It all happened very quickly.
Tweetsie’s been gone for a few days and this afternoon she texted me that she wanted to see some updated photos of our young chicks. So after finishing a task, I grabbed my iPhone and headed for the chicken pen, followed by Gerret and Maggie. Irene was off on her own somewhere.
As I approached I saw a squirrel inside the pen chowing down on the chicken food. Happens all day everyday. Not much I can do about it.
As per normal, the squirrel saw me and immediately bolted, but apparently his lizard brain took over and he was making all the wrong decisions. Our chicken pen consists of 2”x4” woven wire which is plenty of space for a squirrel to slip through. But because we have young chicks in the pen right now that are equally capable of slipping through the wire, we’ve put up a two-foot-high piece of plastic netting around the bottom of the pen to keep the chicks in.
So the squirrel, seeing me coming with two dogs in tow, bolts, but he’s on the ground and he bolts right into the netting. So he turns and runs the opposite direction and also bolts into the netting.
Now The Gerret and Maggie have been here for four years and they long ago realized the futility of trying to catch squirrels and are generally blind to their existence. (Whereas Irene, being relatively new, chases squirrels like a greyhound after a mechanical squirrel. She also chases frogs and various bugs.)
In this particular instance the dogs perceive that this particular squirrel is at a disadvantage and perhaps a bit panicked. Their dog-hunting instinct kicks in. They rush to the coop and circle, racing back and forth to block every effort by the squirrel to escape.
Now to be honest, if I had thought the squirrel was actually in any danger whatsoever, I would have put a halt to it. But since around here the squirrels ALWAYS win, I thought it might be a learning experience for this particular squirrel, to have to suffer just a bit of anxiety before he inevitably climbed up the fence, went over the top and skipped over to the 80-foot poplar, from whence he would cackle insults to the dogs and climb up into the tall branches the way squirrels do.
But this particular squirrel made the wrong choice. Instead of going up, he went down. He found a loose spot at the bottom of the fence and decided to scoot under it. I was standing right there. He was squirrel fast, but still, when you have to flatten out and pull yourself under a barrier, it slows you down.
And so it happened. Before I could even start to analyze the situation, it was over. The brief loss of momentum in getting under the fence cost the squirrel his life. Maggie rushed to intercept, grabbed the squirrel in her mouth and did that primal death-snap head twist thing that dogs do to victims and toys.
And typical of domestic dogs, having killed, they’re no longer interested. The Gerret ran over to offer assistance, but when he realized that Maggie had handled this on her own, they both wandered away leaving the corpse, like turds in a dog park, for the human to deal with.
Attracted by the commotion, Irene has now arrived on the scene.
To my knowledge Irene has not yet had a close encounter of the third kind with a squirrel. She has chased them with abandon, but not with success. She has several squeaky toys that approximate a squirrel and that she kills on a daily basis and then buries in the guest bedroom, but they never stop squeaking.
So Irene sees the dead squirrel.
Like anything else Irene sees that she thinks The Gerret or Maggie might have the slightest interest in, Irene takes immediate ownership. She grabs the corpse like one of her stuffed toys and dares anyone else to try to take it.
She shakes it, much like Maggie did, but with a lack of conviction, like this was just another toy. Then she chomps on it, trying to make it squeak. No luck.
She heads for the dog door into the house, where, I realize, she’s planning to bury the dead squirrel in the guest bedroom. I dissuade her of that idea even as I’m unable to separate her from the corpse.
She runs off as I head back down to my office. This strikes a chord for Irene since my office is the second best place to bury toys.
When I won’t let her come in the office with the dead squirrel in her mouth, she retreats. She backs a few yards away from the door and sets the squirrel down. She nuzzles it and sniffs it and seems generally confused since she’s always been allowed to bring her dog toys into the office.
I approach her (see the photo at the top) as she stands guard over the dead squirrel. I’m surprised to note that while she sits passively next to the squirrel corpse, she’s shivering like she’s really frightened. I used the opportunity to remove the squirrel from the playing field and pet Irene to relieve her discomfort, but I’m really at a loss to explain her behavior. What’s she scared of? That the squirrel is dead? That she can’t bring it into the office? That she broke the squeaky thing inside? That Gerret and Maggie show no interest whatsoever? That I show unusual interest in a dog toy?
I don’t know.
End of story.
. . .
So are there lessons to be learned? Certainly.
For the squirrel, it’s obviously a cautionary tale about making a recklessly aggressive move without a carefully thought-out exit strategy.
For Irene, she has to come to grips with the difference between an Xbox Squirrel Simulator and a potential felony.
And me? I’ve got to realize that having the ability to take a picture with my cell phone and instantly message it to someone 3000 miles away can result in significant collateral damage, the blame for which I’m not immune.
As for The Gerret and Maggie, they’re all like, “Hey, we’re dogs. That’s how we roll.”