We have a fence.
The white-painted fence, composed of perpendicularly crisscrossing wooden slats, is about six feet high and faces the street, running the distance between our house and our garage, thus creating a compound-like, backyard area that you can’t get into.
The fence makes us feel safe.
Safe from intruders, and safe from accidents. We have a backyard swimming pool, and because of that, we are legally required to construct a fence of a specified height, preventing outsiders from wander into our backyard and drowning. And then suing us, and taking our house. Including the fence.
Actually, the outsiders wouldn’t sue us – because they’re drowned – but their relatives would. We were assured of this by our cousin Jerry from Chicago, who’s a Personal Injury lawyer. Once, while visiting, cousin Jerry requested a look at our Homeowner’s Insurance Policy. After studying it, cousin Jerry announced that “If I were representing ‘the other side’, I could take you for everything you have.”
We immediately revised our policy.
With that behind us, we could now drift off to sleep, knowing we were fully protected.
We had a fence.
One day, I’m alone in the house. Suddenly, I hear this commotion coming from our backyard. When I come outside, I discover two young children I have never seen before, maybe six or seven years old, crouched beside the deep end of our pool, screaming their heads off, because their dog had fallen into the water, and they’ve been unable to pull him out.
The difficulty with getting the dog out is that the swimming pool is covered, and the dog has somehow gotten himself trapped underneath. It could have been a female dog, but the determining body part was submerged from view. The only things visible are his head, his neck, and his front paws, which, at the moment, are “dog-paddling” for all they’re worth.
I race over to the side of the pool. I get down on my hands and knees, reach out to grab hold of the dog’s paws, which the dog vigorously resists, as he is currently using them to keep himself from drowning.
Taking hold of his collar, I draw the dog towards the end of the pool, placing his paws over the edge, in the hopes that he’ll be able to pull himself out. It turns out that is not a realistic hope. Something about the angle, or the dog’s weight, or his lack of paw strength, or the dog’s inability to read my mind. I really can’t explain it. I am no expert in these matters.
It appeared that I had saved the dog from drowning, which was good for many reasons, one of which was that, knowing my family, there would be no way of ever getting them back into a pool that a dog had died in.
The problem was, I was no closer to getting the dog out. I had merely rescued his paws.
I tug on the dog’s collar, trying, I suppose, to lift him out of the pool by his neck. That sounds painful just writing about it. I am reluctant to pull too hard, aware that it is not much better – arguably no better at all – to save a dog from drowning, only to choke him to death while you’re doing it.
Grieving children are unlikely to value the distinction.
It seemed like forever. The kids, hysterical, the dog, staring up at me, as if saying, “Could you try something else, please? This ‘collar-tugging’ is not working”, and me, in my patented “Emergency Mode”, an appealing combination of panic, helplessness, and fear.
Finally, someone – I assume it was the kids’ father – materializes, grabs the dog’s collar, and, with one powerful tug, yanks him violently out of the water.
And they leave.
How had they gotten into our yard in the first place? Apparently, a hidden gate at the back of our yard – a gate, whose existence was known only to our friends who lived behind us so they could readily come and go – had been discovered by interloping strangers, leaving us wide open to dog drownings and bankrupting litigation.
At least it wasn’t the fence.
We trust the fence.
The fence keeps us from danger.
Or so we, very fervently, like to believe.
I guess that’s what you do when you get old; you take inventory.
“Yup. That’s what I did wrong.” (The last three posts, among other things.)
It’s a strange thing to do. Maybe you’re thinking you’ll do better the next time around. If there is a next time around. Apparently, on the chance that there is,
you make notes.