My dog, Dini, is the Rabbit Sheriff of the Neighborhood. She loves this job more than Homer Simpson loves doughnuts and beer. It’s like ecstasy in motion. All-consuming passion. With a focus that ordinary, easily distracted, multitasking mortals like myself can only envy. Sometimes in mid-chase she gets so excited she emits little yips of delight. I’ve often wondered if there is anything in life that makes me that happy.
Because of her intense pleasure in this pursuit, we’ve worked out an agreement. She can be off leash, but she has to pretty much stay within sight, and to come when I call. She can run freely through the neighbors’ yards, the park and woods, but when we’ve done our two or three miles and the Master says it’s time to go home, we go. This gives us both the illusion of control.
We did not come to this compromise quickly. She was a stray street dog when she came to live with me, so she was used to a certain amount of freedom. Make that: total independence. To her, I was mainly a source of easy food and occasional amusement.
Walks on a leash were a test of wills and strength, plus near strangulation for her. Especially if there was a small, furry rodent anywhere in the local area code or time zone. When she escaped, which happened often (thus her full name: Houdini), she would take hours to come back.
So she was a handful, not to mention a nightmare for dog-sitters. That is, until I discovered the greatest technological invention in the history of the planet: The Shock Collar. (Also known as the Remote Trainer.)
Now before you send PETA and various law-enforcement agencies to clap me in handcuffs, let me assure you the shock collar does no harm. It simply gives the dog a little buzz, like static electricity, and interrupts their pattern. The shock collar is around the doggie’s neck, and you control it with a remote. If the dog does anything you don’t like, such as digging up your neighbor’s azaleas, chewing your Gucci shoe collection, or driving your car without a license, you simply say, “No!” If that doesn’t work, you hit the button. Buzz administered, pattern interrupted, behavior changed. It’s like magic.
Two 15-minute sessions with this device and presto, new dog. I never even have to use it any more. She does what I tell her and that’s that.
It used to be that when she’d get loose and disappear for hours – or when she’d run the other way when I called – I’d think, If only I could move at the speed of light, she’d realize that escape is futile. Well, with a shock collar, I can now move at the speed of light. Escape IS futile.
So my neighbors are cool with her hunting escapades, because they know she’s not a threat to them or their shrubberies. Also because we have no shortage of garden-destroying rabbits and squirrels grinding everybody’s gardens into cole slaw. (Squirrels, however – according to my dog – cheat. They climb trees. Then they sit up there and taunt her with that stupid squirrel chatter, like the idiots they are.)
So rabbits are by far the preferred prey. And on the rare occasions when she actually catches one, good eating. For her, I mean. Although if the Mayans are right and the world goes to hell, I’m pretty sure she could feed us both.
But all this is merely background for what happened recently. Dini and I were out on patrol. It was twilight, a glorious summer evening, fragrant and mellow. We ambled through the park near the woods, and – as guys in the great outdoors have been doing for as long as there have been guys in the great outdoors – I felt the urge to relieve myself.
Having ascertained the absence of voyeurs in the vicinity, I straddled a patch of God’s green earth and unzipped. I was answering the call of nature, when Dini sniffed a healthy-sized hare about 30 feet away and flushed it out of the brush. Before I could blink or even react, they came careening toward me like Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote on rocket sleds. What flashed through my mind in that split second was an image of me somehow trying to dodge them both while still in mid-flow, and I was concerned about how that might turn out.
But before I could process any of this, the rabbit ran right between my legs at full steam, while I was in full stream. Fortunately for some parts of me that I value, the rodent stayed low to the ground, and Dini, being of slightly higher intelligence, went around.
A few seconds later the rabbit escaped through a hole in a fence, and the Sheriff trotted back to me, tail wagging, proud of herself for having run another outlaw out of town. If she meets that little varmint again, I’m quite sure she’ll recognize it from the distinctive fragrance on its back.
But I can’t help wondering: having acquired such a unique scent, what are the social consequences for this rabbit? Will it have a harder time finding a date this weekend?
Anyway, the main thing is I now feel like I’m probably one of the few guys in the long history of hunter-gatherers who has actually marked a rabbit racing at full throttle.
© 2012 Greg Tamblyn