Ever since we stopped going to the park my opportunities for squirrel catching have been limited. I forgot why we stopped going, exactly. I mean, almost from the day I first moved in with Mom and the Doc the park was where we went. Every morning. Afternoons, too, sometimes. I had my pals. We got to run around and chase each other, which was fun, but mostly I got a chance to hunt.
There were days when I’d spend the entire time sitting under a tree, waiting for the squirrel I’d chased up it to do something stupid. It’s a squirrel after all. Expecting it to do something stupid was not unreasonable. Anyway, most of the time it would jump around in the branches too high for me to reach, yelling and making a racket, waiting for me to leave. Or more likely for Mom or the Doc to drag me away from the tree so I could ‘get some exercise’.
Occasionally, though, a particularly brave or stupid one would try to make a run for it. I don’t know why, because they always ran to another tree, pretty much the same as the one they were in before. I didn’t see the point, but whatever.
They all seemed to have the same strategy. First, they would move to the side of the tree away from where I was sitting. Like maybe I’d forget they were there or something. Then they would slowly start coming down. This is where it got tough. The closer they got, the more excited I got, and the urge to start barking or making a premature lunge was hard to resist. Patience was key.
If I played it right, kept my cool, it would come all the way to the ground. That’s when I would make my move. The squirrel had the advantage of the tree being between me and it. Plus squirrels can be pretty fast when they need to be. So, just when I figured it was on the ground I’d come tearing around the tree. At that point there were only two options it had: get back up the tree before I was able to grab it, or make it to another tree before I caught up with it. Either way it was big fun, and though they usually got away, every once in a while they didn’t.
This went on for years until one day we stopped going. Like I said, I’m not sure why but I do remember something about the cops, and about me getting into fights. Actually it was about some of my pals getting into fights and then me having to come to their defense. Some new dog would show up who didn’t know the rules and start acting tough. One of my guys would try to straighten him out, then I’d have to break it up. Of course, the humans would be too busy talking to one another to see what actually happened. When they finally looked around what they saw was me on top of some other dog, so I got blamed for starting the ruckus. Hmm. I guess I do remember why we stopped going.
So my hunting grounds got shrunk to my backyard and whatever territory we covered on our walks. There are plenty of squirrels in the neighborhood, including in my yard. But there are these wires overhead, and they’ve figured out that if they stay on the wires I can’t reach them. Makes me crazy. Just once I wish they’d lose their balance or grip or whatever it is that keeps them up there, but so far it hasn’t happened.
The walks are just as frustrating because of the leash. I see squirrels everywhere but by the time I manage to drag whoever is on the other end of the leash to where they were they’d be long gone. Until the other day.
The Doc and I were coming to the end of one of our morning walks. We have several routes we take, try to keep things interesting. Plus I have a lot of marking to do so I have to make sure we cover the entire neighborhood at least once a week. Anyway, this morning we were coming down the hill just a short distance from home when I saw a squirrel sitting at the base of a tree. It was near the curb, next to a parked car, and I’m pretty sure the Doc didn’t know it was there.
We were headed straight for it so I didn’t have to yank on the leash or make any sudden moves. I’m not sure what the squirrel was thinking, if that’s even something they do, because when I got to the tree it was still sitting there. Calmly I got between the parked car and the tree, acting like there was something there I needed to pee on. The squirrel finally figured out there was a problem and jumped onto the tree but a little too late. I made a quick leap and the next thing I knew I had a mouthful of squirrel. I was probably as surprised as he was.
I pulled it off the tree and was about to give it a shake but somehow I lost my grip. That’s when the Doc finally figured out what was happening. The squirrel started yelling and managed to get under the car, the Doc pulled back on the leash, I made a lunge, but the squirrel was able to run across the street, and, you guessed it, up another tree. I dragged the Doc across the street but there was no way the squirrel was coming back down anytime soon.
We walked back to the house and I’ll admit I was a little depressed. It’d been a long time since I’d gotten that close and the way things are going who knows when I’ll get the chance again? But then I remembered something. Catch and release. It’s that weird thing humans do with fish. They go through a whole lot of trouble to catch them, then they let them go. I know the Doc explained it to me once before but the details had gotten a little fuzzy so I asked him to go over it again.
He explained that if everyone kept the fish they caught there would be fewer fish to catch later, and since catching them is the fun part, the more there are the better it is. Same with squirrels. I felt a little better. A squirrel jumping around in a tree is definitely more fun that one lying dead on the sidewalk. No question. I’ll try to keep that in mind the next time I get lucky.