Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Okemo's Frolick and Detour

Okemo pulling hard in wheel

Last night, Eric and I had one of those scary moments that comes along with owning sled dogs here at Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC.

At about 7 pm, I was busy cooking up a big pot of turkey and black bean chili while Eric did some research on the 'net when I heard someone at our front door. One of our neighbors was at the door asking if one of our dogs was loose? My immediate reaction was "no, one of our dogs is not loose." I then remembered that Okemo and Sobo had both gone out into the dog yard about 5 minutes earlier and that I should probably check on them. Before I could check, our neighbor began describing the dog he had seen up the road from our house: "white," "big," "blue eyes," "invisible fence collar." Uh oh, sounds like a dead ringer for veteran wheel dog (aka the "Big White Dog"), Okemo.

Wheel dog in training: Okemo rides in the dog sled

Running in wheel, Okemo (or at least his butt) on the right

As I shouted for Eric and hastily flipped the stove off, I took off running down the street. When one owns siberians and siberian mixes, escapes are taken quite seriously since these dogs can easily range for hundreds of miles and are not known for their great recall.

Eric quickly sprinted past me (yeah, I'm not super fast. I run only when (a) someone is chasing me or (b) one of the dogs is loose) while I doubled back to be sure Sobo was still in the yard. Of course, Sobo, veteran leader and occasional team dog, was still happily asleep under the big lilac bush out back. After confirming that Sobo was still in the dog yard and a brief moment of wondering where Acadia was (turns out she was safely ensconced in her crate), I went to grab the car keys figuring we were going to need to drive the neighborhood looking for Okemo. Before I could get in the car, however, Eric returned with a woo-wooing Okemo in tow.

Sobo loves to sleep under the lilac bush

Cooling off in the kiddie pool at the Anne Arundel C0unty SPCA's annual hike

Then: Okemo asleep on the picket line at 8 weeks of age

Now: Okemo asleep on the picket line while camping this past weekend

As some know, we use an Invisible Fence ("IF") to contain our sled pets. This form of containment is very effective and in nearly ten years of use, we have had fewer than five break outs. Not many folks with a physical fence can say the same. Most of the horror stories that people tell about the Invisible Fence boil down to user error and a failure to properly train the dog(s) to the fence. Moreover, because our fence surrounds our entire house, a rarity with a physical fence, our dogs can go out the front door, back french doors, the garage door, and just about any window and find themselves within the fence. This is one of the biggest pluses of the Invisible Fence system and eliminates accidental escapes when the front door opens. However, Okemo's frolic and detour this evening is evidence of why you need to keep an eye out for your dogs when they are out in the yard regardless of whether you are using a physical fence, an Invisible Fence or a tie out system.

Sobo and Okemo frolicking in the back yard (note the IF collar)

After we got Okemo back in the house, Eric set about checking the batteries in the Invisible Fence collars. Sure enough, the battery in Okemo's collar was dead. We are religious about changing the fence collar batteries and change them every three months per the manufacturer's recommendations. Indeed, it is rare for a battery to be dead after only three months of use but we change them out in any event. Looking up the date of the last battery change on our calendar, the battery in Okemo's collar had died after less than three months use. The only explanation we can come up with is that the batteries we purchased recently (we usually purchase batteries in bulk from ebay) were closer to their expiration date and thus died early. Interestingly, the batteries in all of the other sled dogs' collars (four total), tested fine (although we changed those out as well just to be on the safe side). All is well that ends well. All five sled dogs are happily reunited.

Reunited: Okemo, Acadia and Sobo "wrastling" on the back terrace