Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting In Touch With Your Inner Wolf

Location: Holly, MI (mail your holiday cards here!)

Everyone, meet Bob The Dog.

Bob is one-half of the Bob and Milo Show, Bob being the large, German Shepherd/Huskie mix and Milo being the small, black, wiry terrier mix. Collectively they own two humans, Peachie and Jim, with whom I have stayed during the past week.

Milo is the smart, clever one, and Bob is the laid back, rub-my-tummy one. Milo energetically barks at pretty much anything that moves; Bob ponders. Milo shreds his chew toy just because he can; Bob waits patiently for the milk bone "cookie". Bob even eats lying down, the bowl between his front paws. When Milo escapes through an open door he proceeds to explore for miles; when Bob escapes through a hole under the fence, he immediately reverses course and crawls back to the safety of the back yard. Milo is old and feisty; Bob is young and thinks he is small enough to fit on your lap during petting time. He isn't.

One afternoon Jim and I took "The Boys" on a hike in the woods. Because of his propensity to wander (and not stop), Milo had to stay on the leash, but Bob could be trusted to explore a bit and come back, which he did with a grinning, doggy joy. He ran down the path and ran back. He ran into the brush, barked at a stump, and ran back. He marked a tree here and there, and followed the scent of some squirrel or skunk that had come that way earlier in the day. He ran and jumped and cavorted. It was a beautiful summer day -- the sun was hot, but the woods were shady and cool. Bob was in his element. Milo trotted along attached to Jim, marking trees here and there, and being a "good dog."

Then we heard ferocious noises coming from the brush to the left! Through the branches, Bob could be seen barking and circling something close to the ground. The first thought was that he had cornered a squirrel or chipmunk, but the smaller animal was putting up a fight instead of escaping up a tree. As we got closer, we saw Bob furiously shaking a gray furry mass. As we looked more closely, we saw it was a groundhog. The fight was on.

Bob dropped the groundhog, who reared up, teeth bared, and fought back. Bob would lunge, the groundhog would snap. Bob would get him around the torso and shake over and over. The groundhog never gave up. Bob didn't either. Bob's attention was fixated on his foe -- we called his name repeatedly to get him to back off, but he wasn't hearing or seeing anything but that groundhog. The undergrowth prevented us from getting close to the battle, which was good -- I'm sure one or both of us would have been injured if we had tried to intervene. Periodically the two combatants would take a break, both panting and almost totally worn out. They stood there warily, breathing quickly and heavily. Then they began slowly circling, and the battle began again with much biting, snarling, and snapping.

I would like to be able to report the fate of the groundhog, but the brush prevented us from seeing the end of the conflict. Bob finally emerged from the thicket, blood on his fur and almost totally exhausted. As he lay there panting, we checked him for wounds and found none. I'm guessing that the groundhog was not so lucky.

Bob soon abandoned his surprising role as The Great Groundhog Fighter and returned to being Bob the Dog. He picked up his previous hiking routine as if nothing had happened: trotting here and there down the path, watering trees and bushes that caught his eye, and generally enjoying the sun, the woods, and an occasional mud bath in a dried up pond. But late that night, as he lay sprawled out fast asleep on the bed, he was barking and yipping enthusiastically as he chased down those Demon Groundhogs From Hell -- dreaming of the day's combat and his Excellent Wolf Adventure.

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