Good fences make good neighbors

Doing home repairs for complete strangers at 7:30 in the morning was never part of my life before Spencer came along, but the Beast never ceases to make life “interesting”.Yesterday, we set out for our morning walk. Spencer asked to take a side street on our way to the park, and I generally give him his way unless there’s a compelling reason to stick to my original plan (like we will never get home otherwise, a frequent reason for me digging in my heels). I noticed his ears perk up and realized that there was a woman standing in her driveway trimming back dead heads on her flowers. Since she was just behind the gate, I asked Spencer to move slightly out into the street with me, and then we curved back into the sidewalk after we had passed her. 

In the blink of an eye, Spencer had leapt forward. I heard a scurrying sound and thought maybe he had seen a cat. (He’s obsessed with cats at the moment.) 

I caught up with Spencer and realized there was a small dog in the garden. Spencer had stuck his head through the ironwork gate, which has very large diamonds along its base. He could almost, but thankfully not quite, get his shoulders through the widest point of the diamond.

To the poor little dog (I didn’t get a good look, but it might have been a Yorkshire), Spencer must have looked a bit like a moosehead mounted on the wall by a big game hunter! The good news is that although intrigued by the other dog, Spencer remained largely relaxed. 

This is good since the flower-clipping woman came over to see what the fuss was about. At one point, she was standing just across from Spencer, but he was too interested in the dog to pay her much attention.

I realized to my dismay that Spencer had ripped off the plastic netting that was attached to the inside of the door to keep the small dog from getting out. The woman was very upset, but I realized through our exchange that she was mostly just worried about dog, especially since she hadn’t seen it when she first came over, so she feared it had escaped.

Of course, I offered to repair the netting, but noted that I would need to finish Spencer’s walk first. She implored me to come back quickly because she couldn’t let her dog out until the gate had been made secure. I hadn’t thought of that, so I attached Spencer to her fence on a very short leash and tried to re-attach the netting using just my fingers. However, in contrast to the easy-to-break plastic netting, the wire used to hold it in place was very thick and strong.

I told the woman that I could fix it right away if she had a pair of pliers. She waved her garden shears at me, “You mean like these?” No, I said, trying to describe pliers to her. Finally, it became clear that it would be easier for me to take Spencer home and grab my own tools. 

When I finished the work, the woman thanked me effusively. Based on our conversation, I think she’s a widow and lives alone with her little dog. She has no clue about fixing anything. I’m really not sure she could handle tightening a screw. Her son-in-law had put up the netting for her, and without my help, who knows when she could have had it fixed.

She was, in fact, very nice about the whole situation, although I was highly amused by her advice on handling Spencer. Rather than walking in front of houses, I should take him to the “big gardens” at the bottom of the hill. I politely pointed out that the houses were between our house and the “big garden” and explained that while we do go to the park, our morning walk is more than an hour long and the park doesn’t keep us occupied very long.

Anyway, once the fence was intact again, I had been restored to the ranks of good neighbors, so I guess Robert Frost was right about at least one thing.


Footnote on the title: Some of you may recognize this as a quote from Robert Frost‘s poem “Mending Wall“. Frost’s work is known for capturing moments of life in rural New England. Not all his work is that “earthy”. My absolute favorite Robert Frost poem is “Choose something like a star“, especially this sublime musical rendition that I had the joy to perform when younger.

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