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1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


My window here opens out at ground level, and through the slats I could see an animal's legs on the porch. A cat perhaps? I went back to getting Sarah ready for school and the bus. Snow on the ground this morning. Must remember to get my car out of the garage so Cathy can park there when she comes in from Boston this afternoon. As usual, Sarah was outside first. "Dad! Matty's here."

Matty was the dog next door, friendly enough but still puppy-rambunctions. Sarah encountered her a couple of times a day when coming or going to Zach's house. Our back yards join at the property line under the utility wires, and our front doors are 2/3 of a mile apart by car. Sarah said she scratched her one time, probably from trying to jump up -- sometimes she was too friendly.

This morning, she was polite but skittish. She came when I called her, and she was willing to come with me to the back yard, but making eye contact and then looking at where I wanted her to go (a trick that had worked to perfection once in Virginia when a neighbor dog had escaped their wooden fence) didn't get me anywhere.

I went in to get my phone. "Don't let her go in the house!" Sarah cautioned, but Matty didn't seem inclined to follow me in anyway. Frances was on the stairs, as usual, rubbing her sides on the rails and angling for some pets. I came out with the phone and called over. Their number was the most recent on my list. I'd used it a day or two ago when Sarah had kicked off a boot that proceeded to hit Zach in the face.

"Hello?" Zach's mom sounded sleepy. Perhaps she'd worked late at the ER last night.

"This is Kip. Matty's over here. I tried to get her to go back, but she's just hanging around here."

Deb thought about it. "The battery in the invisible fence thing might be low. She probably doesn't want to cross it. You could take her collar off." I wasn't keen on that, because Matty was acting pretty nervous. "I'll come over there and get her in a couple of minutes." I said I'd stay with her until then.

Sarah petted Matty. "She likes getting pets on her tummy," she told me.

"She should lie on the porch instead of on the cold snow," I said.

"She likes to be a snow dog." Sarah explained. "Where's that dumb bus?" I suggested that the snow might be slowing it down, though it was a pretty light snow. A minute later, it showed up. "Don't let her get on the bus!" she said. She petted Matty one last time and then dashed to me for a kiss before going down the driveway to stand ten feet away from the arriving bus. Sonali ran across our yard to get on with her (Sarah's friend from two houses away tended to make the bus just in time, more or less). I tried to get Matty to follow me to the back again, but she opted to stay by the corner of the house and watch as I whistled. This time I saw something I hadn't noticed before -- a small pile of what seemed like they could be deer droppings. I saw that the sleeve over one of Sarah's tiny apple tree seedlings had fallen partway and straightened it back up. Then I could see Deb coming over, and then she started calling to Matty.

"Matty! Silly dog. What are you doing over here?"

"She might have followed a deer. I just saw a pile of droppings -- it's a miracle nobody stepped in it." Everybody had walked within a foot of the footprint-sized pile. If there were any hoof prints in the snow, we'd wiped them out. Deb removed the electronic collar so it wouldn't keep Matty from entering her yard, and escorted her back to her own side.

"Oh yeah, she's a lot more comfortable now," said Deb as Matty went into full happy mode. "Thanks for calling us!"

I thought about poor Matty as I went in. A deer, perhaps, lured her across the invisible fence, but nothing could lure her back across the electronic barrier, so she picked our front porch as a sort of haven. It was lucky for her (maybe she smelled us here) that she'd found friends. A fence works both ways.