(Or . . . "I Should Have Listened To Kathy's Advice")
By Jessica Kidwell
(What follows is a guest post by podcast host Jessica Kidwell . . . )
Weeks into dog ownership, I was exhausted and I looked like hell. On a neighborhood walk, I ran into friends who conducted what can only be called an intervention. That day, haggard was the actual word used to describe me. By a friend. To my face. The fact that I was wearing a fanny pack for function, and not ironically or for a costume, was a step into madness that my closest friends knew I should not be taking. The problem? I had ignored the most crucial piece of advice I’d been given, over and over again, before getting a dog:
“Get a fence. Beforehand.”
When we had decided to add a dog to our family, I was determined to make a methodical and informed decision. We patted our super-prepared selves on the back as we made sure the whole family was on board; we debated temperament/size/type; and we discussed the importance of walks regardless of weather. We met several adoptable dogs at various different rescues, and then fell hard for an eight-month-old bundle of sweet love. She was pecan-pie brown with floppy ears, soulful eyes, and a calm disposition. Derby joined our family the very next week, and we couldn’t have been happier. Except …
Derby was not house-broken. That meant that every hour (and sometimes even more often), we needed to get this dog outside to have the chance to use the bathroom. And since we had not yet fenced in our yard, she had to be leashed and taken outside more than a dozen times a day.
After one week of 20,000+ steps a day – walks plus countless tethered trips to the backyard – I found myself lying awake and wondering what the hell I’d done.
During all of that intense pre-dog planning, we had never understood how having a fence could set us up for success in the transition to dog ownership. Our plan had been to wait and see the activity level and physical prowess of the actual dog before deciding on the right fence for us. In hindsight, it strikes me like first-time parents pondering the name decision: “We can’t name her until we meet her. I mean, will she even look like a Tiffany?”
My neighborhood-intervention friends had forced me to recognize what could no longer be ignored: Our family needed a fence.
Alas, the decision to get a fence does not make one magically appear the next day. I now understand why literally EVERYONE had encouraged us to start the process early. A professionally installed fence is a multi-week project with several steps and countless decision points.
Here’s what you need to know:
You should have at least two companies come measure your yard and provide quotes. You will have to wait several days for that appointment to happen. I know this because, despite my desperate pleas to “COME RIGHT NOW!” there were in fact no estimators available when I called them after my intervention.
Options and Budget
Once your estimator arrives and has measured your yard, they will present you with beautiful catalogs with a MULTITUDE of fencing options. I was unaware that there were so many choices for fencing. I was looking for a barrier to keep my dog safe and unattached to me, not to make an economic or fashion statement to my neighbors. There were options for material, height, and architectural details, all at various price points ranging from “definitely more than you thought” to “sorry you can’t go to college, kids.” You need to be clear on what specific function you want your fence to fulfill. If you go into this phase without that clarity, you can quickly escalate the cost of the fence. Wood options are the cheapest but require more maintenance. Vinyl and iron significantly add to your bottom-line, but have less overall maintenance.
Installation (and the Zen art of patience)
The quotes can take two to five business days. Then you decide on a builder, sign your contract, and eagerly eagerly await your start date, which you can only assume for the sake of your sanity will be the very next day. Here’s a fun fact: there are basically ZERO fence builders who keep their own materials in stock. They will need to order the wood, vinyl, iron, or perhaps gold you have selected for your fence. That can take up to two weeks to arrive. Secondly, many builders will not schedule their work crew for your project until the materials have arrived at their warehouse. This makes sense from an efficiency standpoint, but when you are counting the days until you can allow your dog a chance to go outside without you this lack of clarity can leave you crying in your tea. Or so I’ve heard.
Derby in her awesome fenced yard!
All in all, from beginning to end, it took three weeks and five days from the decision to get a fence to the moment we could open the door to let a happy Derby go out and play. I can honestly say that nothing has given me more peace of mind, or successfully lowered my “new dog owner” anxiety, more than a fully fenced in backyard. In addition , there have been so many additional benefits:
· Derby is apparently a sun worshipper, and nothing makes her happier then being able to bake herself in the sun. With the fence, we can let her do that as much as she wants!
· Our yard is THE PLACE TO BE for puppy play dates. It makes meeting up with other dog friends easy and safe.
· Although we have tons of dog parks nearby where Derby can run and fetch to her heart’s content, it’s not always convenient for us to take her. Our fenced in yard is a good substitute for a fetch field, and our kids and their friends love being in charge of that!
Please learn from our experience. If you plan on adding a dog to your life, get a fence. Now. Lest you become an “I told you so” friend of Kathy’s too.
(Jessica is the co-host of the podcast We Should Talk About That. She is also a friend of mine, and is one of countless folks who cheerily told me they’d think about that later when I pleaded with them to get a fence before getting a dog. Rather than saying “I told you so,” I asked Jessica to write about her, um, journey so that others could benefit!)