Rocky goes down

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One of the pleasures of owning a dog is taking her for walks at Astoria Park during the morning off-leash hours. Ella loves to chase squirrels, so much so that Laura and I have to call them "rockies" when we talk. If Ella hears the word "squirrel," she instantly goes on high-alert.

Ella has never caught a squirrel, though she comes close sometimes. She is usually startled to round a tree up which her quarry has run and not find the squirrel behind it. Only rarely does she look up and realize that the squirrel is now above her, taunting her. (Yes, Shaun of the Dead fans, dogs can look up.)

Yesterday morning, Ella and I took a long early walk. The squirrel chasing was great. She came close to catching a black squirrel that passed up two perfectly good trees on its run. Are the black squirrels dumber? I'm not sure.

Anyway, after a long circuit of the park, Ella and I neared the infamous Charybdis Playground. I saw a dog we know named Sultan, a large furry black dog, part chow, I think, up ahead near the playground wall. Sultan was sniffing around near the base of the wall behind a tree, maybe pawing at something.

When we were about ten feet from Sultan, he suddenly turned around, shaking his head hard. A struggling squirrel was clamped in his jaws. The squirrel was shrieking. It was a godawful sound, and there's really no other word for it.

Sultan's owner came rushing up, yelling for the dog to drop the squirrel. Sultan did, and the squirrel flopped into the grass on its back, one hind leg twitching. While the owner hustled Sultan away from the site of the struggle, I started looking around for something I could use to put the squirrel out of its misery—a stout branch, maybe. But before I found anything, the leg stopped twitching.

As Ella and I left the scene, I heard a strangely plaintive chirping sound. I looked up. In a high branch of a nearby tree, two squirrels were huddled together. One of them was turning its head this way and that, making the sound. It was the second time in less than a minute that I'd heard a squirrel making an unfamiliar sound. I'm sure it was calling to the dead squirrel, or maybe just bleating in terror.

Squirrel chasing had lost its appeal for me, if not for Ella. I hope she never catches one.

[ original post:  http://shunn.livejournal.com/401907.html ]

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on May 17, 2007 2:01 PM.

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