There’s trouble in the woods — and its name is squirrel

In the latest installment of "Off-Leash," Boulder the Dog looks at an historic rivalry.

A squirrel enjoys a rest from the doorway of his adopted home.

A squirrel enjoys a rest from the doorway of his adopted home.

Being what you humans call a good dog can be a struggle.  Though the advantages of domestication are undeniable, the inner turmoil between our learned behaviours and our primitive canine reflexes are a constant battle.  It is that most classic of conflicts: dog versus himself.

Now I know that hominids also deal with primitive urges that must be repressed in order to remain within the constrictive borders of decorum. For example, the fight or flight reflex was, once upon a time, a valuable tool for survival.  A man faced with a threat undergoes an instant hormonal transformation so that he might a) defeat his foe with physical violence, or b) take evasive measures by fleeing at speed.

Modern man has retained the reflex but now when faced with a threat— like say a closed door meeting with the boss to discuss his job performance, or lack there of— it is of little use.  Beating on your supervisor or running screaming from the room are no longer viable ways of dealing with the situation.  Thus the hormones released during the fight or flight reflex are not burned up by physical exertions but instead, begin to eat away at the human, consuming him from the inside out.  Modern man has a name for these pools of corrosive adrenaline — stress.

I too am tormented by repression and the caustic residue it spawns — I call it squirrel.

Now good dogs don’t chase squirrels.  They remain trotting right at their master’s heel and ignore the fluffy tailed little rodents, never allowing the predatory instincts of their inner wolf to come to the surface.

Well, gentle reader, let me tell you something, a leashed wolf is not a happy wolf.  And try as I might, sometimes the wolf breaks loose.  Sometimes, the squirrel is surprised.

Oh I know you human-types are predisposed to shower affection on creatures that are big eyed and fuzzy.  You think squirrels are cute, what with their plume-like tails and their tiny human-like hands but let me tell you, rats have tiny human-like hands too.  Oh, but squirrels are sweet little tree-dwelling vegetarians that chatter sweetly at us from the treetops, you say? Well, I say they don’t chatter — they scold, and they love nothing better than getting their tiny human-like hands on snacks like birds eggs, baby birds, and any carrion they find rotting on the ground.

A rat by any other name would still chatter as sweet.

My distain for squirrels doesn’t end there either.  The thing about them that really drives me, well, squirrely, is their annoying ability to straddle the border of the wild and the domesticated. They suffer none of the restrictions placed on us pets; they breed at will, poop where they want, and never come when they are called, yet they still find their sustenance thanks to the kindness of man.  What with the advent and popularity of the bird feeder, it is a never-ending smorg of sunflower seeds and millet for these decidedly unbird-like parasites.

Well, truth be told, not all of them are unbird-like.  There are several flying squirrels that come to the feeder at night.  Their gift of flight just another reason for a dog to feel under privileged and resentful.

There is an old adage however, that says every dog will have his day.  Well mine was about a week ago.  I was laying out in the sun trying to be a good dog and ignore the squirrel that was scampering about the feeder, when I noticed the little blighter had lifted the top of one of the containers and climbed right inside.  Like a miser rolling in his riches, he burrowed into the seeds and then tossed them into the air in a decadent show of wealth.

It was more than I could take. The wolf broke lose.  Storming the feeder I jumped up and hit it with all my weight.  This in turn caused the lid of the feeder in which the squirrel had been cavorting, to drop back in place, trapping the vermin inside.

It was there that my human found him several hours later, still drumming his little human-like hands on the glass of the feeder, demanding to be set free. And after he was, did he lick the man or even wag his tail in thanks?  Nope, straight up the nearest tree to scold a yellow dog for his ingenuity.

Word processing by Dan MIlls

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