One day Ellen’s teacher at school said that each student could make a birdhouse. Ellen thought that was a great idea, but she didn’t know how to make a birdhouse. The teacher explained that there are many different ways to make a birdhouse and that everyone’s house can look a little different. The teacher also said that birdhouses can be made using old pieces of wood lying around the yard. She then asked students to bring old boards or wood scraps if their parents said it was okay.
After school that day Ellen asked her father and mother if there was any old wood lying around that she could take to school for the birdhouses. Her dad showed her where there was enough old wood for herself and several friends. He even cut some of the longer pieces so that she could carry them more easily to school. A shop teacher at school helped Ellen’s classroom teacher cut the wood into the shapes and sizes they would need to build the houses. Putting the houses together with glue, hammer, and nails was not easy, but with some help from the teacher, Ellen was able to finish hers in a few days.
When she brought it home, her parents said it looked good, but no one could agree on where to put it. Father thought it should hang in the apple tree. Mother thought it should be nailed to the fence. Ellen thought it should be placed outside her window where she could see the birds that would live in it. Her brother thought she should put it out in the woods away from the house. To settle the matter, Ellen decided to let Wire Dog choose the spot for the birdhouse. So, with the birdhouse in her hand, Ellen and her dog walked around the yard together. “What about this place?” she asked, as she held the birdhouse up by her window. Wire Dog sat on his haunches, tilted his head to one side and stared, as if he was thinking about it. So, Ellen took it back down and walked to the apple tree.
“What about this spot?” she asked, as she stood under the tree and held the birdhouse as high as she could toward a branch. Wire Dog just stared again with a puzzled expression; then turned his head toward the back fence. “Oh, is that where you think it should go?” said Ellen and she started walking toward the fence.
Wire Dog saw that Ellen was headed toward the back fence and immediately thought she was going for a walk in the woods, so he ran to the gate and barked. Ellen was surprised and said, “I thought you meant the fence. Don’t tell me you think we should put the birdhouse in the woods!”
Wire Dog didn’t understand a lot of human words, but he did understand the word, “woods,” and when he heard Ellen say that, he barked again. Ellen thought he wanted her to put the birdhouse somewhere out in the woods. Wire Dog thought Ellen wanted to go for a run in the woods. So, when Ellen opened the gate, out he ran. Wire Dog would run out ahead for a way, sniff around and then run back so that Ellen could catch up to him. When they reached the woods, Ellen saw lots of good places where her birdhouse could be placed, but each time she held it up and asked if this was a good place, Wire Dog would just stare at her holding the birdhouse with the same puzzled look and then he would run off again sniffing and wandering around among the trees and bushes.
Suddenly, Wire Dog saw a squirrel run up a tree. He quickly looked back at Ellen to see if she saw the squirrel too. She obviously had not because she was just walking along looking more at the birdhouse in her hands than where she was going. Wire Dog barked two times and looked up the tree again so that Ellen would be sure to see the squirrel. She looked up the tree but must not have seen the squirrel because she looked back at Wire Dog and said, “So, that is where you think we should put the birdhouse? Why would you choose that tree? It doesn’t have many low branches and it will be really hard for me to climb. There are so many other trees around here that would be easier. But I said you could choose the place, so this is where the birdhouse will go.”
Climbing the tree and hanging the birdhouse was not easy, but Ellen finally made it. While she was bending the wire and fastening it to a branch Wire Dog barked a few more times to let Ellen know that the squirrel had gone to another tree. Ellen thought his barks indicated that he really liked that spot. Ellen called down, “well, I hope you’re happy because this is not an easy tree.” Wire Dog barked again and Ellen smiled at him as she finished hanging the birdhouse.
As they walked home together, Ellen thought about why Wire Dog would chose a tree that was so hard to climb. She thought he probably wanted the little house to be in a place where the birds would feel safe; and where it would not be easy for people or animals to disturb it. “What a smart dog,” she thought, as she patted him on the head. Wire Dog just smiled and trotted along beside her.