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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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I think my dog is smarter than I am.
I think my dog is smarter than I am.

Dogged determination

My dog, Playa, is up to no good lately. But it's hard to be mad at her, really.

Playa is the dog that my wife and I adopted about eight years ago in Mexico. Even though she was "born in captivity," she lacked much human socialization until we took her home when she was 4 months old. She's sweet as can be, but she's skittish, too. She's afraid of loud noises, of a pair of jeans on the floor. She nervous around anything but us and other dogs.

Playa also likes to run and dig. She looks like a little greyhound or a whippet (though DNA testing didn't prove that to be true), and she's gradually destroyed our backyard. We understand that she needs the stimulation and sent her to Doggy Daycare for most of her life, but eventually hoping to reclaim a small area that's not pockmarked with yellow spots and deep holes, my dad and I built a fence extension last spring.

At first, it worked. Playa stayed clear of the fence and did her business of digging and destroying on the other part of the yard that we basically surrendered to her. Then, one day, we found her inside the yard again. How did she get there? The vertical slats are no more than eight inches apart, and while Playa is very slender, she's still a 40-pound dog.

So I watched from inside one day as she gingerly slipped through the fence, pooped, then turned around. Secretly, I admired her for conquering her fear and adapting to her environment.

But outwardly, I was annoyed. So we bought something called "deer fencing," which is supposed to be visual a barrier to keep animals out of your gardens and your yards. I stapled it to the slats of the fence, and again, Playa was stumped.

That lasted for about a week. Now, Playa has figured out that she can burst through the mesh without much effort. I re-staple it back, then a day later, she busts through again.

I suppose my next step will be chicken wire or something similarly ugly. That is, until Playa learns how to pick up a wire cutter and snip her way through that, too.

I can't really be angry, though, that I have a smart, tenacious dog, that at almost 9 years old, is confronting her fears and literally taking them head on. Come to think of it, I think I'll give her an extra squiggle on the head and a treat tonight. I just won't tell her why.

As a self-employed, first-time parent, I'm the first to admit how much I have to learn these days. Maybe my dog using a metaphor to teach me a lesson ...

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