In the past year Debbie has managed to terminate three squirrels. Seemingly she has perfected the art. Keep in mind she is contained in a small fenced yard (city lot). But somehow she is able to commandeer both stealth and momentum.
The first time she killed I happen to glance out of the window. Something about the toy hanging from her mouth appeared unusual and unfamiliar. I looked closer. Slowly my confusion evolved into horror. Crap! This meant that I would have to go outside and handle a freshly killed squirrel. My thoughts fled back to Ezra, the baby squirrel I kept in a large bird cage until it was mature enough to be released.
When I approached her I could see Debbie was not about to give up the squirrel. She gently set its limp carcass down on the ground in front of her and met my gaze with sheer unwavering determination. As I got closer she growled. This is a dog I can take food from out of her mouth with my hand if I have to. I was a little thrown but the fact the she growled at me meant she was goin’ down.
I shamed Debbie with my lowest and most sternest voice. The voice no dog of mine likes to hear. It is a technique I have honed over the years and refer to simply as , Shaming. I literally say “shame on you”, low, deep and menacing. Then I abbreviate the phrase to a simple “shame”. I repeat as necessary to make my point.
Depending on the offense shaming can last anywhere from five minutes to a few hours. When the dog, or dogs if it was a joint endeavor, even dare to look at me I meet their gaze (to which their immediate response should be to look away with their ears back) and simply say, “shame”, and turn away. Nothing they do will result in my looking at them in an un-shameful manner or under any circumstances touch them.
Above all else our dogs want to be in our good graces. I have found withholding affection and attention to be a very effective behavior modification tool.
I know for many squirrels are rats (“with cuter outfits”- a la Carrie Bradshaw), but I like them. I love watching their busy-ness and the joy they seem to take in their own agility.
I am not a squeamish woman but picking up a warm squirrel corpse was not a perfunctory task for me. The blue surgical gloves I adorned before heading out into the yard did nothing to disguise the feel of the little lifeless body in my hand. I could only look at Debbie with disgust.
That night on our walk we buried a beautiful bead shaped like a leaf beneath a Spruce on the parkway. Debbie’s gift to right the balance of the universe.
The second kill was not so simple.
A few months after the first incident I looked out the window to see Debbie hightailing it gleefully to the backyard. Again with something unusual in her mouth. I ran outside. This time it was a twitching traumatized squirrel hanging from her mouth. OMG! I had to literally scream at her to drop it and walk away. And again she was growling but this time more aggressively. I was still able to get her to submit. However, this time I had a bigger problem. I had an animal destined to die but was not dead and it was suffering.
I knew that I had to do the humane thing and finish what Debbie had started. I got a shovel from the garage and after what felt like forever I was able to garner the courage to put the creature out of its misery. I know it was the right thing to do. I couldn’t even look at Debbie.
I guess we do not always realize that our cute funny furry babies are animals. It is perfectly reasonable for them to hunt and sometimes, if they are so lucky, hunt successfully. I imagine it was very confusing for Debbie to experience my reaction to what for her is simply in her DNA to do.
What is interesting is that our domesticated beasts, while they have the urge to chase and kill, do not know what to do with what they kill. There is a fascinating book written by Temple Grandin titled Animals in Translation in which she discusses this in greater detail. Rarely, if ever, do you see a dog actually eat what it kills. And that is because to eat the kill is taught by the wolf pack when in the wild. Check that book out. I highly recommend it.
Well this weekend Debbie struck again. I was in the bathtub this time.
I heard a strange bark. I knew it was Debbie. To me it sounded like the neighbor kid may be taunting her again through the fence (don’ even get me started). I hopped out of the tub and banged on the window to Brit. I asked if he would go to the front yard and see what was going on. In the meantime I wrapped myself in a robe and ran to the front window. And there she was guarding a dead squirrel from Madeline.
This time Brit took care of the corpse. Of course I wanted him to be absolutely certain it was dead. Thankfully it was.
And this time I did not shame Debbie. I am resigned to deal with this not so pleasant side effect to our relationship. “I will not kiss you”, I tell her. She doesn’t care. She just wants to know why these damn humans keep taking her kills.
In the meantime, does anyone know a good squirrel deterrent? Debbie’s obviously got this thing down.
Filed under: Observations & Reflection