Oscar has a condition I call bunny brain. It’s a ten on his distraction list. If a bunny is present there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will pull his attention away for more than a fraction of a second, not even deer flushing right in front of him. He must watch the bunny, he must chase the bunny, and if given the opportunity, he must kill the bunny (cue the “Ride of the Valkyries”). This condition led Oscar to take up the hobby of escape artist.
Leading up to this weekend Oscar has escaped the fenced yard on a few occasions. The first time was my fault, I forgot to close the gate. Both dogs left the yard chasing heaven knows what, and we got a phone call from our neighbor behind that he had found Oscar (D’Argo had already trotted home). The second time Oscar had escaped through a fence washout. Twice he got out by digging under a gate, once from a portion of loose fencing. Just when I think I have solved all the problems, Oscar finds another escape route.
I was mowing in the back yard, yesterday evening when a brown streak zips past me yipping, first in one direction, then in another. It’s Oscar. And what is he chasing? A bunny. He tore off through the most densely vegetated part of our property, full of poison ivy, bull nettles, and Johnson grass taller than my head (also foot catching collapsed gopher tunnels from the heavy rains this past spring). I’m catching glimpses of my bunny brained dog, as he darts to and fro. He must have lost his prey, because he eventually came back to me when I called. Having no leash with me, I had to carry this goofy panting dog, about a tenth of a mile, through the sand burs.
I checked the fence line and was baffled. The only spot I thought he might have escaped from was a section of fence that would lean out a few inches if a dog stood against it. I wired that section tight again and thought I had solved the problem. I was wrong.
After walking the dogs this morning, I left them in the yard while I watered the chickens and weighed the eggs from the evening before. When I came out to get them, Oscar was gone again. I found him in the same spot as yesterday. No doubt he was searching for his bunny. At that point I thought we were going to have to tie Oscar up in the yard. After breakfast, I let dogs wander while I observed from the other side of the yard. In that time, I identified numerous weak points in the fencing, but nothing I could say with certainty was Oscar’s route. So while fixing some of these weak points and continued to observe Oscar. Sure enough, he escaped again, but this time I was right there to grab him, before he suffered from bunny brain.
Between the wall of the house and the gate, on the front porch, there was a short section where the fence was only two feet high because it went through a holly bush and a boxwood shrub. In the seven years since this fence was erected, D’Argo, another hunter, never tried to jump this fence, even when a bunny got stuck trying to get through it. Oscar however, was not bothered by the fact that he had to jump through a shrub (which in hindsight now explains some mysterious scratches). That was his escape route. Luckily, I still had a lot of spare fencing. I had to cut the shrubs back quite a bit, but was able to install a four foot fence section against the two foot fencing. Oscar was disappointed to say the least, but I feel much better now, and I don’t have to keep Oscar on a long lead. He has no idea how close he came to losing his freedom.