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Now every day is Groundhog Day

May 23, 2002|BY TIM ROWLAND

For years I've felt as if it were me against the world. Or to be more accurate, me against the world of the groundhog.

I've been on an island; no one else cares. Or if they care, they take the side of the groundhog because they are, and this is a direct quote: "Cute."

Bah. Once again this summer I've watched my beautiful garden turn into the woodchucks' own personal silo, but I've got to live with this because they are cute. I put forth the postulate that Ted Bundy was "cute." I began to draw parallels to the necessity of execution.

"Listen, Andrea..." I said. She didn't, of course. No woman ever does.

Instead she went off on a diatribe about if I were to attempt to use poison, the next dose would be for myself. I locked myself in my lonely writers' garret and commenced feeling sorry for myself.

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If I only had one ally in this fight, I thought, just one living entity that saw things my way, that saw groundhogs for the flowerbed leveling entity they are. If I only had one friend who would pursue these creatures as ruthlessly as myself.

Now I have found one. Now I wish I hadn't.

Enter the Jack Russell terrier named Jake Biscuit.

I was sitting on the back porch when I saw one of these lawless creatures sauntering through the yard just as careless and joyful and carefree as if he were posing for a painting by Renoir on the banks of the Seine.

Suddenly I had an idea. The Grinch had a wonderful, awful idea. I called the dog. Jake loves to be outside, so he went sprinting out full bore into the yard gaining Concorde-like speed with each stride until he was only a brown and white blaze too fast for anything but the most sophisticated of radar.

Unfortunately, Columbo, he's not. He shot past the groundhog, leaving the creature's fur blowing in the backdraft.

I sighed and went to retrieve him, pulling him back by his harness while he pulled in the other direction with the force of many men. I pointed, but he just looked at my hand, thinking there might be a ball in it.

The groundhog, meanwhile, was watching the ole spectacle with a quizzical, mildly interested expression like a supermarket attendant might watch someone with a load of groceries trying to get their cart up over the curb.

All of a sudden the Friskies must have triggered the right mechanism in that tiny little brain of his, for Jake saw the animal, and then all bets were off. He wheeled a 180 and put forth a burst that would have embarrassed War Emblem.

The woodchuck, which had been strolling along, suddenly developed a livelier interest in his journey and the ensuing chase was truly something to watch. To Jake's advantage was speed; the groundhog's advantage was a nearby burrow into which he fit but the dog didn't quite.

Most of Jake fit, but his rear end, which is roughly the size of John Goodman's, did not.

Jake lodged himself in the hole and we haven't seen much of anything of him but his tail since.

Having failed at penetration, Jake turned his attention to excavation. For the next 40 minutes dirt shot up out of the ground like a rooster tail and he'd be doing that yet if I hadn't hitched up Old Copper to the mutt and dragged him out.

Since that time, however, he has had no other thought but to get that rodent.

Open the door and he shoots to the groundhog hole to resume his archaeology. He has forgotten everything - all other reasons to be outside, like doing his business or chasing his ball.

My idea is that his brain is so small there's only room for one idea in it a time, so all other pursuits fall by the wayside.

Andrea, ever the Jake apologist, says it's not his fault, it's they way they are bred. He's been genetically trained to burrow, so that instinct overrides all others.

Well, maybe so, but if that's the case I would argue that this selective dog breeding has gone way too far.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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