I have numerous events of joy each day with Bella, the 98lb bloodhound bully mix dog. Numerous. And routine.
There’s our wake-up routine, where we scratch our bellies, yawn, do yoga, yawn and moan, before rising off the couch to get breakfast.
The “go for a walk” routine varies each day but includes brutal tail wagging, happy ears, bunny hops, more yoga, and a 4runner inspection.
But the most fun and exciting by far is “there’s a squirrel on the bird feeder!”
I probably shouldn’t admit that I encourage Bella to chase squirrels. Still, I figure it’s fair game for any squirrel who risks stealing food from our backyard birds. Sure, squirrels need to eat, but our birds can’t defend their turf. It’s our honored duty to defend the seed!
Normally the squirrels are too keen and quick to be caught. Bella never gets closer than a few feet, and I’ve been worried that her continued failure would hurt her confidence. But that all changed this week.
“There’s a squirrel on the bird feeder!” I said, looking out the kitchen back door. “There’s two squirrels!”
From a deep sleep, Bella was roused immediately with mule-like noises and claws getting traction against her dog bed and living room carpet. The pawing sounds became more rapid as she hit the hardwood and tile flooring like she was launched from a looney tunes cartoon.
As she approached the back door, ears up and ready, eyes open and wide, I describe the scene to her as I slowly turn the doorknob to prepare for her quick exit. “Ok there’s a squirrel on the ground and another up on the feeder. They don’t hear us yet so you have a good chance!” Bell’s tail is wagging, and all four of her paws look as though they are on springs.
I pull open the door as quickly as I can, and Bella leaps into the backyard.
The squirrel on the ground doesn’t hesitate and matches Bella’s excitement in an instance. Although the squirrel’s excitement would be characterized as “oh shit!” as it heads for the tree line, its eyes are as large as quarters.
The squirrel on the feeder hesitates, not quite certain of what to do because, with Bella’s second leap, she is suddenly under the feeder. But Bella is focused on the ground squirrel, so the feeder squirrel decides to make a run for it.
All the action is unfolding in milliseconds. The squirrels make life and death decisions at the speed of light. Today Bella is matching their decision-making.
The bird feeder squirrel drops to the ground inches in front of Bella’s face as Bella breaks for the ground squirrel. It’s impressive to see Bella react as quickly as the squirrels themselves – she opens her mouth and snaps at the squirrel falling near her and barely misses.
The ground squirrel is getting away clean. Bella now believes she can catch the second squirrel who just dropped in front of her. She is within inches from seizing it as they head to the tree line.
As the squirrel jumps onto a tree, Bella matches its leap. Rather than continuing up and beyond Bella’s reach, the squirrel decides to bound back to the ground towards another grouping of trees and bushes. Bella doesn’t hesitate to pursue, still inches from her prize.
They both disappear into ivy vines, and there’s a pause in the action. But as I think Bella has missed again and seems to be coming out of the vegetation discouraged, I see the squirrel leap out of Bella’s jowls, twisting and twerking. It bounds to another tree as soon as it hits the ground.
“Holy smokes Bella!” I exclaim. The neighbors must wonder what the heck I am doing with this dog in the backyard shouting death wishes to squirrels.
Bella makes a giant leap toward the squirrel, narrowingly missing as it realizes it needs to go up, not down, to elude capture. It doesn’t make the same mistake twice. And the engagement ends.
With her front paws on the final tree looking up the trunk, Bella lets out a loud yelp, “you got lucky. Next time squirrel!”
She turns to me, ears up, tail up, and prances back to me, proud of her chase. Confidence intact, she now knows she can catch those damn squirrels. And the squirrels now know Bella can do it!
“Yay Bella! Good girl!” I told her, petting her and scratching her ears. “Let’s get you a fish skin treat.”
Before heading back into the kitchen, I turn to look at the noises in the trees. All the squirrels are heading for higher ground. And so this daily adventure ends. There’s another in store for us tomorrow that’s if the squirrels dare to test Bella again.