Harry Houdini, born Erik Weisz; (March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-born American escape artist, illusionist and stunt performer, noted for his escape acts.
His first act attracted notice in Vaudeville in the United States and then as “Harry ‘Handcuff’ Houdini” on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police officers to keep him locked up. Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to escape from and hold his breath inside a sealed milk can with water in it.
I think Houdini lives on my farm in the body of my precious German Shepherd – Rottweiler cross Nala, aka Princess! She is tall, she has the most beautiful green eyes and tan coat. She does not walk, she struts. She runs with such elegance and grace you want to sit back and just watch her. And she is smart. I mean razor sharp!
I got Nala from my cousin. She was a little beautiful needy pup who loved belly rubs and would whine if she did not get them. She still does. When I got her, I was sure she needed to head straight to the farm, and she did. Nala grew fast. A rumbunctious energetic pup who continued to whine in the absence of belly rubs. She joined the existing pack that consisted of my Jack Russel’s, the late Spotty, and her son Leo.
With time, I added Bitzen and Max to the pack. My large dogs are all named after cartoon characters. Bitzen from Shaun the Sheep, Max from Big Hero 6 and of course Nala from Lion King.
The pack was formed and the adventures were loading. At first, we let the dogs roam free without much mishap. They’d escape to the dam for a mid-day swim on hot days, or strut along the river and chase weasels for hours on end. Sometimes the adventure just entailed chasing my poor chickens all day or chasing a rabbit into its rabbit hole then spending a whole day digging it out. Other times, they would visit my neighbors, scare their dogs away then have a siesta under a tree and assert their command of the territory. Then I got spooked. What if they left and hunted down a neighbor’s goat or sheep? So I locked them up for a while as I planned to fence off the homestead. Which I did. Thoroughly! With barbed wire reinforced with chain link fencing, buried in cement. I had such confidence in the fence I asked that the dogs be let lose to roam the homestead unhindered.
For a couple of nights, all was well. Then they escaped! I could not believe what they had managed to do. They chewed their way through the chain link and parted it just enough to escape. In their absence I called the vet to ask if we can place location chips in my dogs. I was worried sick. He laughed it off and told me they’d show up sooner than later. They did. They strolled back home three days later, haggard, tired and extremely thirsty, looking like teenagers back from a drug fueled ill advised three day party! I got busy the next day reinforcing the fence and even had a second chain link layer installed.
Couple more nights? Escape! What happened? Same trick, different spot. Ring leader? Nala! So I got the fence reinforced again. This time, I was sure they would not escape. It took roughly 7 days before Nala figured that the fence around the cattle kraal was not reinforced. So, during the day, she spent time creating a lovely escape hatch. Max and Bitzen let her do all the thinking and planning while they slept off their day.
And then, they escaped! The farm manager had now learnt their behavior. He had been watching them and knew something was up. He was right! He managed to get them back home before they had chased any dogs from their homesteads or chased any rabbits down their burrows.
That part of the fence was reinforced too and there was peace for a couple of weeks. Until Nala figured out how to open a dead bolt! Was it really a dog I had on my farm? My dear Farm Manager caught her in the act of opening the deadbolt at one of the homestead gates to stage her net escape. Unbeloievable!
Now we live in a state of constant alert! My farm manager recently told me the dogs have the intellect of some humans. He now speaks to them and begs them not to escape! Lunacy? Maybe. But I’ve been on a farm long enough to know that all creatures have personalities and when you speak, they do hear you. Even though they may never talk back!