That day, for me, was this past Sunday. As my friends who follow this blog will recall, we had an invisible dog fence installed a little over a week ago. We have been working diligently with both of our dogs to teach them the boundary that surrounds our entire yard, front and back. Cassie, the female, learned on day one that crossing the boundary was not worth the mild shock she got when she did so. Chester, our male dog, learned nothing on day one except that, for reasons unknown to him, he occasionally got knocked on his butt without warning or cause. He has the "stubborn" dog collar, one designed for dogs who just can't seem to resist temptation. We had it dialed up to "5," the equivalent of the shock paddles they use in the ER for heart attack patients. He yelped so alarmingly when he'd forget and cross the boundary that we had pity on him and dialed it down to "2." Apparently, a "2" is the equivalent of eyelashes fluttering on your cheek.
As the days passed, however, they both avoided the white flags that mark the invisible boundary. In my simple human mind, that meant that they had learned that they should not cross the boundary at all, ever, for any reason.
Yesterday was a sunny, hot, early Spring day here in Atlanta. After church, my husband and I went to Home Depot, bought hundreds of dollars worth of flowers, vines, dirt and pots, and we spent the day planting flowers around our pool. We got the bright idea to leave the huge gate open that connects our back yard to the front yard. What a great opportunity to test Chesters' ability to stay within the boundaries of the yard! So we did; we left the gate open while we worked in the yard. Cassie obediently stayed near us and stalked a little lizard for hours on end. She's a bit OCD.
Chester gingerly took one step, then another, then another, looking surreptitiously over his shoulder to make sure he was out of reach of either of us. Then he took off like he was on fire and ran right through the "fence," never missing a beat, never even blinking. And of course he ran like he was training for the Olympics, zipping through one yard then the next, trying to meet as many of our neighbors as he could before the inevitable capture that always ended these little jaunts of his.
He made the mistake of running into our neighbor's fenced back yard, where of course my husband corraled him. I met up with them, hooked a leash onto Chester and led him back to our house, his head hung in shame. I cringed when we crossed back over the boundary, sure he was going slow enough now to really feel the jolt. When he stepped onto the line, he shivered a bit as though he had just gotten a brief chill. I could swear that he looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, "that didn't hurt."
Long story short, his collar is cranked back up to the dreaded "5" now. And somehow, I feel sure that he knows that.