The Invisible Fence


     Spring finally has come to Vermont. I drove past the village green the other day with my dearly beloved in the shotgun seat, while a nearly naked young woman walked her dog in the other direction.
     I craned my head around for a better look. Jane didn’t get mad. She knew I was looking at the dog.
     Dogs are one of the chief joys of life.
     I have a great big Akita and Jane has a golden retriever puppy who keeps him company. I consider Chester the Chief Dog and Bonnie the Adjunct Dog, though Jane thinks otherwise.
     I am rather the intellectual type, and consider a day spent reading commentaries on Shakespeare 12 hours well spent, but I gladly lay aside the books to watch Bonnie and Chester play their favorite games, which are wrestling, keep-away and tug of war.
     I can watch them happily for hours, and I don’t know why.
     A large proportion of the Earth’s people consider dogs “unclean.” I don’t understand that.
     I don’t want to jump on anyone’s religion here. I think all religions are equally ridiculous, including the other two Major Monotheistic Religions, which have beliefs just as insane as the prejudice against dogs. So let’s get back to dogs.
     We paid what I consider a considerable amount of money to put an invisible fence around our yard for the dogs. It’s a buried wire that will zap the dogs with electricity if they cross the line, which is marked with flags.
     I held the zapping device in my hand and crossed the line to feel what the dogs feel. Not much to it. It was a surprise, more than anything.
     So for three weeks we’ve been training the dogs not to cross the line.
     We did this because it was such a pain in the ass to hook them up to tethered leashes every time we let them out. They tangled up the leashes, instantly, and ended up snarled like gasping fish in the backyard. With an invisible fence, we can just let them go, and they can wrestle and play chase and tug of war to their hearts’ content.
     I realize there are far more important things to write about today: genocide in Syria, repression of minorities in Russia and the United States, terrorism and war in the Middle East, global warming, corporate corruption, the resurgence of fascism around the world, and right here at home.
     But I don’t want to write about those things. Those things, like the poor, will always be with us. Like Abe Lincoln said, God must love catastrophes because there are so many of them.
     I’d rather write about animals.
     All over Vermont now the baby animals are out in the fields: baby cows and goats, baby sheep and llamas. Woodchucks have emerged from their dens, sleek, fat and brown. Great blue herons are back, and Canada geese. Northern cardinals, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles and pyrrhuloxia. I saw two indigo buntings this week: astounding fellows in electric blue.
     And this week, for the first time, I let both dogs off the leash and let them run around in the yard – front yard, back yard, side yard – all of it. I lay on my back in the grass and looked up at the tall white pines waving in the wind, and the blue blue sky with a few puffy white clouds in it, and the dogs abandoned their games to come stand over me and lick my face, again and again and again.
     Surely this must be heaven.

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