Just to avoid unnecessary drama, this story has a good ending!
So, yesterday, I'm in the shop, and James (that's him in the picture) is with me. His Mom's in the kitchen. He says he's hungry, I tell him to go to the kitchen and ask his Mom for something to eat. Off he goes...
I go back to what I'm doing. About ten minutes later, I get this wierd feeling. Can't explain it, really. Anyway, I decide to put down my tools and go see if he made it to the kitchen. Long story short, he did not. His mother and I go looking for him: not in the front yard.
The back yard needs a little explaining. It's not huge, but it backs up to the northwest branch of the anacostia river (which is no more than a big stream most of the time). From the slope in the back yard there's about 70 yards of forested flood plain to the river. James and I go down there a lot and hang out, throwing rocks into the water, etc. Needless to say, it's no place for a two year old alone, and I haven't even mentioned the copperheads. I go running down there, knowing it's the worst place he could have gone. As I go running by, I notice both the border collie and the australian shepard are gone, even though the gate's still closed. Doorlink is a little behind me, hobbled on a bad foot, and going a slightly different way. I hear a shriek, and turn around, fearing the worst. But no, she hadn't found him, she'd found a big old snake, instead. Great.
I keep heading for the river, shouting all the time. I get there, fearing the worst, but there's no sign. I check a few inlets, nothing. Then Belle, the border collie, comes barking up. At least now I know which direction to go. A couple hundred feet further on, I run into Brisi, the australian shepard, who never left his side. And there's James, only a little the worse for wear, his shoes a little wet and his legs scratched up from thorns, saying "I want to throw the rocks." How he got that far in 10 minutes is beyond me, but boys are inventive. I know, I used to be one.
So, besides the awful fear and self-examination you can well imagine, there are three things here. First, I can remember a similar incident in my own youth, and how scared I was, lost and running into a rattlesnake. And I know he was scared, but he didn't cry until about an hour later. Maybe he needs to be a little more fearful... it's possible to be too brave for one's own good.
Second, those dogs earned a lifetime of their keep yesterday. I've always believed in having "working dogs", but never imagined they'd do something so important, or so well... Brisi staying with him, Belle coming back to say where they were, amazing.
Third, we're broke, but who cares, it's time for a nice fence. I need about 160'. That doesn't mean I can afford $12 a running foot, though. It has to be something that will keep him in for at least a couple years, and something the dogs can't jump. In practical terms, that means 5 feet.
I thought of a split rail fence, with wire mesh. But now I'm thinking a 2x4 or 4x4 post every eight feet, with three lateral 2x4s at 20, 40 and 60 inches high. 5' green coated galvanized wire stapled to that. Any thoughts on a more cost effective, strong, dog and toddler proof barrier, that's not too ugly?
I never, ever, want to go through that experience again, and no amount of social engineering will prevent it absolutely. We need a fence, and quickly!