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Girls, rabbits and a terrier on a mission

September 12, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

There are some situations I am eminently prepared to deal with. A room full of 12-year-old girls isn't one of them.

Yet with my rather newly acquired and much-loved daughter Alexa, it is a paradigm that I have needed to address, which is not to say I have addressed it with anything approaching adroitness.

For more than 20 adult years, young girls had played exactly zero roles in my life. Oh, in a theoretical sense I knew they existed, much as scientists know of the existence of black holes, even though they have never seen one. But I had no working knowledge of these creatures and was blind to their habits, interests and lifestyles.

Boy has that ever changed. I feel like a medieval knight who's just taken a time-machine ride into the ranks of the 82nd Airborne. When Alexa has her many friends over I'll tend to watch, timidly and somewhat frightened, from the fringes until one of them perchance looks at me, in which case I'll go scurrying back into the basement like a cockroach that's just been flashlighted.

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I've tried to "break the ice" on occasion, by bringing up a topic I think may be of interest to them. I'll say something along the lines of "So - what do you think of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba?" or "Looks like Byron Leftwich is the real deal at Marshall" but it always seems to end in failure. Smelling my fear they will sometimes toy with me, confronting me with impossible questions like "Do you remember my name?" Luckily I've learned that if I just blurt out "Amber" I have a 73 percent chance of success.

Their language is a mystery to me as well. It seems to be some sort of binary code based off the polar notations of "Eewww!" and "Awesome!"

Well, last week I was down in the basement, which I am remodeling into a batcave where I can watch football in relative peace, when from upstairs I heard a whole lot of eewwwing going on. Turns out this eewww had merit.

Breathlessly, Alexa came stampeding downstairs, speaking that language I don't quite get. In between shrieks, I did manage, however, to pick up on the words "dog," "bunnies" and "eating."

At this point, I would like to call the terrier named Jake Biscuit to the stand.

Jake had discovered a nest of baby rabbits in his front yard and, frankly, had failed to be a good host.

I emerged from the batcave to find a scene of sheer pandemonium. Jake, whose demeanor made me think he'd been mainlining espresso laced with crack, was screaming top-speed around the yard in a sort of crazed euphoria that visits a dog on discovering, and summarily ending, new life.

His speed was nearly matched by a half-dozen girls seemingly engaged in some macabre Easter egg hunt, searching frantically to find rabbit corpses, then being simultaneously (and loudly) gratified and horrified with each success. Calls of "Eewww, this one's half-eaten!" and "Eewww, this one's skull is outside his head!" shrilled through the air.

It was a scene I, a conservative man adhering to the tenant of well-ordered silence, was totally at a loss to handle.

I have this problem, maybe you've noticed, of saying what I think. My first reaction was that here were four (at least) future voracious vegetarian rodents that wouldn't be eating my fall spinach crop. For the first time I looked at Jake Biscuit with genuine warmth and affection and rewarded him with an enthusiastic "Good boy!"

Well, that was probably the absolute worst thing I could have said. The more understanding and sympathetic of the young females viewed me merely as a modern-day Jack the Ripper, while the hard-line element opined that I was more like a less-compassionate version of Hitler.

I tried to redeem myself by somberly taking a shovel and giving the dead bunnies a decent toss over the fence - a move which of course fooled everyone except the dog, who kept bringing them back as fast as I could chuck them into the neighbor's petunias.

Finally I gave up and went cowering back to the batcave. Adolescent and canine life is too stirring for me.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 (ext. 2324) or timr@herald-mail.com

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