A Dog and A Squirrel

I watched a squirrel make a spectacle of itself yesterday,

We dropped Al off at nursery, Macaulay the dog and I. and then we returned home and I donned my bag lady outfit ready to tramp through the forest. I should have run, but the day was dank, and even walking was a rage against the elements. The quality of cold was deeply unpleasant, much like Uriah Heap. The mist hung ingratiatingly, giving the appearance of Avalon but wringing its hands inappropriately and attempting to caress with the clammiest of fingers.

It was a day for trudging. It takes some talent for a dog to trudge,and perhaps I exaggerate; but it did appear that he slowed his pace, and trod more gingerly on his doggy patrol than usual.

And he completely missed that squirrel until far, far too late.

He had assumed the vacuum position: This is where, while the rest of him is animate, transporting him from patch to patch, his nose and muzzle remain at a 45 degree angle to the leaf mould, sweeping it meticulously for intelligence. But that mist sobered him; the moustache was not as charged as usual.

It was having a similar effect on a small forest squirrel. Perfectly camouflaged, grey against white-grey, it had been pottering around minding its own business, rooting for a few nuts, taking a breath of damp air, when Macaulay and his muzzle loomed up out of nowhere.

Double takes are wonderful in a cartoon, hilarious on the comedy stage, uproarious in a well-timed feature film. But here in the forest was one of the funniest I have even seen.

The squirrel took one look at Mac and, I swear, his hair stood on end. The dog, slow on the uptake, began furiously to press his neurons into action, waking them, giving them little sensory batons to pass on to their colleagues all the way up there in his doggy brain. As I watched his small cerebellum I was conscious of the huge effort it took to begin the process of clocking the squirrel and sending out the signal to charge.

Squirrels have smaller cerebellums. There is less far for their little squirrely synapses to sprint.

It’s all the mitigation I can muster for my dog, who came a sluggish second to the ittle creature’s reaction.

We have huge mendering oaks and beeches and willowy birches here; but we also have stiff-spined Germanic conifers, inflexible humourless straight-trunked freeways to the sky.

Reality slows for some moments, doesn’t it? That moment, for example, between you spilling your coffee and it landing on the expensive keyboard; the split seconds you have to stammer “no-” befre your three year old shuts the front door with himself, and the house keys, marooned alone inside. The descent of the top of the salt container into the stew, before its contents inevitably follow.

The squirrel was not for sticking around. But my mind slowed it progress in the same way.

It turned and launched itself onto the lowest part of the trunk. I heard its tiny claws engaging krampon mode. Somewhere – was it inside my head? – the Mission Impossible theme began to play with gung-ho boy-scout enthusiasm.

And then it shot skywards.

I have never watched a full ascent before, and nor have I listened to one. The tiny grey furry warrior’s claws tapped their way up this towering pine. I thought he would stop, as squirrels are wont to do. Generally they pause above the level of the dog’s head and administer chagrin, indulging in a little professional infuriation, mocking from a perch Macaulay is never destined to reach.

But no. This squirrel was not for turning. On it hurtled, upwards and upwards with such conviction one might think it were on its way to the moon. The dog’s little cerebral relay race had completed its circuit now, and he was their, doing the Alert Pointer Pose. I was right there, Macaulay conned the world. I was on top of it the whole time. I am monitoring this squirrel’s little furry behind.

After an eternity, neatly packaged in a few seconds, the squirrel made a realisation: the tree had come to an end. The moon would have to wait until another day. It screeched to a halt and looked down.

Way down there on the forest floor, there was a dog who looked as alert and charged as he should have a minute before. The squirrel could just make out the triangle ears, the eyes boring into its little squirrely soul.

But Macaulay was vanquished. Squirrelburgers will have to wait for another day.

 

Picture image here

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41 thoughts on “A Dog and A Squirrel

  1. When dogs and squirrel’s get a mention together, it always makes me think of this:

    See you in a little while.

    M xx

  2. Don’t blame Macauley – squirrels are FAST. We have a wooded area in Toby’s favourite park that is full of squirrels. We take him there so he can chase them, secure in the knowledge that he will never actually catch one. It satisfies his terrier instinct while doing no harm.

    Molly, on the other hand, is an eternal trudger. She doesn’t like walks. She doesn’t like wet weather. She doesn’t like hot weather. She doesn’t like…well, you get the picture. She is a terrier in name only. She is, in fact, a cat in a dog’s body.

    1. Do you know, Tilly, that analysis could explain a few dogs I know: a cat in a dog’s body :-D

      You’re right: squirrels are fast. They do make Mac look rather unprofessional though, on a repeated basis….as you say, at least we know the dog will never catch one.

  3. A scene painted so well, my mind’s eye captured it all in color and 3D. Loved the picture of the three year old slowly closing the door as you watch and grope helplessly….too slow.

  4. Delightfully descriptive, Kate. It was, undoubtedly, the dank, dreary day that caused Macaulay to be so narrowly focused as to miss this opportunity for a chase. :)

    The photo transported me back to WA again — one year, when living in those woods I’ve mentioned before, I had a very young squirrel who was a frequent visitor to our front porch, checking to see how many peanuts he could con from me each trip. He learned to be bold enough to take each offering directly from my fingers. Eventually, he grew up and moved to a more distant territory; at least that’s what I chose to believe when he ceased to visit, but I thoroughly enjoyed him for awhile.

  5. I was with that squirrel every inch of the way up that tree, Kate. I just love how you wrote this, each moment captured for what was a quick trip up and out of harm’s warms way. I’ll be recalling your little adventure today as I watch our squirrels scamper about.

  6. There are so many terrific lines in this, I enjoyed it immensely. My favorite line is: “Generally they pause above the level of the dog’s head and administer chagrin, indulging in a little professional infuriation, mocking from a perch Macaulay is never destined to reach.” LOVE it.

  7. Another delightful tale of Mac-life! I dare say, though, squirrels do seem to be able to taunt the dog if not caught by surprise.

  8. Great fun. For all three participants, methinks! For Mac, it is better to have pursued and lost than never to have pursued at all. The squiggle had a huge boost to his ego.

  9. Wonderfully told tale of the competing tails:

    * The quality of cold was deeply unpleasant, much like Uriah Heap. The mist hung ingratiatingly, giving the appearance of Avalon but wringing its hands inappropriately and attempting to caress with the clammiest of fingers.

    * After an eternity, neatly packaged in a few seconds, the squirrel made a realisation: the tree had come to an end. The moon would have to wait until another day. It screeched to a halt and looked down.

    Thanks, Kate!

  10. Grinning here Kate after enjoying such a well-told story!! I could smell the leaf-litter and see Mac’s hairy ears twitching as he gazed skywards.

    The double-take thing is such a joy. Rolls, my springer spaniel was in similar nose-to-ground mode in our local woodland when ambitious low-climbing squirrel found a branch that was too slender for his weight and plopped to the ground right in front of the dog!

    Squirrel lay unconscious, dog looked at it and then looked around at me as though to say “What do I do now?” And while Rolls’ head was turned, squirrel woke up, sat up and fled up the nearest tree. Dog looked back. Squirrel vanished. Dog momentarily mystified. Sniffing resumed.

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