The Fence on Sunnyslope Road

“Mom, read me the names again.’

“There’s a new name, I wonder what THAT one’s about”

My open office windows allow me to overhear these comments, as neighbors walk by. I smile and think about how this fence, born out of pandemic boredom, has impacted our little community. 

And when I’m out front, or on a dog walk, people stop me to ask about the names on the fence. Or to tell me about their own pets.

“Are those all your dogs?”

“Every time I walk by your fence and read those names, I think about all the dogs I’ve had in my life.”

In March of 2020, when the pandemic hit and we were all confined to our homes, my husband started knocking out the projects that had been on his To Do list for a while. And we started talking about the fence.

We live on a busy street, and while suddenly the car traffic had stopped, the number of folks walking by had increased. We needed a visual barrier between our now-office windows, and this increased traffic. We needed to help our dogs not react to every movement, every dog, every person who walked by.

And my husband needed a project.

We strolled the neighborhood, dogs at our sides, focusing on fence designs. There’s a lot of ways to build a fence! We needed something that blocked the view, but was also not wall-like. We wanted it to be friendly, neighborly. A hedge would have been perfect, but with a huge oak tree and scarce water resources, we couldn’t plant anything.

The fence building deliberately took months to complete. Kevin did it all by himself. He’d ask my opinion about design, or my help moving something heavy or holding a panel straight while he secured it, but it was all his.

As he was working on it, lots of people walked by, giving advice, expressing their opinions about the design. He met all kinds of people from the neighborhood who wouldn’t have otherwise stopped to talk – we realized how much these casual conversations connected us during a time of isolation.

While the fence project was in full swing, we went on about our regular life: paid work for technology companies, and the volunteer work that fills our hearts- fostering dogs, moms and puppies in particular.

We fostered a tricky mom during that summer. We had to figure out how to gain her trust, in order to help her raise her puppies. And in doing that, we remembered all of the foster dogs we’d helped over the years. Even though they all had the same basic needs – food, shelter, love, human kindness – they thrived when we could figure out how to deliver those basics to meet their own preferences.

Time spent reminiscing about our foster dogs and all the dogs we’d owned and our childhood dogs and our neighbors’ dogs, sparked the idea for how to decorate the fence.

Wooden dog-bone shapes, with these dogs’ names to commemorate and honor our life with dogs.

So, now it’s time to tell the stories about the dogs whose names made it to the fence.

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