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Encounters with an electric fence
JANE HAS A STORY of her first encounter with an electric fence, as well as stories from friends with similar experiences. Here, Jane seems to be laughing out loud, perhaps about Dane’s recent shock from a hot fence. - photo by JANE SCHMIDT

VIOLA - Moses, my three-legged wonder dog, touched the electric fence around my donkeys’ pasture only once.

Raime, my beloved border collie, got stung by the electric fence more times than I can count. He’d run up to the fence barking at the donkeys, trying to herd them, and accidentally nip it.

Téte, the hound dog from hell, has hit the fence running—twice. The first time she ran into it full speed, she ran crying to the front door and sat there looking miserable. The second time, she howled all the way up the road to where Maurice had his trailer parked, and stayed there. When I found her on his step, the look on her face said, “No, you horrible people, I’m notgoing back to that horrible house, ever.” I had to go get her leash and drag her back home. She hasn’t touched the fence again.

Rock star Finnegan has never touched the electric fence, as far as I know. Maybe he learned from watching his elders.

Ruben, my new Mexican rescue puppy, had his first encounter a few days after we adopted him. Until yesterday, that is. I was sitting at my desk typing when I heard a gosh-awful mixture of squealing and howling. As I jumped up, it turned into an even louder, more painful sounding, high-pitched wail. 

I ran to the door and opened it. Ruben skidded in, looking at his butt, his tail between his legs. It didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened. He must have tried to get into the pasture and gotten the shock of his life.

I sat down on the couch and Ruben snuggled into my lap, trembling, his head on my chest. “Poor sweet baby, did that mean old fence get you?” I crooned as I petted him softly. It took nearly a half hour to reassure Ruben that he was okay and the fence was a meanie. Perhaps that will be his last encounter with electricity. I felt awful for him.

We all learn differently.

A friend shared with me a story about her first trip to Culver’s in Viroqua, when her family moved here from the Chicago area. She and her husband, after a full day of moving with two small children, decided to drive to town for ice cream. There was a farm with cows next to Culver’s at the time and they wandered over to have a peek.

While my friend was holding one child, the other yelped and started crying. She set the first child down and went to comfort the crying child. As she was doing so, the other one yelped and began to cry. With no idea what was going on she tried to comfort the two crying children. Ice cream was melting all over their hands and hers, and her own cone was now on the ground. She reached back and grabbed the fence to steady herself—and immediately understood what had happened!

I was over 40 years old, when I had my first encounter with an electric fence. My first impression has lingered. 

Maybe it was a joke, a cruel one at that, but Rick had told me to “just go over the fence.” He was a new friend and I was thrilled to be invited over to his farm to meet his cows up close and personal. I’d had the pleasure of numerous cows licking my hand with their thick bumpy tongues at the State Fair, but never had the opportunity to meet a cow in a field where it lived. I was beyond excited.

Rick stepped over the fence and, like a gentleman, waited for me. I followed and put one leg over, screamed bloody murder, and looked to see what had tried to kill me. Rick doubled over with laughter, perhaps noticing my short legs for the first time. I, on the other hand, had my hands pressed to my wet crotch, tears stinging my eyes, looking—well, shocked.

I was reminded of this the other day, when I came home and Dane, who had been working on some repairs at my house, greeted me at the car with a lopsided grin. 

“Your fence is working,” he said. “It’s really hot.”

After a good laugh, I quipped: “Shocking!"