Monday, February 6, 2012

The saga of Barney the Beagle - Part 2

    The continuing story of 15 years living with a Beagle.  The jury is still out as to which party was mentally defective, the dog, or the family that chose to keep him  for 15 years. 

      I left the story with us borrowing a cage (temporarily) from my mother to help train Barney to not wet in the house, and to sleep downstairs instead of coming up to try and get in our bed.  Temporarily turned out to be the entirety of the 15 years that we owned the dog (Sorry Mom).  We could not undo the 6 weeks of bad training with this
Not Barney, but close.
dog, no matter what we did.  We read the books, we tried the methods, but each time we let the dog run for a single night in the house, he would wet or mess somewhere.  He learned to pick the lock early on, so we switched to padlocks, but if they were too long, he'd push his way through the narrow slat between the door and cage.  He did eventually get used to it, but for years our sleep routine included a few hours of rhythmic hammering of cage door against cage each night. 

     We wanted the dog to have a good amount of outside time, so we installed a 75 foot run on the side of our house, that went from the north door to a 100 year old tree that sat near our quiet side street street.  I went to the local hardware store (shout out to Quackenbush Hardware in Hall NY), and purchased the cable.  I up-sized it to a 700 lbs test strength aircraft cable so I would only have to string it once.  That was wishful thinking.  We would put the dog out each morning and the barking would start half a second after he was on
How Barney spent most of his time
the chain.  He would immediately pick up some scent and he would start barking and howling and he normally did this each day, all day. We were new to town and didn't want to upset our neighbors, so we immediately started to look for solutions to lessen the barking.  We started with a $40 ultrasonic collar that emitted a high pitched sound when the dog constantly barked and it was supposed to condition your dog to bark less.  The sound was so high that only dogs could hear it, that was, all dogs except Barney, who never missed a beat in his constant yapping, yelping, baying, howling and barking.  We then decided to go for the big guns, and bought a shock collar.  This collar had 2 small metal probes that touched the sensitive underside of his neck and was powered by a single 9 volt battery.  It would sense the barks and after 3 it would emit a high pitched warning sound and then if the dog barked again, it would administer a shock.  Now, I know a lot of folks are already thinking how inhumane we
How Barney looked with the collar
were to the animal, but it was always a balance of who to be more inhumane to, the neighbors or the dog? (If I ever became a prisoner of war, I would spill my guts and confess to anything if I had to listen to a beagle bark all day).  I was concerned about how much of a shock that the dog was going to get, so before we put it on the dog, I put it on my own neck and tested it by barking.  That is a sensitive part of your body, and it worked for me, and in fact I haven't barked since that test 20 years ago.  I only wish it had worked as well for Barney.  The biggest problem with the unit was that it continued to shock you as long as you continued to bark.  If you stopped, it stopped and reset, but if you didn't, it was a constant current coursing through your throat.  I worked at home some days at the time, and I can't tell you the number of times I would be talking to customers and I would start to hear the barking and cringe knowing what would happen
How I looked testing the collar
next.  The 3 barks would come (Arf, Arf, Arf) and then on the start of the 4th bark the Arf would morph into a ArGHGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH...) and go on continually with the dog getting shocked but never stopping it's bark, instead just delivering a strangled incessant cry.   I would have to run down the stairs, and take the collar of the shaky, sweaty dog who then would finally stop.  We wore out a few batteries before we gave up on the idea of that ever working.  We finally switched to a muzzle and used it sparingly throughout the day to give the neighbors a break sometimes but to try and let the dog do what it wanted to do instinctively.

   Barking was not Barney's only endearing treat, he also loved to dig hole (ruts) in our lawn, and occasionally bite the random neighborhood kid. In 15 years he never figured out where the end of his run was either.  Now, it never
changed during that time, but that beagle chased every car down the street (along side it of course, in our yard parallel with the road). Inevitably
 the momentum of the dog would carry longer than the end of the cable and the dog would be yanked back at the end, surprised each time and emitting a strangled "Urk".   One day I watched him do it twice in about 3 minutes, that dog had a serious memory issue.  It was reminiscent of the dog on Looney Toons that Foghorn Leghorn used to tease. I did learn a lesson from Barney though and that was know your boundaries.  The stress of the dog would break the cable every few months, and I had to repair it each time.  We'd catch the dog normally before he did too much damage, but one time he chased a bicyclist down the street and gave him quite the scare (I think his name was Lance).  When he wasn't barking he was digging his nose and paws into the dirt and creating huge ruts in the lawn on that side of the house.  He was responsible for at least one mower blade becoming bent and I'm pretty sure 2 kid's sprained ankles, or broken growth plates, it was something like that.  He never apologized for any of it either, that was Barney's nature, he'd just look up at you make you feel bad for expecting more of him than that.   
What the guy on my porch looked like
     One time Barney almost got me in a fight on my back porch.  A neighborhood kid had wandered unto the lawn and Barney had jumped up and scratched her stomach with his claws.  The kid ran home and told her mother about how our dog had bitten her in the stomach while she was walking in the road.  The overprotective mother called our house and my wife was very apologetic, that was, until the mother started F-bombing.  My wife has little tolerance for this so they shouted and eventually hung up on each other.  I arrived home that evening and Char had just enough time to tell the story before there was a knock on the back door.  When I peered out the curtains, there was the neighbor's husband standing squarely in the middle of my back deck.  He was big, and stocky.  He carried roofing shingles up ladders all day. He was angry.  And the door was for me.  As I considered my options, I seriously thought about just opening the door and taking a run at him and knocking him off the deck with my momentum.  I reasoned that my only chance was to take him by surprise and knock him down first.  I, instead, opened the door and tried to explain how it had gotten to this point (Women).  He bought it a little bit, but later sent the Animal Control people down to see me.  After I offered that gentlemen a chance to wear Barney's collar and to run towards the side road at full tilt to see if he could get there, we came to an understanding that I hadn't been negligent, I'd just been stupid enough to buy a beagle. 

End of Part 2 - I'll try to wrap it up next week


cdyarger said...

Well, at least Barney gave us a few laughs, I'll give him that!!! He also BROKE the 700 pound test cord a couple of times!! Ah,the memories!

Anonymous said...

I am laughing out loud, literally......

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