As many of you know, Hayley is our two-year-old(ish) adopted Lab-Whippet mix. She’s fairly well-behaved – doesn’t chew things, totally house-trained, and knows most basic commands such as sit, stay, paw and kill Lochte – but she has a lot of energy. Almost too much energy. Energy that usually manifests itself by punching me in the face while I’m working, or in the yard when, God forbid, a small animal dares to enter the confines of Hayley’s Rancor Pit. I’ve been rooting for her to catch something since we got her in September. Hayley is fast, driven and an alpha, but there are enough gaps beneath the fence and other escape routes for her prey to get away, so she hadn’t caught anything other than a few mosquitos, a bumble bee (really), and the nose of Coco, the Chocolate Lab in the yard behind ours who now sports an Adidas racing stripe on his snout.
Until last Sunday.
She hadn’t caught anything… until last Sunday.
We were outside most of the day doing grownup stuff (not the Cinemax kind… the HGTV kind) when I went to get the lawnmower out of the shed and came face to face with a squirrel, Christmas Vacation-style. SQUIRREL!!!! It leapt past my ear and near Hayley, who, disappointingly, was a bit slow on the uptake. She finally spotted the prey and chased it to the perimeter, where the squirrel desperately tried to squeeze itself between the grass and the bottom of the fence. Hayley went sliding into the structure as the slippery bastard somehow found daylight. Hayley connected with one paw, but it was too late– the squirrel got away. Hayley was still 0-for-the yard. Poor thing. But now she was on high-alert. Ears back. Tail up. Head darting from side-to-side, up and down. She was ready.
She stayed like that for much of the afternoon. Eventually, I fired up the grill and forgot about her pursuit. The difference between humans and animals was never more evident than at this moment– I was gently placing prepared Kabobs loaded with red meat, poultry and seasoning on a controlled fire… and Hayley, who could have gotten some if she wanted it, was busy fortifying her torture chamber for the next poor rodent to enter her lair. I was drinking a beer… she was trying not to vomit on her own saliva. It was the great dichotomy of nature. My meat was just starting to sizzle as I gently rotated the skewer and… sqwack sqwack sqwack!!!!
Hayley’s was fighting for its life.
She caught something.
Yes. YEEEEESSSSSSSS, I was thinking. That’s my girl! She finally got one. I could see her thrashing her head about like the animatronic from Jaws. Get him!! I didn’t know what she had, but the thing was on the ground and her head was bobbing and weaving like a champ as she poked the creature and looked for the kill shot. I was the proud trainer, I was Burgess Meredith, running to the back of the yard, screaming for my fighter to bring home the prize. TAKE THE BODY!!! WEAKEN THE BODY! YESHSAHEHEHRRRRHHHRRSSSS!!!!
I got closer.
YESSSS. YESSSSS!!!!!! FINISH HIM!!!
Oh Lord no.
It was a baby. A little tiny baby. A baby squeaking squirrel. A BSS.
It looked broken, on its back. It was still fighting. I shit you not: its little arms and legs, no longer than the head of a freshly-sharpened pencil, were punching Hayley in the snout. She was taking it because, I mean, it was a little baby squeaking squirrel and it wasn’t going to win…….. but oh God was it horrible. The little guy was making noises that could only be described as what it might sound like if you spliced Joy Behar with poorly-maintained truck brakes. Sqweeelllleeeeeqk. Sqweeelllleeeeeqk. Sqweeelllleeeeeqk. It’s mouth was open in horror as if it was begging me to pull Hayley off, which I did.
We backed up a few feet. There was no blood, but Hayley was licking her chops like I had just rubbed peanut butter all over her mouth. It was at this point I could see that Kip (that’s what I named the BSS) had had both his legs broken. Naw, his lower half. His lower half was broken. Sqweeelllleeeeeqk. He turned to get away and headed for the nearby shed… but it was no use. His legs were but baggage on a tiny body of pain. Still sqweeelllleeeeeqking, Kip lurched forward, one pull at a time. He was crawling, dragging his legs and lower half behind him like Herbert’s dog from Family Guy. It was horrifying. He made it about six inches.
Together with Ms. CB, we pulled Hayley inside. I walked back toward Kip and he was looking back over his shoulder, staring me down. How could you let this happen, asshole?, I imagined him saying. I had no words. No response. I just turned my head away in shame. Sqweeelllleeeeeqk. I couldn’t watch. Sqweeelllleeeeeqk. Kip pulled himself forward, this time with a bit more determination. He wanted – needed – to get back to the shed, but unfortunately for him, the opening was at the top. He stood no chance. But he didn’t know that– squirrels don’t have memories. He neared the small ramp that leads to the shed, which is about a foot off the ground. He looked back one last time, turned forward and – oh this was awful – he proceeded to, one lurch at a time, drag himself up the ramp as if he was a victim in a bad horror movie trying to get away from a monster. He made it about halfway up (let’s call it… seven lurches) when he stopped. That was it. He had no more will. He just laid there, waiting to die. I went inside to eat.
Ms. CB’s parents and mine were over for dinner, which led to the following unfortunate succession of statements as we gathered around the table with Kip clinging to life on a shed ramp outside.
Where’s Eddie? He usually eats these goddamn things.
We can’t just leave it there.
We can drown it.
OH GOD! (everyone besides the person who suggested drowning Kip)
Our neighbor has a BB gun.
Compass in stock and that thing which tells time.
I offered up one last suggestion: We could let Hayley back out and have nature take care of it.
But that, of course, would have been a bloody mess. Pooper scooper was the clubhouse leader going into our feast.
When we finished eating, I went back out to inspect the situation, and Kip… was gone. Vanished. I let Hayley out to see if she could find him and, after covering the entire yard, in by inch, blade of grass by blade of grass, atom by atom, she had no luck either. I don’t know what happened. There was no way he made it to the top of the shed– none. His legs were broken. I think his pelvis, too. And his will. Fucker stood no chance. There were some crows outside– he was small enough for them to get. But I don’t know. He just… vanished.
This time, we were lucky. No bloody squirrel mouthed to us as a present. But Hayley will catch another… if not now, then soon. She will. Next time it might be a grown squirrel, a bird or – gasp – a little tiny hopping baby bunny wabbit. So, I ask you, what the hell do I do when that happens?