Rachel, Edelweiss and invisible barriers

May 19, 2012

Though I wrote the below entry last year, I am bringing it forward to today because I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about Edelweiss’ early Monday morning death. As ready as I thought I was for her to go, and as old and recently ill as she had become, it still hurts and I know that I will miss her. She is at her final resting place under the maple tree that Adam and I planted two years ago. Jason gently laid her to rest, and I will be forever grateful to him for that.

The below entry is a good summary of the fun that was both Edelweiss and Rachel. I still think of Rachel often too, so in loving memory and in honor of them both:

Rachel 1990-1999 — Edelweiss 1995-2012

April 14, 2011

You actually knew Rachel and the two of you were quite fond of one another. She was the little apple of my eye before you took over the position and, sadly, by the time you arrived we were already losing her. She was a black and red brindle miniature dachshund with as much personality packed into her nine pounds as I have ever seen in a dog. She and Arkie the Australian Shepherd run neck-and-neck for which would be considered the smartest, most loyal and entertaining. Beyond Rachel being gone and Arkie being Edelweiss’ current playmate, and Rachel having been tiny and Arkie weighing one hundred pounds, there is another distinction between the two dogs.

Edelweiss tolerates Arkie. She loved Rachel.

Rachel had lived with us for six years when Edelweiss walked (or was hauled by Joe-your-dad and Aunt Jenny) out of the woods behind the house with her startling blue eyes gazing out of her perfect kitty head. Still a kitten, the vet told us she was about five months old as he checked her out and prescribed medication for her mite-infested ears. She bit him for his trouble.

She was a fuzzy white alpine flower, and the meanest thing you never wanted to meet. She was nice to Joe, Jenny and me, but not many others. And she wasn’t nice to us all of the time.

She would lie on my keyboard while holding the mouse hostage (depicted) to try and keep me from working. When I tried to free the mouse she would smack me with her paw.

She scared the heck out of Aunt Linda when she went to feed her while I was on the road teaching. You know that scream she does when she’s hungry. Aunt Linda had no experience with cats and didn’t like that screaming at all. The vet told us it was on the unusual side for a deaf cat to be as vocal as she is, singing in her weird deaf-cat voice. I think that noise could scare away ghouls. She is older and quieter now, but when she met Rachel we were in for a couple years of fun.

Each morning Rachel and Edelweiss ran at break-neck speed through every room of the house, one chasing the other. It was always the same type of insanity with a few variations.

Edelweiss ran up the stairs and hopped up on the wrought iron railing on the landing, walking precariously along as Rachel ran from room to room and back to the landing, barking at Edelweiss to get down. Edelweiss jumped over Rachel and down to the middle of the stairs, then took another leap to the main floor while Rachel was still figuring out where she had gone.

Edelweiss picked a fight with the rug tassels and rolled around with them for a while, as Rachel came running down the steps and slid across the hardwood floor, knocking herself crazy by smacking into the opposite wall.

Edelweiss ceased her rug tassel battle and ran down the stairs to the family room. Rachel pulled herself up dizzily and hopped on to the couch, curling up on the center cushion. She was older than Edelweiss and wall smacks tired her. As she was dozing, Edelweiss came looking for her, verifying with a peek around the side of the couch that she had found Rachel. The great huntress Edelweiss then stalked, slinking along, keeping her head down until she reached the center of the couch, just below the point where her target lay dozing. Edelweiss then leaped straight up to the center couch cushion and thwapped Rachel on the head. She did it once more for good measure and was off! Rachel was in hot pursuit, gaining on Edelweiss just as she leaped from the stairs to the railing around the landing.

By then I was ready for the morning craziness to end and put Edelweiss out in the back sun room. Rachel curled up on the center couch cushion again while Edelweiss, the mighty huntress, stalked the concrete step leading to the sun room, slinking along until she could see Rachel dozing on the couch through the sliding glass door. That’s when she hopped up the step to the sliding glass door and prepared to leap. And leap she did! Directly into the sliding glass door, THWACK! And down to the concrete step like a cartoon cat.

I blew the coffee I was drinking half across the room when I saw that.

Your dad told me a variation of the morning antics that I wish I had been around to witness. He said he heard the two of them running around and being crazy from his bedroom at the top of the stairs, when he heard an odd, “Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.” Investigating, he looked down the stairs from the landing and saw Rachel and Edelweiss at the bottom of the stairs, both on their backs with their little feet sticking up. Oh, how I wish I had seen that (of course they were both okay).

Rachel did not like to stay in the yard and took off to the woods to wriggle into holes in the ground that seemed far too small to allow for her exit. I could hear her barking down there, and it worried me to death. She always emerged from the holes in one piece, and once I saw her coming out. She didn’t turn around, she just wriggled backward. That showed how silly I was to worry. It was the same when she crawled into the neighbor’s wood pile and under the shed on a regular basis. She wasn’t worried about getting out; I was the only one who was worried.

The day came when I didn’t want to worry any longer. I purchased an Invisible Fence kit and ran the wires around the perimeter of the back yard, connected them to a power source, put up the little white flags about ten feet inside the path of the wires, placed the collar on Rachel, and told her it was time to stay home. Carefully following the training manual, I walked Rachel around the perimeter and moved the flags as instructed. The idea was to use the flags to teach Rachel where her limits were to be. As the flags were moved closer to the wires, she would hear a high-pitched tone that warned her to stop. As she moved closer to the underground wires, her collar would deliver a mild electrical charge to remind her to go back the other way. The closer she got to the edge, the more she would feel a charge coming.

But Rachel never followed the rules of another.

She trained very well and after a few weeks I felt it was time to let her be out on her own in the backyard, wearing the collar for the invisible fence. The first day went well. She stayed in the yard. The next day I let her out and a moment later heard a “Yipe, yipe, yipe, yipe!” I ran out to see what had happened, and Rachel was gone. Pewf. Jumped the fence. I called her and sat outside until I saw her returning.

She was smart. Very smart.

She came trotting from the woods, and about ten feet from the location of the wire perimeter she began running as fast as her tiny legs would go. When she reached where she thought the wires were, she leaped. And yiped. All the way across the perimeter.

I tried adjusting the settings on the invisible fence to its strongest and widest perimeter, but she would just stand back further, run faster, and leap longer. Yiping all the way.



  1. I couldn’t read this without thinking of our own Porter the Wonder Dog. He is 16. His is health is wobbly. He still plays and wags his tail. I know he won’t be with us forever but I can’t even grasp our lives without him.

    When I was a newborn, my grandmother would make a bed of blankets for me on the floor, and her dog, a fantastic German Shepherd named Jill, would come and curl up around me while I napped. And when I cried, she howled. To this day, I think Jill imprinted herself on me to such an extent, that every time I see a dog, mine own or any other, my heart gives a little leap and I’m sure that dogs understand me.

    Lovely post.

  2. I believe pets influence our behavior for life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. :)

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