Billie, the poodle, and I get up about the same time each morning. This time of year, it is still dark outside.

I grab my cup of coffee and go sit on the porch while Billie runs around and does what he needs to do. His routine includes circling the house, checking for deer in the yard and smelling all the scents left by anything that may have passed through his yard at night while he was inside.

Jag, the terrier, sleeps in one of the chairs on the porch where he can watch the yard and protect us from invaders. It is fairly common for him to start barking viciously at some time in the middle of the night.

His bout of attentiveness is normally brought on by a passing deer, which is usually chased off by his barking. This saves him the trouble of getting off his chair and actually doing something. It also causes me to get up and go yell at him as he is barking right below our bedroom window.

Friday night was typical. Jag started barking as though the whole Chinese army was coming over the hill. By the time I got up and got to the door, the barking had stopped, and Jag was nowhere to be seen. That was good enough for me. Whatever the problem was, it must have been solved, saving me the trouble of going outside to yell at him.

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Saturday morning, as per our routine, Billie and I went out in the early morning darkness. I sat down with my coffee in the chair next to Jag. He looked like the king of the world, propped up in his chair, satisfied with another night of protecting us.

Billie was only gone a couple of minutes, which is unusual. It usually takes 10 or 15 minutes to do a thorough check of his yard. When he came back, he was still tracking something, across the porch, past Jag and me, and around the corner.

The porch wraps around the house on three sides. I could hear Billie trotting to the far side, nose to the floor. A few seconds later, he came back with something brown in his mouth. He was proudly trying to show me his prize, but I was not about to take an unidentified object from him before I found out what it was and if it was alive. I reached into the house and flipped on the light.

Billie was standing there with a muskrat in his mouth. Fortunately for both of us, it was dead. Jag sat proudly in his chair as though he was saying, “yes, that is mine, but you guys can have it.” I did not really want it but took it anyway.

I am not sure why a muskrat would wander close enough to the house to cause Jag to go after it. I am sure Jag did not venture too far from his chair on the porch in the middle of the night to go hunting. Muskrats will travel away from water at times, but this one will not make mistake again of coming into the yard.

In the middle of the night when Jag is barking and growling, you never know what might be lurking in the darkness. Apparently, Jag knows, and he will take care of it.