38: Gladstone the Escapologist

38: Gladstone the Escapologist

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Gladstone the Escapologist

All my dogs have been scamps and thieves and troublemakers and I’ve adored them all.

~Helen Hayes

A week before Christmas a few years ago, I went to let the dogs out for a run in the yard as usual. However, as I approached Gladstone’s kennel, I realized he wasn’t there.

“Peter, Gladstone’s gone,” I called out to my husband as I rushed back into the house. “How could he have escaped?”

We live on the island of Crete, Greece, a place inundated with stray dogs and cats. We’ve taken in many animals, and at that time we had nine dogs and eight cats. Set amongst the olive trees on our land, Peter had built a set of enclosures for the dogs.

My husband came out and looked around in disbelief. Gladstone was a cunning escapologist, but there was no obvious way he could have gotten out. It had been years since he had attempted to escape from the yard and I thought we had secured him. How wrong could I have been?

Gladstone was the third dog to come to our home and he had lived with us for over eight years. I remembered the day he had arrived.

“There’s a dog tied around one of our olive trees,” I had said to Peter one hot August morning, looking through the window.

Peter and I went outside. We didn’t have a wall around our yard at that time, so anyone could walk on our land. We approached the dog quietly, not wanting to frighten him, but we were pleased to see that he was friendly. He started to wag his tail immediately. He was cute, with a long body and short legs, and was black and white.

Earlier, we had noticed men in the olive grove next door, so we wondered if the dog belonged to them. However, by evening they were gone. Had they forgotten the dog, or had they deliberately abandoned him? We had two dogs and didn’t really want another, but as it was hot, I gave him water and later, food. The island didn’t have many animal shelters, certainly not enough to take in all the strays, so what were we to do with him? We decided to sleep on it.

The following morning, the dog was gone. I hoped his owners had come to get him, but later, while I was taking another dog for a walk, he came marching down the road, dragging his chain. His owners hadn’t returned; he had escaped. I took him home and tied him back around the tree.

A couple of hours later, the farmer who owned the land next door walked by and started shouting. I was shocked to hear him say that the dog had killed some of his chickens. I tried to explain that the dog wasn’t mine, but he said that as I had given him food, the dog was my responsibility.

Nobody seemed to want the dog, so we kept him. He couldn’t be an indoor dog as he hated cats. On the other hand, I didn’t want him to be tied up, but he had to be kept secure. So Peter built a large enclosure for him. He got to work straight away, and although it only took a few days to build, I worried the dog would escape. I was sure there would be no reprieve if he were caught killing chickens again.

I named him Gladstone and he settled in quickly. He loved his daily walks and cuddling. However, he was wary of men, and it took him time to trust Peter. I wondered what had happened to him in his previous life.

A month later, I came outside and found Gladstone missing. His enclosure had a high fence around it, but there was an olive tree in it. He must have climbed up the tree and then jumped over the fence. Peter and I searched for him with no luck. After a few hours, Gladstone turned up, looking completely innocent. I spent the day worrying the farmer would arrive and accuse him of killing chickens again. I breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t, but I knew it was essential to find a way to keep Gladstone secure.

“I know,” Peter said. “We’ll put a roof over the enclosure. It’s the only way to keep him in.”

The years went by and we rescued more dogs. Eventually, we had a wall built around our land. The dogs, although they had their enclosures, could also have time playing together in the yard.

We had no more problems with Gladstone until that fateful December day. I couldn’t believe that after so long, he’d managed to escape again. Although he was getting old, he was still lively, and I was anxious that he might still be interested in chickens. I went out to the street and called him, but no luck. Going back into the yard, I heard a rustle in the bougainvillea tree and looked up. There he was! One of our cats, Disraeli, liked to sleep there, so Gladstone must have followed him. It took us all morning to get him down, and we were never sure how he had got out of his enclosure. There was a gap between the gate and the roof, but it seemed too small for him to get through.

Five days later, on Christmas Day, I went outside to find Gladstone gone again. He wasn’t in the bougainvillea, so I went out of the yard and found him sitting in an olive tree with Disraeli perched further up! We couldn’t think how he’d got out of the yard. Because some of the bigger dogs had managed to scale the wall, we had heightened it with a wire fence. It was about ten feet high, and the wire had just one tiny gap for the cats to use. It seemed unlikely, but there was no other way of escape.

~Irena Nieslony

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