Shamus and Emmett are ExhaustedAfter posting about our frigid, 2-day dog search & rescue, which was frightfully taxing on both our dogs and on us, I received many comments assuming Shamus and Emmett must have learned a valuable lesson. For example, the well-meaning Karen Friesecke of said:

After all that drama I’m sure that they will never stray from home again. Warm and safe at home with Mom and Dad is far more fun than alone and lost in the winter wilderness.

Karen’s sympathetic sentiment was echoed again and again by family and friends. I wish we could believe this were true, but it’s not.

Dogs, unlike humans, are so beautifully Zen-like that being “in the moment” is all they can do. With new proof-positive that my dogs have learned nothing, I share the following story because I do not recommend learning from experience.


Tim and ShamusTo curb future escapes for our dogs, who had leveraged record amounts of snow to jump  the fence, my husband and I chipped down through 2 1/2 feet of icy chunks, moving them 4 feet away from the inside, half-acre perimeter of the dog yard. It took two days. The work was so difficult and tedious, Tim’s shovel broke. But our dogs’ safety was most important, so he pressed on with a broken handle, uphill, in the snow. No. Really.


No More Dog DoorWednesday, I walked our new moat with the dogs because we no longer let them in the fenced yard unsupervised, shoveled or not. (No more dog door.) Shamus, our Newfoundland, led the way, with our hound, Emmett, trailing just a little ways behind. Suddenly, Shamus jumped the fence from a near seated position on the ground without a thought or care in the world.

We are in big trouble.

Shamus now knows he can effortlessly jump from the baseline and he did so with no lingering memory of hunger, injury, exhaustion, or the sub-freezing temperatures sustained less than a week prior.


Shamus, on his own, comes back. Emmett and Shamus together run to the ends of the earth. With the hardened snow pack, there would be no tracks for rescue this time. I had to catch Emmett before he went over too – and fast. He was doing his best to try. He hadn’t a care or memory in the world either.

I ran downhill to catch hold of Emmett’s collar. My body jerked backward, my arm suddenly behind me. I thought my sleeve had caught on the fence. When I looked back,  my right-hand ring finger was hooked on top of the chain link. When I pulled it off, an inch of skin was torn where my finger joins my hand up to the first knuckle. That flap was now folded open and up toward the tip.

To say I handle this kind of injury poorly is an understatement. I closed my eyes, folded the flap back into place and made the tightest fist of my life. I don’t imagine I was thinking or I would have lost consciousness. I dragged the hound uphill with my left hand. He dragged me back down. I gave another good, strong tug and we both trudged back up to the house, him whining all the way. It was no small miracle to be inside.


I opened my fist over the sink. Blood was everywhere. I rinsed, grabbed the kitchen towel and held on for pressure while dialing my husband. Through panicked breathing, I said:

I need you now.

As Tim rushed home from work, I poured hydrogen peroxide over the wound. SHIT. SHIT. SHIT that hurt. (I remember the swearing but, thankfully, not the pain.) My head started to swoon. I looked for something clean and white. Gauze adhesive with stiff, plastic backing. Good. I rolled it around my finger, gauze side to flesh, plastic backing working as a splint.

Tape? Where’s the tape? On the counter was Shamus’ vet wrap, prescribed as a self-adhesive Ace bandage for his swollen ankle. I wrapped it tight around the gauze, but not too tight. I feared the pain of having it pulled off. The vet said it shrinks over time.

I laid on the couch with the phone and raised my injured hand, fingers squeazing against one another with all the pressure I could exert. I dialed 911 before nearly throwing up and/or passing out, not from blood loss but – I’ll just say it – I am a complete wuss.

Catching my breath, I got up to crate Emmett before the paramedics came. That was smart. Then I ran in circles to the sun porch (calling  for Shamus), to the bathroom (for deodorant), to the office (for a waiting room book), to the living room (for my iPhone) and to the hall (collecting my coat, purse and scarf). I circled back for the house phone, now in the kitchen, and called my neighbor’s machine, asking her to look for Shamus.

These things were not so smart. If this happens to you, stay on the couch and breathe.


The paramedics arrived first. The guys covered the couch to protect it from blood and asked to see the wound. When I handed the man my arm, the paw prints on the vet wrap were a total hit. I got high marks for my circulation-stopping dressing too. They decided not to unwrap it for fear it would do more damage. This was a total win for me. I was already deeply haunted by my earlier view.

The rest of the details are a bit unclear. Tim found Shamus in the driveway as he arrived and corralled him into the car. They beat the ambulance home. It arrived just after they pulled in. Good thing I called anyway. Tim could contain the animals and follow me to the hospital. I was escorted out the door by somebody, can’t remember who, while the ambulance driver tossed scoops of sand on the icy drive before my every step. The driver was a funny guy:

Sorry this isn’t a red carpet.

I get dirt. That I remember.


One tetanus shot, nine stitches, and several strained tendons later, I can fully attest to the fact that our dogs have learned nothing from their adventure last week. Nor do they realize that hurting me limits my ability to walk them. They’re ramming me with their bodies and whining as I type.

We humans, on the other hand, have learned a couple of lessons:

  • Never make assumptions when it comes to your animal’s behavior. After 20 years at this house, we’ve never had a dog jump the fence and neither of us ever imagined this would happen twice within a week. Still, being there prevented another big search. And now, we’ll be researching the cost of a 6 or 8 foot fence to be installed once the ground thaws. Until then, Tim is leash walking the dogs, one at a time, while I recuperate.
  • This is a terrific reason to ensure your pet is spayed or neutered. Even responsible pet owners get outsmarted by escape artists. Be prepared. Thankfully, when our guys have sprung free, they haven’t spawned more shelter animals to be killed for lack of space. It’s just one more blessing to count beyond their recovery, good health and blissful forgetfulness.
  • Check your first aid kits. Vet wrap worked fine for me but other supplies were lacking. Our pet kit is better stocked than our own. We just remedied that.
  • Oh, and one last thing. I’ve learned that, Loritab, your are no longer my friend. You leave me sick and hung over without the party… except for those seals I dreamt were dancing in our driveway. That was fun. Maybe we can stay friends after all. For now, I prefer localized pain to a nauseous, full-body hangover.

Good night, all, and good luck. I’m ready to move far, far beyond this business and start sharing our awesome vacation – you know, the one I still wish I was on.