Dear Goddamned Dog,
Sure, you play a good game, but yesterday I saw what domestication has really accomplished for the apex predator.
Thunderstorms were on their way in, and Auntie Elinor and I were awaiting our Friday evening Curative Sushi delivery. I suggested we take you out before the weather turned, and grab some cherry tomatoes from the garden while we were out there.
We walked through the dog yard, and I opened the gate as you followed. Then I slammed it shut. There, on the other side, next to the raised beds, was a large rabbit.
“Rabbit.” I said. I stopped moving. Elinor stopped moving. You were sniffing the ground in the dog yard, walking in the other direction. “Shit.”
The rabbit and I looked at each other. “Go!” I said in an assertive voice, waving my hands,” Get out of here.” Then, to explain my rudeness, “There’s a beagle here. Do you not see it?”
The rabbit stared, chewing slightly, unmoving.
I picked up a rock and threw it to the left of the rabbit, hoping it’d run right, away from us and the garden. It landed with a thud. He blinked.
Elinor, always one to understand increments, found a tennis ball. You had apparently found an interesting weed and were occupied sniffing that about 10 feet behind us. She threw the ball, and it landed just beside the rabbit.
He leaned over and sniffed it.
I looked at Elinor. ” Jesus Christ.”
“Why don’t you just let the beagle chase it out of the yard?” she said.
“Because if the beagle catches it, you’ll be the one to dispatch the rabbit,” I explained.
“Right,” she said, “That actually might happen.” We assessed the situation. “Well, why don’t I just walk in there?” she said.
“Ok.” We both hesitated. She bravely opened the gate and walked in. As she approached, the rabbit hopped off, not in a hurry, but at least away.
“It’s gone,” she said.
“Well, behind the shed.”
“No – she’ll just run behind there.”
She walked to a better vantage point. “OK, it’s really gone now.”
I opened the gate and we walked to the garden. You stayed in the dog yard. I turned and called at you.
“Nellie, come on.” You stood and looked at me, seeming unsure. “Come on, please. We’re going to pick some tomatoes.” You stood. You stared past me a little, unmoving. Then you slowly walked into the yard.
As we scoured the plants for what few rewards the critters had left behind, you snuffled around, not on a scent, but in a random, casual sort of way. After an annoying digging episode in an unused bed while Elinor and I each scored one cherry tomato, the three of us went inside. You ate a stuffed Kong for dinner and then sat, eyeballs protruding, and watched me eat my sushi, willing me to give you a share.
This morning I awoke thinking about your apparent disinterest in the rabbit. Could you really have been unaware? Has some accelerated evolutionary glitch turned you into a nigiri-hunting dog, uninterested in things not suitable for placing on artfully prepared rice balls?
A few months ago my father stopped by and handed me a stuffed rabbit as he walked in.
“Uh, thank you?” I’d said.
“Well, they didn’t have a dog.” This seemed to him to be an adequate explanation, and we’d moved on to other topics. “It’s a perfectly good stuffed rabbit” had prevented my New England-born soul from throwing it out yet, so I retrieved it from the clutter and placed in next to your food bowl this morning. I felt it was my duty to remind you of your roots.
Without hesitation you pounced. You grabbed it, you shook it and, when I reached for it, you resource guarded it. Just like a real beagle. Relieved, I wrested the toy from your maw like the professional I am and took you out. You jumped at it a few times, then put your nose to the ground and found that interesting weed again.
And then I realized the dilemma. Sure, you’re a predator, but you’re a twenty pound predator. These city rabbits are tough. They don’t scare easy. And what if you caught one? How would you explain to dogs we met that your injuries were sustained in a battle with a creature more commonly seen as bringing chocolate to children than pulling a shiv and claiming the yard as its territory?
I have an idea. Let’s let your cousin Blue, who lives downstairs, take care of it if it comes back around. Since you push him around, you’ll have vanquished that bunny by proxy. Like so much in leadership, the key is to delegate.
I’ll give you the toy again later, beagle. It’s before ten, and no self-respecting predator should have to get up that early.