The Prison Break

85b6a6cf-b58f-4577-9a02-e18490cc69de By Chad Love

Have you ever had a dog that Alcatraz couldn’t contain?

The kind of dog who, as soon as you turned your back, was over the fence or under the fence or through the fence and gone? The kind of dog for whom gate latches were child’s play? The kind of dog who, given a chance, just might be capable of stealing your truck?

I have been blessed with dogs that either genuinely liked being around me or they were great actors who realized it paid to stick around because I was the guy with the food. Oh, sure, my dogs would sometimes dig holes, or squirt through the gate when I left it open. But they never took escape as a personal intellectual challenge. Except one.

Pepper was a German wirehaired pointer, and from the moment I brought her home she trained every bit of that Teutonic thoroughness to one task: escape. Not escape in the sense of trying to leave a bad situation, because the spoiled little ingrate had it good.

No, this was escape for the sheer, unadulterated joy of it. My other dogs took pleasure from a scratch behind the ear, a thrown bumper or a tummy rub. Pepper derived her pleasure from outwitting her bumbling, simple-minded human, a task she accomplished with alarming frequency.

Early on, she discovered how to open the front storm door by jumping up and hitting the latch with her paws. And when I let her in the back yard it took her about five minutes to figure out how to lift the gate latch.

When I wired the gate latch shut she tunneled under the fence.  When I buried wire mesh under the fence, she learned how to climb over it. And when I built an overhang across the top of the fence, she sulked for a while, and then decided the best way to freedom would be to gnaw her way through the walls of our house.

When I took the dogs out for a run and a swim or to train, Pepper rode up front with me because I had visions of her figuring out my dog box latch, jumping out, and then carjacking some vehicle stopped beside me at a red light.
 
After 12 months of this back-and-forth chess match (one in which I was always playing catch-up) Pepper caught the eye of a local guy who was getting back into quail hunting after a long absence and wanted a started dog who worked close. Meanwhile, as much as I liked Pepper despite her anti-captivity proclivities, I was longing for a bigger-running pointer. So a deal was struck. 

This gentleman lived far out of town on a big acreage with not a fence in sight. I warned him about Pepper’s insatiable penchant for escape, and told him he might want to get some bids on constructing a small, minimum-security prison. He didn’t seem worried, so Pepper went home with him.

A year or so later I ran into the man and inquired about Pepper. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. "I’ve still got her. She’s got the run of the place and she never leaves the yard.”

It always works out that way, doesn't it?

I never did figure out if Pepper merely saw fences as a challenge to overcome and lost her interest in them once she got to a place without any, or if she just didn’t care for me because she viewed me as an unworthy challenge; the foolish human who was so often so easy to outwit. 

In hindsight, I suspect perhaps a little of the former, and quite a lot of the latter...

Chad Love is editor of Quail Forever Journal
 

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