The Dog and the Squirrel
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The Dog and the Squirrel
I walked out of the house on my way to work today. There in front of me just outside the open garage was a squirrel. By all appearances, an ordinary squirrel, with a sniffy nose, blinking eyes, and flashing tail. Normally squirrels make a break for the nearest tree, or brace of underbrush. This squirrel, though, seemed to give me a questioning look, a briefest of puzzlement mixed with expectancy on his face before darting away. I knew which squirrel it was in an instant. I turned around and went back inside to tell my wife what had just happened. She stopped her morning routine and after a short bit we both tried to get on with our days.
In her younger days, Kofi the dog would chase after raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, mostly for the sport, never really expecting success, but just on the principle of the matter. Moles and gophers, however, they were fair game, and she would play “Marco Polo” with them as they’d push up dirt in various areas of our front field, and Kofi would dig them out to their ultimate peril. She’d tenderly stalk field mice, too, and then suddenly jump in the air and land on all fours over them, mercifully killing them with a heart-attack by by virtue this big German Shepard dog suddenly landing as if by flight right upon them. While their little mice hearts wind it out in overdrive, their little mice minds say, “well, owls and hawks are bad enough, but if dogs can fly now, what’s the use,” and they flop over on their backs and kick their little mice feet up in the air and give up their little mice ghosts.
But that was an earlier time, when Kofi the dog was younger, more spry, and had energy for that kind of thing. In her later years, she got rather philosophical about the whole thing, and began to let the rodents and smaller denizens of the field and forest enjoy their short little life spans. Besides, the joints were aching a bit, and took no small effort to create that “flying dog” effect which allowed Kofi to kill mice mercifully through massive coronaries instead of the usual “toss, toss, roll on top of” method required otherwise.
And so younger small animals grew up not knowing the terror that was this German Shepard, there were no more chasings up trees or into the underbrush and she became more of a curiosity for passing critters than anything else. A certain squirrel, however, seemed to take on more than a bit of curiosity about the aging dog in her garage dog lair, and also especially about the aging dog’s food. This food was kept in a circular pan with a raised lip and inch or two in height, which was mostly effective for keeping all the round doggie bits inside, but every once in a while a doggie bit would stray from its pan and lay conspicuously separate from the main body of doggie bits.
These wayward bits, the squirrel reasoned, should be fair game for all, as they were no longer inside the prescribed food area. At first the squirrel would steal these bits when the dog was up and about, stuff them in his mouth hurriedly, and scamper quickly away. But over time the dog was up and about less and less frequently. However, the dog was sleeping more and more, and so it was these times after the squirrel was sure the dog was well into a deep sleep that he’d come and do his pilfering.
After a time the squirrel came quite regularly to his thefts. The only problem was waiting for a doggie bit to fall out of the pan in order to snatch it away. On a particularly cold and hungry day, and with no doggie bits outside the pan, the little squirrel gave his delicate tail a shake, and moved closer and closer to the pan, all the while his eyes watching the sleeping dog for movement. Closer and closer, inch by inch, the little squirrel would scurry and stop, scurry and stop, until his sniffy nose raised above the lip of the pan and his blinky eyes beheld piles and piles and piles of doggie bits. With no time to stop and wonder, he grabbed a doggie bit in his little paws, stuffed it into his cheek and scampered as fast as he could out of the garage, listening all the while for the sound of the great big dog chasing after.
Breathless and heart pounding, the little squirrel shook with excitement in the underbrush, crunching on the doggie bit while turning it this way and that in his paws. Curiosity got the better of him, and he stuffed the remainder of the doggie bit in his cheek and headed off back to the garage lair again. There, still lying on a large pillow, was the dog. The squirrel scampered this way and that way, to one side and the other, but the dog did not respond. The squirrel moved in closer when the dog’s eyes opened slightly – the little squirrel froze. A moment hung in time for a short while, and the little squirrel’s heart pounded as he tried furiously not to sniff his sniffy nose, blink his blinky eyes, or flash his flashy tail. Suddenly the garage dog lair exploded with a loud echoing sound and the little squirrel tore off to the opening of the garage lair, this time unmistakably the dog’s eyes following, but no reaction to the loud report that had so frightened the squirrel, his sniffy nose sniffing like crazy, his blinky eyes blinking madly, and his flashy tail flashing wildly.
Weeks and months later, the little squirrel became a regular fixture in the garage dog lair. It mattered not if the dog was away, asleep, or just laying about, the two came to somewhat of an understanding. The squirrel seemed welcome to any amount of doggie bits he wanted, and in turn, the squirrel would alert the dog to anything she couldn’t see. While it was a puzzlement, the squirrel didn’t understand how the dog was getting on in years, and her joints ached just to move, and how her hearing was all but gone. Mobility is everything for a farm dog, and with no hearing, a dog is all but blind. But they helped each other, and found comfort in each other’s company, especially during the cold months, when food was scarce, and the joints ached the worst.
“Honey, I saw a squirrel in the garage today.”
“Oh no. Was it Kofi’s squirrel?”
“Yeah, no mistaking. He-- he gave me this look –“
“You took away the pan, too, I suppose?”
“And the pillow, yes.”
“We did the right thing. She could barely walk, it hurt so—“
“And she could hardly hear, and wasn't eating, I know, but --”
“How do you tell a squirrel his doggie buddy won’t be there anymore?”
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David, David, you're supposed to make me laugh, not cry, this early in the morning. You're getting bad for that! Incredibly moving story. My oldest dog is 13, and she's slowed down so much lately. I'm dreading the day I have to say goodbye. Sorry for your pain.
Oh, I loved this! Our dog, too (a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), loved to catch mice and chase the squirrels until he got heart problems. The squirrels would teaze him and wait to run until he got quite close! While I never saw any squirrels in the garage we had plenty of racoons and stray cats eating the food. :-) I'm sorry about the loss of your dog. I know the decision to put them down is hard.
David, I can relate to your loss, and in a way the squirrels. We know what happened, he/she doesn't. Thanks for sharing
Alright David, I can't tell you the last time I teared up. This is an excellent piece on necessity being a basis for friendship. Pain in the midst of misunderstanding. Having had my own share of dogs over the years that went the way of all mortal flesh, my mind conjured up images of pets I thought I had long since forgotten. Should be widely shared - I know this was your own way of telling us the sad news - but it is too identifiable to leave here. I mean it, mister. Glenn
*snif* No fair adding a tear-jerker ending! Great article!
I was in just the right mood to read this, Dave, for which I am grateful. It made quite an impact on me. I appreciate you sharing this. It really has heart. Great use of description, action and emotion. Thanks for posting it for us.
i can not believe that i am sitting at my desk, with giant tears rolling down my cheeks because i feel badly for a rodent - but there you have it. very well done.
Thanks for posting this, Dave. My GS is 13 and still acts like a puppy! I look at her and know one day soon I'll have to deal with saying goodby.
Kept me reading.
Beautifully written David. Pass it on up the ladder to some printworthy magazine.