I just got a new dog. (Let’s call him “Wally,” because no one knows if that’s short for “Wallace” or “Walter.”) Adopting Wally is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For starters, I have received more compliments in the last week than I usually do in a normal week. Apparently I know how to choose a cute dog, AND my hair appears thicker in just seven short days.
But bringing a pet into my home was not all soft fur and tennis balls. Adopting Wally was a big step, akin to having a child, albeit a five-year-old child who is house trained and sits on command. Regardless, it went down pretty much like my fifth grade teacher explained babymaking to us:
- I loved someone very much;
- an indeterminate amount of time went by, during which some things happened that really have nothing to do with the love part;
- voila! I am responsible for a creature that wants fed and walked.
Unlike having a kid, though, I didn’t have the months’ worth of prep time to line up babysitters, build up an allergy to cleaning poo, and gather all the necessary paraphernalia. (I also didn’t have the hospital bills, the Lamaze classes, and the horror-movie-looking ultrasounds. So I’ll call it a wash.)
Adopting Wally happened too quick to plan ahead. So in a single day, I got all the things that, being a normal person, I knew to get for a new dog. Toys. Food. Leash. Water bowl. The landlady’s written permission. Whole handfuls of extra plastic bags from the self-check aisle. All that stuff.
Tragically, I had zero idea that I also needed a technical degree in building crap.
You see, I had this one eensy problem with the adoption. One of my sisters summed it up pretty well when I texted her a picture of Wally: “That’s so cool, congratulations! What’s the fence plan?”
The extent of my fence plan: “Fix it.”
As far as plans go, this plan was pretty solid. The yard at my house used to be enclosed. One solid border, the whole way around the property. But right before I moved in, a black bear—who, according to the old joke, could have sat WHEREVER IT WANTED—sat right on the front fence. The fence did not make it through the night, and the bear is still at large.
Now my landlady is no slumlord. She is a wonderful human being, and a dedicated reader, and I’m not at all using my journalistic integrity to keep her anonymous in hopes of rent reduction. I fully believe her that she will replace this fence once the ground thaws round about August.
In the meantime, I only need to rig something along the sides of the house. That’s a grand total of two very narrow blockages. Then the dog, when outside, will be contained to the back yard. No big, right?
Yes big. I majored in English and Philosophy for very good reasons. Namely, power tools. More namely, never having to use them. The most powerful tool I use on any basis is Microsoft Office 2007. In the event of an apocalypse, my skills-based contribution to the survivalist clan will be proofreading.
That’s not to say I’m totally useless. Back in college—when the most powerful tool I used was Microsoft Office 2003—I worked on weekends as a lawn maintenance engineer for a friend’s mother. I engineered the removal of invasive plant species. I engineered the transferral of tap water to the root systems of trees. I engineered whole piles of mulch from the driveway to the flowerbeds. I even wore leather gloves. And I got really good at taking refreshment breaks.
So I have some basic handy knowledge. For instance, to install this six feet of dog-fencing, I knew to block off the entire weekend. I bought a roll of fence with manly words like “galvanized” and “welded” on the label and set out with every tool at my disposal. Hammer. Tape measure. Staple gun. Zip ties. Bungee cords. The Modern Language Association Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition). And no idea how current my tetanus shots were.
For a person having no idea what he’s doing, I have to say I did a pretty fair job. The project consumed less than the whole weekend, even with refreshment breaks. And while I ain’t saying I improved the property values in the neighborhood, I am saying that Wally is still at my house. Maybe out of love; maybe out of fences I built with my own hands. Let’s say both.
Oh, and those fresh holes in the external siding? I just want my cherished landlady to know that a previous tenant made those. Or maybe the bear. You should really bring it in for questioning.
This Fool’s Gold originally appeared in The Durango Telegraph.