Life with a smile: When mediocre plans go badly

Published 11:42 am Friday, October 2, 2020


Community columnist

It was probably inevitable that my crazy dog would learn to climb the fence in the backyard. After all, Buddy Baudelaire had shown remarkable proficiency at tree-climbing, somehow managing to scrabble his way to a truly ridiculous height in a tree at the park.

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What chance did a puny four-foot chain link fence stand against such a creature?

I blame the squirrel. It was taunting him, and no self-respecting dog would stand for such a thing. 

He charged the fence and leaped, as he had done many times before. But this time, he managed to gain purchase in the links with his hind paws. He fell down immediately, but the seed had been planted. On his second attempt, the front paws went to the top of the fence, the rear paws boosted from the gaps in the links, and — with an ungainly but triumphant sprawl — over he went.

I saw it happening but was too far away to stop him. My shrieks of dismay and command fell upon deaf doggy ears.

As soon as he hit the ground, the squirrel was forgotten, for there — just ahead of him — was the holy grail: the neighbor’s chicken enclosure. And the gate was open. Unfortunately for Buddy, the chicken was smart enough to beat a hasty retreat to its wooden coop, leaving the deranged canine to run laps around the enclosure until I could capture him.

Alas, the best laid plans of dogs and humans. That’s one of the themes of 2020, right? Plans that go awry?

The fence plan was mine, and frankly it was ill-conceived. I knew that I wanted to fence the backyard so that my renegade hound would be able to run off some of his boundless energy. I never planned to leave him unattended outside because I feared for his digging abilities, when motivated by the presence of neighborhood chickens. 

But somehow, I neglected to consider an appropriate height for the fence. Four feet seems like a lot…until you see your dog flying over it.

Now there’s a new plan in the works involving garden stakes, plastic zip ties, and snow fencing. I suspect you’ll read about it in a future column.

Nothing really seems to be going right at the moment. Thanks, COVID.

There are small hiccups, like being forced to do more online clothes shopping than normal. Not being able to try on the outfits under consideration have resulted in shoes that are too small, a sweater with oddly voluminous sleeves, and a black raincoat with a hood so large I could be mistaken for a Sith Lord.

Then there are the larger disasters — like every piece of technology related to virtual schooling. If I get one more alert on my phone, telling me that a child’s school day will not go as planned because a video won’t load or a google meet is glitchy, I may weep. 

When my daughter completed yet another assignment whose online grading rubric was set up incorrectly (thereby making it seem like her correct answers were wrong), she actually did weep.

We’re trying to make plans for Halloween, but the whole exercise seems futile. COVID numbers are rising, communal candy bowls are gross, and frankly I’m already eating more than enough sugar each week. 

Do we really need to add bite-sized Snickers bars to the mix? (Actually, yes, we probably do.)

I’d like to follow my dog’s example and make a desperate bid for freedom, but there’s nowhere to go. Hiding out in the chicken coop is unlikely to improve my outlook on life (or my relationship with my neighbors), but at this point, I’ll take any plan that seems tenable.