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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Post #9: Katie Follows Her Nose


We knew that Beagles followed their noses.  We had read about that in our books on beagles.  But we were confident that our little short dog would not be able to jump over our fence and escape.  Our fence would keep Katie safely in the back yard.

As she grew older, Katie determined that there were a lot of great smells on the other side of the fence.  And she wanted to explore every one of them.  Our faith in her inability to jump was well founded.  However, we neglected to consider that Katie was a digger.  She began to dig her way UNDER the fence to explore the neighborhood.  I’d go out, find Katie missing and there would be a big hole under the fence.  So I’d put a block of wood or a cinder block in the hole and go get Katie.
Now digging under the fence in Aransas Pass was really no great feat.  After all, once you get past the little bit of grass that we had there are several feet of sand before any one with a shovel would hit clay, or anything that might give a digging dog a challenge.  Of course, it took me a while to figure that out.  Katie would dig out, I'd put in a block of wood or cinder block, and she would start digging out right next to the first hole, where the grass had already been removed. 

After several holes, I got the idea to bury a lawn timber under the fence where Katie had escaped.  That meant she couldn’t access the same hole where the grass had been dug up, but had to start a new one.  After putting down a few timbers, I learned that Katie could dig deep enough to get under a lawn timber.  So the next step was to bury lawn timbers two deep.  I took this plan on as a project, and sunk those timbers all the way around the fence.  This plan worked.  Katie was now confined to our yard.

Katie could no longer go underground.  But Katie was not a two dimensional dog.  She had the flat surface of the back yard, and could no longer go down.  That was not enough for her.  So she learned to go up.

Squirrels: those cute little furry rodents whose main job in life is to torment dogs.  They perch in the trees and chatter down at the poor grounded dogs, making fun of the dogs’ inability to climb up and chase them.
Except for Katie.  She did not know that dogs can’t climb trees. 

The squirrels would show up while she was napping and run across the lawn.  When Katie woke up, she knew immediately that her territory had been invaded.  She would run around the back yard, nose to the ground, tail high in the air, baying at the scent of her invaders.   Her tracking always ended up with the same frustration.  The squirrels had run up one of the live oak trees, out of her reach.
We had several Live Oak trees in our backyard.  The beauty of the Live Oak is in the way they allow the prevailing wind to shape their trunks.  So, rather than tall straight trees, they grow with bit of a slope.  Not a big slope usually, but still they were slanted.

Katie learned that she could take advantage of the sloping tree and run up the side of the trunk and into the branches.  There were three problems with this, however.  First, Katie could not get out to the narrow ends of the branches where the squirrels were.  Second, she could not jump from the branches of one tree to the branches of the next tree.  Katie’s biggest problem, however, was when she had followed the scent as far as she could, and the excitement had died down.  At this point, she realized that she could not get back down.  She let us know that she need our help by barking at the house.
Katie would remain stuck in the tree until I got a ladder or one of the boys climbed up the tree to rescue her.  It usually took at least two of us to get Katie down.  One of the boys to pick her up, off the limb, and someone on the ground or ladder to take her out of the hands of the first rescuer. 

I don’t think Katie ever got tired of engaging the whole family in this fun activity of “chase the squirrel”.