Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Climbing Fences

Dan and I and our two basenjis, Cooper, 16 and Lulu, 2, lived in a rural corner of Claverack, in Columbia County, on a quiet, pretty road that didn’t go anywhere. In two miles there were some 10 houses. Our home was small and modest, but it had almost five acres and the advantage of a private back yard, hidden from view. 

During Dan’s brief, terminal illness, I had taken care of him and the dogs and neglected the house. Now the only way to lock the sliding glass door onto the back deck was with a broom sawed off for the purpose, and as I slid the door closed on Cooper and me that icy January morning, I heard the broom handle roll back into place. 

And there we were, the ancient blind wanderer and his underdressed caretaker, closed out of their shelter by her stupidity. 

On the other side of the house, the front door was unlocked. I could bring Lulu to my dog-friendly office, but Cooper had retired from such activity. A friend would come at midday to let him out and the only way to enter the house, which was otherwise snowed in, was through the front door. So I unlocked it every morning as soon as I got up. 

Getting to the front door was now the challenge. We were buried, including the mudroom door that led into the garage and the gate that led to the back of the driveway, which was piled high with plowed snow. 

I could try to force the bedroom window, or break it, and then try to crawl through it. 

I could grab the snow shovel on the deck and spend an hour digging out the back gate and trying to unjam its frozen lock.

Or, I saw, I could clamber up the snow and climb over the fence. Then I could force my way through the drifts to the part of the driveway that was plowed, and the sidewalk to the front door. 

It was ridiculous, but there was no other way.

“Stay, Cooper,” I said, “I’ll be right back.”

His look said he wasn’t going anywhere. 

And I did it. Thanks to record-breaking snow cover, I climbed over a five-foot fence. Then I ran, in great high strides like the cartoon character I was, in pajamas and jacket and boots, through crotch-level snow. In less than a minute I had reached the other shore—plowed driveway, shoveled path, unlocked door. I tracked snow through the house, threw the broom handle aside, and rescued my ailing companion. 

And that’s what this blog is about. Solving problems on your own. Taking care of those you love. Climbing the fences.


  1. Hi Deb
    Nice new blog.
    And you did it! Ingenuity, resourcefulness,creative ideas all these notions are heightened(I believe) when living alone.
    First a path to the bird feeder and then dig out the car - then lunch, of course. Thank God for dogs and cats - reasons to be!

  2. "Solving problems on your own. Taking care of those you love. Climbing the fences." Like life...

  3. And this, from Bernie in Illinois: Very intrepid, Debby! I didn't realize how much older Cooper was than Lulu, which explains why she's still your active buddy. Seems like another century when I used to visit you and Dan in that house--and strictly speaking, it was!