Before I start this week’s post, I want to thank those of you who chimed in last week via e-mails and Facebook posts about your own “customer service” misadventures.
My favorite was actually one from my wife Anne who wrote, “In calling my bank to ask a question, an electronic voice put me on a long hold during a busy time of my day. I became more upset when the inanimate entity said my call was very important and I would be connected to a ‘relationship specialist.’”
Okay, so now we turn from relationship specialists to dogs. Seems like an appropriate transition.
Often the ideas for these posts are born out of streams of consciousness (“Really?” you ask in feigned surprise, wondering why this post should be any different), and today’s is, in fact, no exception.
The link is there
Lest there is one or two of you who might ask, “What do dogs have to do with new media technology?” let me explain.
I’m talking about the messages that underground fences impart to digital collars worn around the necks of unsuspecting (until it’s too late) dogs. Hi-tech messaging, right? No one said this blog had to be about how humans communicate. Relevance established, we proceed.
A lot of people collect a lot of different kinds of things. My wife and I collect dogs. More accurately, our home has served for years as a way station for wayward tail-waggers. Some have stayed several years, and some have moved on to other homes that we’ve located for them. One such interloper was a brindled Greyhound named Juggler who had the bad habit of waking up every morning at 3 and insisting we let him out to run around the front yard. That got old pretty fast, and Juggler is now living in Columbus, Ohio.
You can stay, but …
Every dog we’ve shepherded over the past several years has had to meet our unseen fence as a pet safety measure. I swore it could never contain a Greyhound, but I was wrong. In the race between electricity and speed, the former wins every time.
Among the half-dozen or so dogs we’ve fostered since the wire went into the ground, only two of them had problems with it. In their case, however, the problem wasn’t trying to cross the wire; it was trying to get them back outside at all once they encountered the initial zings while crossing the arc of the learning curve.
One of those dogs was a manic hound named Buddy who thought the grass was electrified so refused for a long time to ever venture off the front porch and driveway. The second case was even more interesting. That was our fostered black lab, Shadow, a rough-and-tumble lovable dog who seemed totally fearless of any challenge put in front of him. Except an invisible fence, that is.
Electra beats electric
Shadow’s reaction to the first electronic zing was to assume not, as Buddy had, that the grass was electrified. Shadow assumed that the entire ground was electrified, so he concluded the only safe place to be was on the roof of our Buick. And that is where he scampered and took up residence for a few hours until being coaxed by his pal Margie to come on down and give the earth another try.
These invisible fences contain three elements that usually do the trick for all dogs: the buried wire (fence) itself, the control box that’s mounted on a garage wall and allows you to increase or decrease the zing on a scale of 1-10, and the electronic collar wrapped around Fang’s neck. Of the three items, you don’t want to lose the collars because they run about $300 each. The whole fence set is way cheaper than your standard privacy or chain-link fence, though, and it’s in line with a lot more subdivision covenants than above-ground fences which have a way of deteriorating in a few years time.
You go first, Dad
If you’ve never used an invisible fence, you will discover that the installer will first ask you to feel the zing that your dog will feel before installing it, so you won’t feel like a sadist when you flip the on-switch. While noticeable, the sensation is, in fact, more like a mild sting than a power-line shock. Of course most of these human tests are run at lower levels rather than higher, but the fact is that many dogs are contained with the same level 3 or 4. We do have one dog now, Stitch, who won’t stop under anything less than a level 9 zing, and I’m not even sure that really bothers him.
All dogs get an aural warning in the form of a beep (which I’ve never been able to hear) when they get too close to the line and, like Pavlov’s canine, that stops most of them because they know what might come next if they keep going.
Watching this electronic warning system work over the years has often made me wonder if an invisible fence application might not work to keep us humans away from things that are bad for us, just as the street is for dogs. Here are a few places where installing an invisible fence, emitting stronger jolts to say, electronic belts, might work for us:
* A three-foot radius around the refrigerator.
* A mile radius around a casino.
* The entry to our driveways on afternoons we have pledged to work out at the gym first before going home. (Exiting the gym after 30 minutes would deactivate the driveway wire.)
* The entire circumference of a golf course on afternoons we husbands should be spending doing home or yard improvements.
* The bag containing our laptop and the clip containing our i-Phone or Droid on weekends and vacations.
Feel free to add to the list. Might as well make technology help us live the kind of lives we, as well our dogs, should be living.