My parents recently surprised us with the ultimate gift: a rambunctious eleven-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy we named Gertie. Not only a new member of our family, Gertie will also soon start training to be a service dog for my mother-in-law (a wheelchair-bound paralyzed stroke survivor) but try explaining that to two little boys. When Charlie and JD first met her, they were immediately smitten. She became their best friend, their sister, their all-consuming obsession and the best gift anyone had EVER given them. Charlie can play ball with Gertie for HOURS and it took no time at all for her to train JD to throw down a Cheerio with a little commanding yip.
Ryan and I, on the other hand, suddenly became parents of another toddler. One that nips, chews, barks and wakes up three times a night, whining to be taken outside to pee. We have already consulted a trainer and Gertie has proven extremely responsive to our bad habit- breaking efforts, but the nighttime potty breaks will continue until she gets better at “holding it”. As much as we complain though, I’m secretly relieved that she joyously bounds into her crib…oops I mean crate…to go to bed at night while I wrestle to tuck her screaming “brothers” into bed. I wish the boys would whine politely when they needed to relieve themselves too…but we’ll keep working on that. Lord knows I don’t need more diapers!
Gertie woke me up at 2:30 this morning, whining and scratching at the door of her crate in her tell-tale “I’ve got to pee!” way. Out we went into the front yard. I stood in the pitch blackness, pulling my bathrobe tight against the freezing air while Gertie circled the big oak tree for the twentieth time in search of the elusive “perfect place to urinate”. Typically she would find the spot, do her business, then make a mad dash for the front door and then to her cozy warm bed-lined crate in our bedroom. Today, however, was the exception.
Around oak tree lap number twenty three, Gertie stopped in her tracks. She held her head up high and perked her ears. Suddenly, she took off running across the yard at full speed, disappearing into the darkness. And that’s when I heard it: Coyotes.
Our farm is a fairly expansive piece of land consisting mostly of crop fields, except for the two acres surrounding the house which is secured by an 8′ tall chain link fence. The gates in the front and rear are kept securely locked at night and has proven extremely effective at keeping the coyotes and other predators OUT in the past. Standing in the dark this morning though, I found myself questioning every hole and gap in the perimeter and praying that it would keep a tiny puppy INSIDE the property.
I took off running, sliding around on the cold wet grass in my slippers, screaming Gertie’s name. As I came closer to the fence that borders the side field, I could just make out the silhouette of two small adolescent coyotes on the other side of the chain link. They were cheerfully yipping and bouncing around. Gertie (Thank God!) was still on my side of the fence, happily barking back, crouched down playfully with her butt in the air and her tail wagging excitedly. In one swift motion, I scooped her safely into my arms. Next, I shook the chain link fence and loudly yelled “SCAT!!! SHOOOOO!!!!” at the coyotes who had already began their retreat into the dark crop field.
As I walked back to the house, I hugged Gertie tightly to my chest and felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over me. We’ve only had Gertie for one week but I suddenly realized how devastated I’d be if anything would’ve happened to her…not to mention the unspeakable loss to my boys. She is officially one of my kids now and, as such, required a heart-to-heart. I held her up so her glossy black puppy eyes looked directly into mine and said
“Gertie, we DO NOT take candy from strangers!”
I explained that those coyotes didn’t really want to play with her. They’re just kidnappers!! They wanted to coax her to the other side of that fence so the rest of their pack could grab her and do unspeakable things and we’d never see her again.
She was very focused during our conversation so I felt confident that…well, she’s a puppy so I felt confident that I’d just need to use the leash when I take her out to pee from now on. But she did seen apologetic. She even whined when I set her down in the living room. But then she ran straight back to the front door and scratched to go back outside. I instantly assumed the worst:
“She wants to go back to the kidnappers? …Stockholm syndrome!”
But before I could react…she peed on the floor.
Totally my fault. I’d complety forgotten the reason we had gone outside in the first place: Gertie had still been circling the tree when we were so rudely interrupted by the coyote kidnappers. Oops.