There are stories that have no obvious home except here...
Tales, fables, bits and bobs with no where else to go...
Straight White Pickets: A Dog’s Tale
by Patricia Miller
This is a Halloween story featuring a cameo by my best good girl,
Miss Picket who I said goodbye to in September.
She was definitely Queen of the May...
Once upon a time, there was a suburb, just like any other suburb. And just inside the suburb was a house, just like any other house. And surrounding the house was a white picket fence which looked like every other white picket fence, but wasn’t at all alike any other white picket fence anywhere.
And thereby hangs this tale…
The fence was alike in character to all its neighbors. It had straight white corner posts topped with finials shaped like onion domes. The straight white corner posts were linked together by straight white stretchers. The straight white stretchers were filled with straight white pickets, placed with mathematical precision in straight rows, precisely 1.92 inches apart all the way around the property line. Each straight white picket was attached with two screws on top and two screws on the bottom, spaced with the same mathematical precision. The top of each straight white picket was shaped just like the onion dome finials on the straight white corner posts.
So far, this fence was nothing more than a fence, but sometimes, the smallest thing can make a difference. In this case, the smallest thing was a ten pound, God only knows what, mostly maybe terrier mix rescue named Miss Picket. Oddly enough, she was NOT named after Wilson Pickett, or Pickett’s Charge, or even picket signs, although both her owners had met while carrying picket signs at a protest march focusing on animal rights. She was, indeed, named after the picket fence. It was an ironic name, given that her wild and oddly spiky hair gave her the appearance of being caught in a wind tunnel, or perhaps of someone recovering from a serious illness. But one of the owners had a friend who thought he was clever, and made the comment that such a disorderly dog didn’t belong inside a fence so straight and white. ‘She looks like a dog who should be held by a shabby chic picket fence,’ he said. And the name stuck.
Miss Picket didn’t mind what they called her. She was just a dog, after all. And soon everyone in the neighborhood knew who she was because, in addition to her exuberant hair, she was also an escape artist - most terriers are. She dug under that straight white fence at every opportunity, and was then free to promenade about the cul-de-sac, carrying herself like she was Queen of the May.
This put her owners in a bit of a bind. The leash laws were very strict, and there were all sorts of ethical reasons for not chaining her up or using a choke collar or keeping her confined to a crate in the house while they worked all day. The dog door was absolutely essential - little dogs and little bladders, don’t you know. So they settled on an invisible fence as the best option.
A very nice young man came to the house and started digging just inside the straight white picket fence and laid the cable. He drilled under the front walk, around the small bed of roses, and soon had a narrow and not too deep trench all along the perimeter of the lawn. He laid the cable and covered it up, lightly tamping the grass back into place. And as a last step, he proudly stuck a discreet but perfectly acceptable sign in the yard proclaiming it was now protected by the Grainge Wireless Fencing and Containment System. ‘There’s No Escaping Our Quality!’ it proclaimed. Their office manager also thought she was clever.
He handed over the manual, the controls, and the collar and drove away. The owners called Miss Picket over. She was skeptical, and the collar was slightly too big for a dog her size, but she accepted it as dogs are wont to do.
The owners went back inside to read the manual - some people do read manuals - and Miss Picket pranced over to the perfectly acceptable sign, rubbed the collar right off, and squatted over it to prove that the Grainge Wireless Fencing and Containment System could not contain her. She was well clear of the yard before the owners powered up the fence.
And that is precisely when that straight white picket fence became as unalike as chalk is to cheese to every other straight white picket fence in the world.
Perhaps one can blame the nice young man from Grainge who so proudly stuck that sign in the front lawn. Perhaps it was the fault of the cable manufacturer for skimping on the cable’s weather coating. Certainly some share of blame must be laid at the feet of the contractor who installed the straight white corner posts, buried deep in the ground, well below the frost line, reinforced with a steel rod sunk down to bedrock. And to the subcontractor who used the rebar to reinforce the front sidewalk, and left a piece on the ground where it was not picked up, but rather covered over by the landscaping crew who then layered fresh sod on top of the evidence.
One even might blame Miss Picket for not knowing that good dogs stay in their own yard. Be that as it may, the deed was done.
And the wet collar with its lithium battery pack (guaranteed for the life of your dog!) made contact with the perfectly acceptable sign, and its thin metal stakes fused to the forgotten rebar, which fused to the other bits of rebar under the sidewalk, and coincidently, to the cable which ran underneath it. The charge swept along the cable and hit the junction of an outdoor rated extension cord and the not fully seated plug of a string of Halloween lights draped across the front of the straight white picket fence.
Did we fail to mention it was Halloween? Our apologies, for it is somewhat critical to the outcome of this story.
Anyway, the current traveled across the string of lights which were ill-equipped to handle that much energy, and the wire’s cladding melted, causing the exposed copper to come in contact with a nail used by the homeowners to string the lights.
We should therefore include the home owners in the long list of people to blame, or in Miss Picket’s case, the short list of dogs responsible.
The nail had been driven deep inside the straight white post and made contact with the steel reinforcing rod, so necessary to keep the straight white corner post perfectly straight, and that sent the current straight down the rebar into the bedrock.
So really, it was simple enough to understand how the Gates of Hell just happened to open on Halloween in a suburb just like any other suburb. And at least the sign was right. There was no way to Escape Their Quality!