September 27, 2008

Squir— uh, Rodent!

(My thoughts are running a bit on the light side these days. When I get back to Deep Thoughts, you’ll be the first to know.)

The other morning, when I was watching the Rodent of Unusual Size on the neighbor’s lawn, a rodent of normal size came scampering up. We have four kinds of squirrels in our back yard, probably because we have a slew of black walnut trees. Big fox squirrels, gray squirrels, tiny red squirrels and chipmunks enjoy the banquet our trees provide. This year's weather gave us a bumper crop; there are over a thousand of those heavy green tennis-ball things in our yard. (The walnuts are inside.)

This fox squirrel came bouncing onto the lawn with a walnut, looking for a place to bury it.

He found a spot near the groundhog’s burrow. I wonder if he’ll ever find it again.

It has been determined that squirrels have no idea where they’ve buried their nuts. (If you go for this cheap joke setup, I get ten percent.) Apparently they find their buried treasure purely by accident, smelling them out if they get close enough. That’s why we have a tree growing a foot from our mailbox. Oops! Missed that one.

The squirrels are a major source of entertainment and exercise for our dog Sophie. Every time we let her out into the fenced back yard, she runs the perimeter, barking at each spot where she has ever seen a squirrel. First that corner, then the two trees, then the back spot, on around the yard. Sometimes she does the Pepe LePew bounce on all fours, looking for potential victims. Having run her course, then she can get down to business doing her business.

Sophie actually caught one once, briefly. The fox squirrels like to tease her, coming down the trunk to taunt her with chatter and tail-tossing. One got too close to the ground and Sophie lunged. It squealed in her grasp and she let go in surprise. That was enough to encourage her for a lifetime. She investigates every tree, and we have forty trees in the back yard.

We can’t even say the word “squirrel” in her presence; she runs to the back door and barks like crazy. We have to say “rodent” instead. It’s ridiculous, speaking in code around the dog. But she brings a joy to the household that has been wonderful to have, especially this year.

Here’s Sophie, exhausted from her efforts to keep the yard squir rodent-free. (I've been told she looks exactly like the Simpson's dog, Santa's Little Helper.)


Roxrocks said...

We speak in code around our dog too. It's a sickness.

Patrick said...

Every dog that has lived with my parents ends up learning certain words. We had to say 'perambulation' in front of Lilly, or spell w-a-l-k. Sybil couldn't hear 'treat' or 'oops', the latter usually meaning 'food just fell on the floor.' Now that I think about it, Fang doesn't require any spelling or euphemisms. Hm. She's easily the smartest of the three, I wonder if she's just got us all well trained. She's also the only one to have consistently caught squirrels (we mostly have the teasing fox squirrels). I think she's up to 12 at this point. Lilly did manage to catch one once on her walk, and for the rest of her life we had to visit that sight of victory every single day. I think she thought the magic might happen again if we went back there.
Sophie does look a lot like Fang, you're right.

Java said...

I love watching squirrels. I don't mind squirrels at the bird feeders as long as there's some food left for the birds. I do mind the blue jays hogging the feeders, though!

Greg said...

I'm with Java - if the squirrels can co-exist and be sure to leave something for everyone else, I'm okay with that.

Sophie looks all tuckered out - must have been a full squirrel-watchin' day...

tornwordo said...

Aww, sara used to be the consummate squirrel terrorist. But these days she knows they can outrun her. Now we need video of her running around the yard.