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Mr. Possum Thanks His Lucky Stars for Invisible Fence

August 12, 2009

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At dusk a few nights ago the dogs and I tried to get in a short walk before the rain, but ¾ of the way around the block the wind whipped up dust from nearby road construction and the smell of rain gushed over us. As we trotted down the street we didn’t cut across the yard and onto the front porch because we have an important ritual for exiting and entering the yard. There is only one spot where we cross the curb, at the bottom of a path that takes us under the vitex, past the bird bath, and beside the water meter vault. We cross the Invisible Fence line only at that point, and only when they are on leash and they get The Word. Though the back yard is completely fenced, the entire yard is circled by the buried wire.

The dogs used to break out through gaps in the cyclone fence occasionally, so I put in the Invisible Fence. Now they won’t physically touch any fences. When it was installed I took several weeks to train the girls to respond to the collars, so they stay within the yard boundaries front and back; if they try to leave on their own wearing their radio collars they hit the signal and literally bounce off of it. Usually with a yelp. The operation is simple now, though I occasionally remove a collar and swing it into the hot zone to get the beep. They want to avoid that beep because it comes with a zap. Today I could leave the collars off the dogs, they are so habituated to the borders, but they continue to wear them since they’re outside dogs with the run of the backyard (they do have comfy dog houses in the garage). 

You’d think they’d have stayed indoors on the night in question; the earlier rain was so heavy it knocked my corn sideways and plants heavy with vegetables were tipping where they stood in soft mud. The wet grass was tall and I hadn’t scooped for a few days. With the rain the whole yard smelled like compost after the extreme July heat killed patches of turf.

During the rain the creek rose enough that it probably treed the possum. It made the mistake of coming down into the yard around 2:30am. That’s when I went to the door to see what the dogs were so excited about. I pointed a bright light at the back fence, seeing nothing. The ruckus started up again a little after dawn, and that’s when I heard Poppy, the catahoula, yelp.

I leaned out the back door to see Cinnamon, the American Staffordshire Terrier, aka pit bull, running alongside the fence, pacing beside a large white possum at the stockade part of the fence. It was travelling in that narrow zone the dogs won’t enter because of their collars. Poppy evidently tried to rush it and getting zapped, backed off. This possum must have been in the yard all night and in an escape attempt it couldn’t find a way out. A couple of years ago I found Cinnamon lying beside and nuzzling a “dead” possum—when they play dead she treats them like a toy, not like prey. That must have been the case with this current animal. He had only a couple of puncture wounds, so probably played dead as soon as she grabbed him; perhaps in the morning Cinnamon left him alone for a potty break, just long enough that escape seemed possible. I scooped this guy with a pair of kitchen tongs and released him outside the back gate. After about five minutes he decided the coast was clear, and like a good trickster, stood up and shambled into the woods.

I’m a reference on a list of current Invisible Fence owners, and I occasionally receive a call from someone thinking of investing in it. The system is expensive—for this half-acre it was $1,400. A woman called last year, but after being told how good it is, expressed great concern when I mentioned our one escape in the first year; weak batteries and the surprise of two puppies running into and out of the front yard caused our sole break-out. I think she was looking for a reason not to spend that much money, or was demanding perfection, but the problem with that breakout was operator error. One problem in four years for two active young dogs is very very good! I think the extreme provocation of a possum in the yard all night proves this system still works as well as ever. My dogs hunt, and they kill possums and squirrels. They were dying to grab this animal, but neither one did. As good as I know the system is, I am still amazed. Their training was excellent and I’ve been consistent, so I’ve gotten the results I wanted.

And that’s worth it.

P.S. Invisible Fence folks, you need to ask for my permission to use this, or my photos. It’s a testimonial, but it’s still my work! Just so you know.

Click photos to see larger versions.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 3:52 am

    I dont know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. :) I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, :)

    …..Frank Scurley

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