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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Post #31: Henry Houdini

Henry healed remarkably well after his back surgery.  Henry was eventually back to his old self.  He still had speed … he was catching birds.  And he had stealth.

The thing about a black dachshund is that they can be very hard to see sometimes.  It is really tough to get a good photo of a black and tan dachshund because that shiny black fur soaks up all the available light.  Every picture of Henry that I’ve posted on this blog had to be adjusted for exposure and shadows first, or you would never have really been able to see Henry.

We often referred to Henry as our stealth dog because he could sometimes just disappear.  He would be in the same room, and we wouldn’t know until he was ready for us to see him.  It was impossible to see Henry at night.

Another nick-name for Henry was “Henry – Houdini.”  I’ve already told you how he could figure out ways to get into the mulberries despite my best efforts.  Henry could also figure out ways to get out of things he didn’t want to be in.  We would often be surprised to find Henry in rooms or other spaces that we thought we had adequately blocked off.
Our granddaughters had come for a visit one weekend, and we enjoyed taking them to the waterfront and doing other grand-parenting types of things.  We fed them a nice meal and then Wife started putting the girls to bed.  For some reason, I had not yet eaten, so I started on my meal which included among other great foods, a baked potato.  At some point, Wife asked me to come up to help with the girls.  I was only gone for a minute or two.  But when I got back downstairs, I found Henry sitting at my seat, looking up at me innocently.  I knew I hadn't really been gone long enough for him to eat my food.  He knew he wasn't allowed to eat people food.  So, I stood there and stared at Henry, and he stared back.  "Nothing wrong here, Dad!  Just watching your plate for you so the flies don't get on it."  I picked up Henry and set him on the floor.  Then I looked carefully at my plate.  I couldn't see any bites taken out of the food.  A closer inspection, however, revealed that the top of my baked potato was really, really flat.  No, Henry hadn't taken a bite, he just licked it down some.  If I hadn't caught him in my seat, I probably would have never known ...

Henry learned how to duck his head and slip out of his collar.  If he wanted to go somewhere while we were on a walk, Henry would turn toward me and dig in his heels.  I’d give the leash a “come on” tug to encourage him to follow me, and then he’d be free.  I’d be left holding an empty collar while Henry was off exploring on his own. 

We started making Henry wear a harness, rather than a simple collar.  I figured that it would be impossible for Henry to escape from his harness.  We’d have his front legs encircled by the harness.  This method actually worked … for a little while.

Henry soon had mastered the art of escaping from a harness.  I’m still not sure how he got out.  A head duck, a paw lift, and then another paw lift all in rapid succession and he was free.  And Henry’s timing had to be perfect.  I had learned not to give a steady pull on the leash.  Giving any kind of tension was always an invitation to escape.  So, rather than a steady pull (come on Henry), I’d try a quick little tug, and BOOM! He was gone.  I’d try not to tug at all, and Henry still managed to find enough tension in the line to make his escape.

I usually took Henry on walks when we travelled.  We would pull into an RV park, set up the trailer, and then go for a walk.  And then I’d have to go find Henry.

The worst times were when he got lose during a nighttime walk.  Even with a flashlight, he was almost impossible to see.  Henry could just disappear into the blackness.  I’d only be able to track Henry by listening to the jingle of his dog tags.  I'd listen, then follow the sound and stop to listen some more.  Finally, I'd shine my light, and where all had been blackness before would be a pair of brown eyes staring back at me.
I'd scoop up the animal, just hoping it was Henry, not really being sure until I got him under a street light.  Then Henry would get a free ride home, back to our trailer.  I wasn't about to let Henry try another Houdini escape again.
At least not for that night.