On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’m Professor Terry to almost eighty students. But the minute I return home, I’m a student at University of Russet.

My education began on March 30, 2011, when I adopted the one-year-old Shepherd/Spitz from the Arlington Animal Shelter. From that day on, she has given me daily lessons in what happens when I underestimate her.

Lesson #1 happened one day when I led her into her crate, leaving her leash on.

Ah… now that she’s contained, I can run my errands. Right?

Well, as Carol Burnett’s character, Eunice, used to say, “Wrong-o de dong-o!” When I returned home, I fell under the spell of my angel’s sparkly brown eyes…until I saw it…the handle of the leash in pieces, scattered all about her.

Determined to corral the fuzzy fugitive, I outfitted her with a collar-and-leash combination purchased by my fiance and designed by famed “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan.

At last, I thought, after the first few successful walks. But, as I soon learned, Russet had hidden yet another trick up her furry sleeve. Only when the garage door opened did I see where Russet chewed through her collar. But — alas — I was too late. Once it gave way, she was off and running.

The first time Russet escaped, I was frantic! When I tracked her down, she was two streets over. The closer I got, the faster she ran. My little vixen was not only playing a game — she was winning.

Okay, my little pretty, I thought, once you tire out, you’re mine!

As I watched her roam from house to house, I noticed those houses had one thing in common; all had dogs in their back yards.

Worn out from chasing her, I returned home to grab her old leash out of my car. I returned to the front of the house, to my surprise, a neighbor walked up with Russet in tow.

“She was looking for you,” he said, pointing to my front door. “When she didn’t’ find you, she came over to our house and looked through the door. She knows where she lives.”

Last Friday, my four-legged fugitive got loose again. This time, once again, I waited for her to tire out. For the next few minutes, she darted from one yard to the next, and even zig-zagged across the street and back, dodging cars .It was a mixed blessing for both of us when she plopped down in someone’s yard to munch a treat of questionable virtue.

With Russet finally in tow, I felt the worst was behind us. Once again, she would prove me wrong. After taking her on her morning mission, I crated her — harness still on her body — before I left for church.

Hee-hee-hee! Russet will never wriggle free of that snug harness by herself. I felt like a jailer tossing the key around in my hand as I drove to church. Hours later, I returned. At first, I didn’t notice anything. Then, when I bailed her out, I saw it: the chest loop that attaches to the leash. Once more, Russet had gnawed her way to freedom.

“You’ll never guess what happened!” I told the salesperson at PetSmart, when I showed up, receipt and chewed-up harness in hand.

“Oh, nothing surprises me,” she assured me, kindly not charging me for a replacement.

Note to self, I thought, on the way home. Take harness off bod before crating.

Since March 30 — adoption day — Russet and I have come a long way. Her wandering ways have taught me to ensure the garage door is shut completely before entering the house where she awaits, tail wagging, by the kitchen door. I’ve learned that, even if she does get out, she can find her way home. And, at last, I now remember to remove her harness and leash before crating her.

As I write this post, I am still learning from Professor Russet. Sixteen months ago, her predecessor, a docile thirteen-year-old Corgi named Boaz, passed away. Since then, his successor has spent the past six weeks shouting at me — by peeing on the carpet, pulling on her leash, and running away — “Helloooo! My name is Russet!”

Point taken.



  1. I hate to say it, but this sounds like I feel when I’m trying to herd my senior citizens toward health, safety and happiness. If I turn my back, they’ll be off on a wild tangent that I’ll have to resolve somehow.

    1. I think you’re right, Jane. There are similarities among wandering dogs, children of any age, and senior parents.

      Thanks for the feedback! 🙂

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