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Hit the road, Jack

Owner: Leanne Davis from Bray, Co Wicklow

Animal: Jack, her 14-year-old terrier

Background: Jack is an escape artist

Leanne rescued Jack as a young animal from the Wicklow SPCA sanctuary. He's a classic terrier, full of mischief and liveliness. Even in his old age, he's showing no sign of slowing down.

He has been a faithful, friendly pet, and there's only one problem: he's an escape artist. He's taken for a decent walk every day, but that hasn't stopped him trying to wander off on his own. Leanne and her family have to keep a careful watch on him to prevent him from getting away.

Leanne's home has been well dog-proofed, but Jack still sometimes finds a way out. When he's in the back garden, there's a seven-foot wooden perimeter fence, and that's enough to keep him in. The problem is that if the side gate is ever left open, he nips through it, escaping into the front driveway.

Even then, you'd think he'd be secure: the driveway is enclosed by a gate and a six-foot wall. If Jack goes up to the wall and looks up at it, it seems obvious that it's much too high for him to get over. This is where the combination of Jack's intelligence, determination and physical ability comes in.

He has learned that if he rushes at the wall at full tilt, he can gather enough momentum to reach the rim of the wall with his two front paws. Once he's got a grip, he's able to scrabble with his back feet, dragging his body to the top of the wall. Then he's away, leaping down the other side and off into the local housing estate for a ramble.

Once he's gone, he might come back in an hour, or he could be gone for five hours. Leanne's family worry about him: dogs are not meant to be out on their own and they realise that they're responsible for his actions. On two occasions, he has come back with injuries.

A few years ago, he ran onto a stick when he was out, causing a nasty wound to his throat that required intensive treatment. And just last week he escaped again, coming back with a laceration below his right eye. He could have been hit by a car, or perhaps he was in a dog fight. Whatever happened, it would have been avoided if only he'd stayed at home.


Everyone now knows that the side gate has to be kept shut, but Jack's always looking for a chance to escape. He has learned how to open doors, by jumping up and pressing the handle. If he's in the house, people need to remember to lock the front door with a key, or Jack will go up to it, open it himself and head out.

Why does Jack do this? Male dogs are driven by the male hormone, testosterone, to wander, looking for female dogs. Jack was never neutered, something which Leanne now regrets.

Leanne has recently taken on another dog: a German shepherd called Max. He's just a year old and he hasn't yet learned Jack's trick.

It may be too late to change Jack's habits, but Leanne's determined that Max won't pick them up. Max has been booked in for neutering: without testosterone coursing through his veins, he's far less likely to want to join Jack in his wandering ways.