Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Three: "Puppy Troubles" Part 6

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

To put it bluntly, Blitz was psycho for bunnies. I'm not sure if she considered them something like hopping cats, or if she just liked them for their own set of circumstances, but she was crazy for rabbits.
Upon first seeing a bunny, she'd immediately freeze, akin to what she'd ultimately do when pointing birds when we were hunting. The rabbit responded similarly, as is their nature. So there'd we sit, dog eyeballing rabbit and vice versa. Ultimately someone would make a move, and then the game would be on. If Blitz happened to be on a lead at the time, it would require all strength one could muster to keep her under control and prevent her from choking on her own collar. If Blitz happened to be free, well that would be another adventure all together. The rabbit would immediately drop its speed into the highest gear possible, with the dog gamely keeping pace. Ultimately both would accelerate outside of view, with the dog eventually coming back empty-handed but happy as could be.

I always felt OK about the chase, as heck, this was a rabbit, right? She's a dog. There's no way she's going to run down and catch a rabbit. The speed differential made it impossible.

Uh, wrong.

Upon waking one morning and letting Blitz out to take care of business, she immediately got on the path of a running rabbit in the back yard. I stood there and watched, thinking this would be another futile bunny-chase, but respecting the effort. It was kind of like rooting for Charlie Brown to finally kick that football.

The two ultimately went out of view, and within seconds Blitz was returning, but this time she was carrying something in her mouth. I stood there, mouth agape, as my dog was coming back to me with a full grown and very alive rabbit in her mouth. I wondered aloud "What the hell am I going to do now?"

In the quiet early morning, the sounds really stood out, and the rabbit was voicing its displeasure about its predicament. At about 15 yards from me the rabbit must have pushed the panic button and decided to bite, as Blitz let out a muffled "yipe." Unfortunately for the rabbit, the "yipe" was immediately followed by a noticeable "crunch."

Hunting dogs are bred and trained to have "soft mouths;" to carry their game lightly back to the handler so that their canine teeth wouldn't tear or otherwise damage the meat of the retrieved game. Even with no training, Blitz always had a soft mouth (to which at least one robin can attest), but clearly the game got changed once the quarry started biting.

Though her life Blitz ran down about a dozen rabbits, and gave full chase to dozens more. She became quite adept at their capture, much to some gardeners' delight, and to horror of the more uninitiated. For example, upon moving to our new house, my wife was meeting the nice neighbor lady for the first time in our back yard whereupon up trotted Blitz with a bunny in her mouth. It made for a memorable first impression.

Blitz's last bad habit during "walkies" was her desire to chase cars. It was not every car; in fact she responded to very few cars. But every once and a while there would be something particular about the car or truck going past her that made her take off after it.

As I always had her on a lead when walking near vehicles, and since a dog that chases cars typically doesn't live to see a ripe, old age, I'd use these episodes to really correct her. I'd shout a massive "NO!" and would pull back on her lead, often pulling her off the ground doing so.

Despite these corrections, there would always be the random vehicle that set her off. I tried to ascertain what the common theme was that set her off - car vs. truck, music vs. quiet, windows down vs. up, etc. but never found a common theme. I felt it likely had something to do with sound, but I could never get a handle on what it ultimately was.

Hence, whenever there was a new situation that resulted in a new sound (e.g. construction equipment, garbage truck, etc.), I would prepare myself by gripping more tightly on the lead lest the yellow dog make a bolt for the offending vehicle.

One particular foggy morning put us to a test. We were out for our morning walk at 4:00 AM in the darkness, and the humidity and stillness of the morning conspired to create an incredibly thick fog.

As Blitz and I turned onto the main street, I heard the sound of a police siren turning on a couple of hundred yards away from us. Soon the lights came into view, and it was obvious that the sheriff would be driving right past us.

With the lights reflecting in the thick fog and the sound of the wailing siren, I said to myself, "This should be interesting," tightened my death-grip on the lead, and kept both eyes on the dog. Blitz came to a stop, ears perked, and immediately slammed her butt on the pavement in the sit position. "That's really odd," I thought. "I wonder if the dog thinks she's getting pulled over?"

With me still tight as a loaded spring and with the cop car 20 yards behind us, Blitz points her nose straight to the heavens a lets out this resounding "AAAAAAWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" that would have made Warren Zevon proud.

Up to this point, she'd never howled. She never did since. But for some reason that cop car, lights, sirens, and fog all conspired to push a button for her inner wolf to come out, and it immediately rendered me laughing uncontrollably.

I often wonder what that sheriff thought, driving at 4:00 in the morning to an emergency call, when suddenly out of the fog come this yellow labrador howling to the moon and her owner doubled over in laughter.

To go to the next chapter, click here

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