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The hunter and the hunted

We have a family of squirrels that have taken up residence in the trees down the driveway from the house.

They run around from tree to tree doing their squirrel thing, not really bothering anybody. They stay out of the bird feeders, since two dogs are guarding them, and are rather entertaining to watch.

Coty, the lab, stays outside, generally sleeping on the hill under the bird feeders or in front of the house where he can observe his domain. If a squirrel comes too close, he will get up, wander toward it, and it will scamper away. He can return to his resting place, confident he has done his job.

Dulce, the poodle, on the other hand, lives inside and can only protect the farm from squirrels when she is let out. She takes protecting us from squirrels much more seriously than does Coty. If she looks out the window and sees a squirrel on the fence, she wants out NOW. Coty is confident it is not close enough to present any imminent danger, but Dulce knows any squirrel that can be seen needs to be chased, caught if possible, and eaten for one's trouble.

When Dulce causes enough of a ruckus, either my wife or I will give in and let her go chase the squirrel. She knows Coty is not doing a good enough job if a squirrel has breached the perimeter.

When the door is opened enough for her to squeeze out, she is off like a shot, in hot pursuit. Coty always wakes up when the door opens, in case someone is putting out food. If Dulce is off like a flash, Coty is right behind her. He is not sure what he is chasing nor why, but if Dulce ever needed a good backup, Coty is the man.

The squirrel is then treed and Coty goes back to resting in front of the back door. Dulce usually stays on tree until we make her come back inside. It is only then a treed squirrel can make a run for the out of bounds trees. Few have tried to make the break for another tree while Dulce has been on guard. To my knowledge, of those that have tried, none have been successful.

The other morning, before six, Dulce wanted out in the worst way. It was pouring down rain. We have our usual routine and this was not it. I get up at six, get a cup of coffee, and we go outside. If it is raining, she would prefer to not go out at all until the call of nature has reached emergency proportions.

This morning, she dashed out into the rain and ran to the bottom of the pear tree. She sat there, blinking as rain hit her in the face. I went in for my coffee and she was still staring into the tree top when I returned. I made her come inside when I left for work, but she insisted my wife let her out shortly thereafter. With few forced breaks, she spent most of the day, in the rain, watching the intruder. Occasionally a ripening pear would fall from the tree. Dulce would pounce on it, sure it was an escaping squirrel. When I got home from work that evening, I was surprised to see a soggy dog still protecting the homestead from a soggy squirrel, still in the pear tree.

Since squirrel season has opened here, I thought about making Dulce's squirrel the first of the season, but soon had second thoughts. Dulce was very proud of herself for protecting us. The squirrel seemed to be having a fairly good time seeing how wet a house dog could get while he spent the day eating pears.

I left the squirrel alone and made Dulce come inside for the evening, despite her protestations. The hunter and the hunted can have a go at it another day.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.