Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dogs and Squirrels

Dover has several passions in his life. Perhaps the first has to do with tennis balls, although I think food might compete. But if no one wants to play ball with him, he avidly participates in the ancient canine sport of squirrel watching. He lies at the open slider doors at maximum alert, and if a squirrel trespasses his territory, he is off like a shot after the catch of his dreams. The squirrels, of course, are on to him, and they partake of the ancient squirrel sport of dog baiting. The score, at the moment, is squirrels 5,284, Dover 0.

Every time Dover tears out in hot pursuit and the squirrel lopes away in leisurely retreat, I empathize with Dover about lost opportunities and dreams.

A friend sent me a poem she wrote about her dog, now several years deceased, who also partook of this sport. One couplet in particular caught my eye:
To tree each squirrel is never a mistake
when desire is the truest path to take  .  .  .   
                           From "Apprentice," Gail Thomas, © 2008.

Reading this, I pulled up short. Dover thoroughly enjoys the chase - would he enjoy the capture and hunter's triumph as much? If he actually made the snatch, would he stand transfixed, wriggling body dangling from his soft, unharming mouth, eyes begging for information about what comes next? Perhaps I had been interpreting this game all wrong, and it is the sharp eye, the burst of speed, and the satisfaction of seeing his quarry speed away that Dover chalks up as a win. Maybe the score is 5,284 to 0 in Dover's favor, successful pursuits and triumphant returns marking the game as victorious.

I have to admit that I don't really know what goes on in Dover's mind, and the "nature red in tooth and claw" school of thought would go with the bloodiest outcome as being the best and truest description of this hobby. But there is an evolutionary role for play as well, and so I am pleased to think that Dover is into squirrels for the sport. I definitely like that there is more than one way to consider these games, and not just the one that chalks Dover up as a steady loser instead of a skilled and speedy gamesdog. So, just possibly, I really do not know what my fellow travelers value and hold most dear deep down at the core of their hearts and souls. That includes, but is not limited to, my dog Dover.

Dover's other passion.

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