Wendell Berry, author and environmental activist, is known for challenging the status quo by vocally protesting situations in the world that he believes are unjust; and Wendell our farm dog is proving himself more than worthy of his namesake.
As I’ve written about previously, Wendell is a shelter dog that spent almost the entirety of his first year of life in a noisy pound with little life experience and even less socialization. Our hearts broke when we first saw him quivering in his small cage,
trying to make himself as invisible as possible. “He will never be an outdoor dog- too scared!” we were told. Despite these warnings, we adopted him without a second thought, knowing that he would take a lot of work and patience, but filled with optimism that our home on the mountain was one of the best places for this troubled dog to be.
The first week must have been hellish for him. Barely breaking out of his statuesque trance in the house to eat a small bite of kibble and trembling at every shadow and crunchy leaf on his outdoor walks, Wendell seemed positively miserable. But slowly over time he began to warm up to us and his new home. Now he runs around the property with abandon, barking and chasing every stick not still connected to a tree, tormenting the chickens and accompanying us on long walks through the woods. In so many tangible ways he is a new dog, but one thing hasn’t changed.
He still hates the house.
So much, in fact, that he refuses to go in. We’ve had different ways with dealing with this throughout the past weeks. At first we would coax him in slowly, one leash length at a time, in an arduous process that often took over an hour. When we tired of that, we would chase him into the chicken yard, relying on the fences as an aid for cornering him and then scooping him up. But now he has wised up to our tricks and gives the chicken yard and us a wide berth as soon as the sun begins to set. It’s really not safe to leave him outdoors in the cold with coyotes so prevalent, so we go to great lengths to get him inside the house. His behavior is aggravating because he seems to enjoy every second of freedom; running circles around us and yelping with glee, always just out of reach.
Last night was the last straw for us. After trying for hours to coax him into the chicken yard, we decided to let him to come in on his own terms, leaving the front door wide open and his food just inside the doorway. We even moved his bed and toys to the very entrance to give him something to look forward to. But instead of coming in, Wendell stood mere feet from the door, looking in at us and barking his heart out. Collectively, Ian and I spent hours sitting in that doorway, our hands outstretched with a spoonful of peanut butter, but never once did Wendell come close enough to do more than lick tentatively at it. Not until 2am did he settle down from his aggressive barking enough to let us sleep.
At this point, we are completely stymied. The bedtime routine in the home is the same for Wendell every night, so we are at a loss for why he is fighting it so much. We would feel better about him being outdoors if he retreated to his dog pen to sleep there, but instead he endlessly circles the house and barks at us. It’s obvious that the fun of being free had long worn off for him, but he wouldn’t let himself calm down enough to come inside or even let us touch him.
His behavior cannot continue and every attempt Ian and I have made to outsmart him has been matched and beaten. If you have any idea or suggestions, PLEASE let me know! We can use all the help we can get!