I know it’s almost summer, but spring must still be in the air. Lately on our morning walks, we see at least 6 little baby squirrels sitting having their breakfast in one little spot. They wait until Phoebe is almost on top of them before they scatter. I’m not sure if they aren’t very bright or if they’re taunting her. Probably both. Either way, this is the highlight of Phoebe’s walk. Squirrels and her feeble attempt at chasing them when she’s connected to a harness and a leash.
When a bunch of squirrels are together in one spot they are called a “scurry” of squirrels. When this scurry of squirrels sees a dog, that is exactly what they do.I think that the connection between dogs and squirrels is mostly fun. The squirrels tease, the dogs chase, and many times when the squirrel lets the dog get close, the dog stops. The fun is in the chase, but most dogs do not really want to catch; unless, of course, your dog happens to be a hound.
We’ve owned two of them. The current one, Phoebe, and her long ago predecessor and our families all time favorite dog, Ralph. Phoebe is a Yellow Lab and Treeing Walker Coonhound mix. Ralph was a German Shepherd and Beagle mix. Ralph had just enough Shepherd in him to make him very smart and just enough Beagle to lose every ounce of that smartness when he picked up a scent. And so it goes.
Cliff was going to take Ralph for a walk. Rachel, 8 years old at the time (She’s younger in this picture, but that is the same jacket.) and extremely small for her age, wanted to go, too. It was fall in NJ and Rach was wearing her oriental style, puffy little red silk jacket with frog buttons and the cuffs rolled up so she could use her hands. She looked adorable. She came to me and said, “Guess what, Mommy? Daddy says I can hold Ralph’s leash!” She was very excited. I was not. “Remember Rach, you have to hold onto Ralph’s leash tightly and you can’t let go.” I told Cliff I didn’t think this was a good idea. Cliff thought it would be fine and therein lies the difference between fathers and mothers. Off they went. Rach holding tightly to Ralph’s leash with her Daddy right beside her.
At the time, Ralph was a middle-aged, gentle soul. He enjoyed his people and food and sleeping and food and the occasional ‘maniac run’, but his puppy years were behind him. He did not chase cars or pay attention to other dogs, so I had no reason to think that anything could go wrong unless…and you’ve probably guessed.
About twenty minutes later they returned. Cliff was smiling. Ralph was winded. Rachel was still holding tightly to Ralph’s leash and was covered in mud from the neck down. I didn’t have to ask what happened. I knew. Rachel was both happy and excited as she proudly announced, “Ralph saw a SQUIRREL! But, I didn’t let go, Mommy!” In spite of the “what could have been” scenarios that were playing through my mind, I was proud of her, too. The one time I would have been happy for her disobedience, but still, she listened to her Mommy. She did NOT let go.
It all happened in a flash. Ralph saw a squirrel and took off across the yard. Knowing she couldn’t let go, Rach was dragged through the neighbor’s yard, both arms stretched over her head, holding onto Ralph’s leash for all she was worth, and calmly chanting to herself, “Don’t let go, don’t let go…” Cliff was running as fast as he could trying to catch Rachel. The squirrel must have ‘scurried’ up a tree, because Ralph finally stopped and they came home. Fortunately, mostly intact.
Ralph had a good chase, Cliff had a good run , Rachel listened to her Mommy, and I found out that her little jacket, which must not have been real silk, was easily cleaned in the washing machine. A fun time for all and really not that big a deal!