Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Good Yard is Hard to Find

Last week I met my realtor, Luis, at an Altadena house. As I tied Tommy to the fence, I caught a glimpse of an orange tabby sliding into the crawl space under the house. I registered a hint of trouble that I chose to ignore.

Inside I quickly walked through the house, snapped a picture of Luis and Lucas in the kitchen (if there’d been more light I would have captured Tommy bucking up in protest through that window)...

and summed up my assessment: It was a fixer and out of my price range but oh that yard!

The house was on a quarter-acre lot, and I intended to take full advantage of it.

Luis was happy to oblige. He unlocked the gate, and, when he and Lucas were safe inside again, I unhooked Tommy's snoot loop.

I love when he tears off but instead he got sidetracked by a scent, sniffing the ground like a hound. I did my version of giddyap. I clapped my hands in quick succession, shouting in staccato fashion, "Go Tommy! Go! Go! Go!" and slapped my hands on my thigh.

I'm not proud of this image but it works. Tommy shot off like a greyhound.

When he got to the other end of the yard, I clapped my hands and yelled, “Come, Tommy!” And he thundered back toward me.

Janine from J9's K9s taught that you always use the recall command in a happy, upbeat tone, and everytime your dog responds, you shower him with praise and treats. It doesn't matter how upset or pissed off you may be, whenever he responds to the recall command it's a party. Tommy learned this command well.

What a good boy, Tommy.

While I gloated over his athletic prowess and exemplary behavior, Tommy ran directly into the crawl space after that orange tabby’s scent.

I shouted, "come!" Tommy ignored me.

I ran to the crawl space entrance and tried to keep the strained panic from my voice, "Come, Tommy! Come boy."

And how was the recall command working now? As if it were swallowed by a dark hole, as if it fell on Tommy's deaf ears.


I feared Tommy would tear that cat to shreds; I feared I'd have to crawl in that dark, dirty space with god knows what down there; I feared rats and snakes and giant bugs.

I ran to the house and called again.

Tommy shot out of the crawl space, saw me standing by the door, and ran right back under the house.

I imagined the neighbors peeking out from behind a curtain shaking their heads and saying, "There goes the neighborhood."

Eventually I lured Tommy out, wrapped that snoot loop around his snout, said goodbye to Luis and Lucas and left.

Tommy was blissfully exhausted that evening.

The next day I put an offer on the house. The neighbors needn't have worried. By the end of the week I got the news that I'd been outbid. The search for a good yard continues.


  1. I can totally relate to the good yard feeling. But I think we humans get more excited over it than our canine kids do. Walter and Henry seem to just want to hang out close to us no matter how big the yard. The only time they do run wild is when they are in public, open space and they can run off and get into trouble. But in enclosed spaces like backyards? Nothin'! What is that about? Anyway, I love the story. Walter would have behaved the very same way. Buggers!

  2. Lynnie said,

    Sue all doggies love a wide open space, i agree with liz, it is us humans who crave a fence. dogs have no sense of boundaries and are happy off leash no matter where. annie and ollie love the school yard where leftover bag lunches sometimes appear.........

  3. how about my back yard? I think both tommy and you would love it. PLUS the bonus.... Tigger!

  4. oh honey that is so funny. just when you think it is all good it goes to that hell in a bucket and then out he comes from the house. TOmmy is so full of life and that is all you can ask for in this world.
    love to all

  5. I'm sorry the 1/4 acre didn't work out. Next time.

  6. Liz and Lynnie, Tommy loves to run, anywhere (and I love a tired Tommy). He just gets distracted. You guys both have the sweetest dogs. Just wait till you meet Tommy!

    Tommy would also love to find kids' leftover lunches - just like Arrow (remember, Lynne?).

    Terri, Tommy and I would love to hang out in your back yard with you and Tigger. I wish you didn't live so far away.

    Kristen, I'm glad you appreciate the humor in the situation. Tommy provides endless entertainment, just like Finney.

    Thanks, Hiker. Yes, next time.

  7. we want a yard so bad with three pups!


  8. Your story reminds me of my alpha male (don't laugh) Springer Spaniel, who went after anything that moved. Even after he lost a fight with a groundhog, he was rarin' to go next day.

    Good luck with the property hunt.

  9. Kari, if anyone can relate to my plight of needing a good yard, it's you.

    Banjo, I don't know anything about Springer Spaniels so I just read a bit. Bred for hunting, yes? Hardwired for the chase, just like Tommy.

    Thanks for the well wishes on the house hunt.

  10. You must have been so worried that Tommy would kill the cat! I hope the kitty had an escape route. I trained my (normally) very well-behaved Abby to come back to me if I shouted Koko!!! (I know, but it carries better than "Abby"). When she responds, I praise her and give her a treat. Now she pretends to lag behind so I call Koko and give her a treat. And when she sees a deer or a cat, she's off and pretends to be deaf as a dormouse.

  11. I just know you and my friend are looking at the same houses and bidding against each other! I don't think you have the same requirements exactly, so sooner or later you'll each find your spot.

  12. Tommy playing second fiddle to a faster moving Tom? You've been skirting close to animal peril lately.

    If you get that big yard it may be less about the pup once you discover the joy of succulents and xeriscaping.

    re: house hunting? don't forget the Highlands (North HP) or Montecito Heights. Some large properties tucked here and there

  13. Bellis, I was worried for that cat. Thankfully he or she outwitted Tommy or I'm sure I would have heard the battle.

    That's so funny that you use "Koko" as the recall word. Tommy does that too with the "leave it" command around the cats. He'll approach them and then look at me waiting for me to say it so he can get his treat. He's a manipulative bugger.

    Petrea, thank you. I'm sure you're right that we'll find our places eventually. Maybe she and I will even be neighbors.

    PA, always flirting with disaster with Tommy around.

    I had to google xeriscaping. Yes, I could see myself getting into that.

    I had been looking in HP but decided to focus close by so as not to dilute my energy. But as I haven't found anything yet in these parts, perhaps it's time to widen my search again. So, should I assume that the PA refers to HP? Or is that a secret?