Saturday, July 31, 2004

That Morning Jolt

Some people wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. My mornings usually consist of pulling a dead thing out of the mouth of one of my dogs.

This morning (like many mornings) an unfortunate decision was made by a woodland creature to come into my heavily guarded, overly fenced in yard. I don't know how they get in, or why they get in. I would think that after so many have died in the fortress, they would have erected some type of sign, or smell that said "you will die if you go in here". This time it was a fledgling bird, too young to realize its mistake until it was too late.

As always, the three of them (Nova is 15 and retired from killing), gathered like the hungry, slathering pack they become when something potentially tasty and fun enters the yard. I've stopped trying to save these creatures, it's useless. At one point (before I knew better) I would run behind the dogs as they chased the terrified creature, trying to stop the carnage before it happened. They are all much quicker, and more determined than I, so now I merely stand in one spot (trying not to get run over in the zeal of the chase), and wait for the inevitable, kinda rooting for the hunted to find an escape route, knowing what will eventually happen. Squirrels know the sound of the door opening and run for the trees, birds float away quickly as the dogs come running out. Fledgling bird season brings a lot of carnage though, and it's that time of the year.

Loki lunges into the barrier that is piled against the gate to keep them contained and then quickly runs away gleefully while the others investigate the barrier area. They don't realize that he's found the prey, and now he's trying to swallow it before I get to him.

I have them somewhat trained to spit out stuff they shouldn't have. "Trade up" means they get something even tastier than what they have, but what could be more tastier than a dead thing? The answer to that question is goldfish crackers, but as usual, not only do I not have enough time to grab the bag of goldfish crackers kept by the back door for this reason, nor put on the rubber gloves I bought to keep my flesh from touching the still warm, sometimes still quivering dead, or mortally wounded thing they've caught.

I'm glad it's Loki that has the bird, as Sam runs and chews. Meeshka usually spits out, but she spits out before I'm standing there, and then Sam steals it and runs and chews. Loki is a good boy, he stands and chews, and allows me to grab him by the scruff, pry his jaws open (with promises of a trade up) and pull the dead baby bird out of his mouth by the leg... ick. I deposit it over the fence, in the same spot that all dead or dying things go. I imagine the pile of bones to be growing, or that cats are lining up there waiting for the next dead treat to be tossed over.

I'm sure the neighbors love our attempts at retrieving the dead things. One morning at 5 a.m., successful in bagging a squirrel, we chased Sam around the yard screaming "DROP IT, TRADE UP", as he tried to swallow the adult squirrel whole, the other dogs chasing him like a ghoulish version of keep away.

One afternoon, a young bunny ventured into the yard through a tiny little opening in the fence. The chase was on, and I just stood out of the way, awed by the pack as they plotted, planned, and schemed how to get the running toy. It was actually quite beautiful to watch them synchronizing the chase, who would do what, all in the 10 seconds it lasted. As the group converged into the corner, I was sure I'd hear the death scream, and have to start the task of retrieving it, but amazingly enough the bunny shot out of the pile of dogs and squeezed through the crack in the fence to safety. I was amazed, the dogs were pissed.

As with all prey, they return to the original scene of the crime, expecting to find more birds, as if the barrier were a bird dispenser. After a few times out, they'll forget about the goody they found there, and continue stalking other creatures that happen to venture into the yard.

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