
Back to the dogs.
Fanci was a tattletale. Whenever Caddo or the little mixed breed mutt, Spuds, that Heath brought home as a worm infested puppy did something Fanci didn’t agree with, like a five year old, she would come running to me and “tell on them.” She used barks and whimpers while trying to lead me to the offender. This usually involved escapes by one of the others, especially the smaller Spuds. “Bark, whine, bark!” (Translated, “Come quick, Spuds is out again!”)
I used that as an excuse to do my “what is it Lassie, Timmy fell down the well?” impression. Fanci would looked at me strangely, then start tattling again.
Spuds was a notorious escape artist, mostly by digging under the fence. He never went far, and after he had his romp, I would find him waiting at the gate to be let back in. Guess he forgot about the hole he dug under the fence? Since he weighed less than half that of the Catahoulas, his holes were too small for them. So, Fanci would come and tell on him, while the big duffus Caddo kind of danced around excitedly and agreed with Fanci. And I had to go find Spuds and fill the hole—again.
The Catahoulas eventually figured out they could join the Spuds Escape Parties by making his hole a lot bigger. They would range further. After a few of these round-ups, I got serious about this and bought an electric fence. I spent one whole Saturday stringing bailing wire suspended on PVC pipe insulators along the top and the bottom of the fence.
Since I was going to be shocking my dogs with it, I decided I should test it. DANG! That got my attention! Once the dogs “met” Mr. Fence, they got no closer than three feet from it after that. Me too, except when I was in a hurry and ran into the wire at head level by the gate. I would catch the wire right across my wire rim glasses and sparks would fly before my eyes! The dogs were probably thinking hope it hurt! A lot!
The problem with electric fencing is anything that touches it grounds it, effectively turning it off as long as the ground stays attached. At that time, we were fighting a troublesome vine that kept popping up all over the yard and attaching itself to the wire along the ground. The stuff was like Kudzoo, growing about a hundred feet a night. Maybe the electricity was stimulating growth? Somehow the dogs figured out that Mr. Fence wasn’t working any longer and tunneled under the fence and the wire. You should have seen that hole!
So, I had to go around the yard and remove that vine and anything else green that had grounded the fence. The three dogs stood around and watched with amused expressions. When finished, I figured the dogs needed to relearn that Mr. Fence bites, so I grabbed the nearest one, which happened to be Fanci, and dragged her over to the fence and touched it with her paw. She let out a yip, and everyone got the message.
That lasted until the vine came back. I swear those dogs knew that wire was grounded in less than 24 hours of the event and were under the fence immediately thereafter. So we lather, rinse, and repeat, but this time when I grabbed Fanci for a demonstration, she threw herself out and went completely limp like a child throwing a temper tantrum and bellowed like I was torturing her. Spuds and Caddo tucked tails and got scarce then. When I let go of Fanci, because I was laughing so hard, she decamped and watched me suspiciously from about 20 feet away. But they all got the message.
That lasted until the vine attached itself to the wire again, and we started the process all over. With Mr. Fence hot once more, I looked at Fanci, and with tail tucked, she started backing up, so I figured to use my dog whisperer psychology. With all three dogs intently watching, I went over to the fence and pretended to touch it. I jumped back and yelled shaking my hand like it hurt. It worked! All three dogs tucked tails and disappeared.
This became a ritual around the Casteix homestead. About every two weeks during the summer, the dogs escaped and I cleaned the fence and pretended to be shocked. Sometimes when I didn’t have time to clear the vine, I just did my shocked act, and they stayed away from Mr. Fence. Eventually, they must have figured out I was faking it. And under the fence and wire they went.
Lather, rinse, and repeat.
*UPDATE: Ryan (in the picture above) reminded me she had fifteen puppies. Now where did I get nine?