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Jake thinks, he runs, he scores

June 28, 2005|BY TIM ROWLAND

It's said that killers will always kill again, but in the case of the feisty Jack Russell terrier named Jake Biscuit, three years had passed since his winning encounter with a squirrel, so I had hoped his taste for blood had passed.

Jake is 6 this summer, and has lost a step and gained a pound. Or 12. His Wild Animal Elimination Project has also flagged, falling victim to the realization - earned at the price of four long years of research - that rabbits and squirrels are faster than he is.

A couple of times, he did try to sink his teeth into his foes not through superior speed, but through superior intellect. But he made a failure of it.

It was, however, interesting to watch. Jake decided that maybe the rabbit would not run away if he (the rabbit) thought that he (the dog) did not see him (the rabbit). A cunning stratagem, and one that he must have been working on for years in his tiny little dog brain, much as Andy Dufresne plotted his escape from Shawshank.

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One day, Jake spotted a rabbit on the far end of the property, as evidenced by his ears taking a rapid hitch to the north. But this time he didn't engage his normal "streak across the yard at full speed barking at the top of his lungs" response. No, this was the smarter, craftier Jake.

Being careful not to make any direct eye contact with the bunny, he slowly stood up, yawned and ambled off the porch with a, "Gee it's a nice day, I think I'll take a little stroll" air about him. He struck out in a noncommittal direction that brought him closer to the rabbit by diagonal degrees, but was by no means a direct path. He walked over to a flower bed and sniffed at a rose bush; then over to the herb garden where he sat down to scratch.

So earnest and heartfelt was his dedication to this strategy that it almost brought tears to my eyes. He could have been criticized for overacting, I suppose, but truly, it was by a country mile the most layered thought process I had ever seen this dog engage.

He was gaining on his quarry slowly, at the rate of maybe 10 feet a minute, but it was with overdone casualness, like a preacher whistling in a porn shop. Beneath his skin, you could see his muscles quivering as he called on every ounce of self restraint to keep himself in check. He never once turned his head directly toward his target, but his eyeballs were straining at their corners with such force I feared that if his ocular tendons were to shear, his eyes would come popping out of his head like champagne corks.

The rabbit, meanwhile, was watching this performance with considerable interest, which of course was not the intention. Sad to say, but if anything, Jake was attracting even more attention to himself with his little trampoline act, and when the dog deemed himself close enough to lunge, the rabbit was way ahead of him.

Jake was in an unspeakably sour mood for days after this happened. Brain having failed him, he reverted to brawn, chasing every living thing for all he was worth.

My neighbor, Charlie, was watching him last week when Jake finally scored, but there were, as they say, "circumstances," and you will have to judge for yourself whether this should be judged as a legitimate kill.

According to Charlie, as the mist lifted on the morning of 23 June, Jake Biscuit found himself confronted not by one rabbit, but two. Hopelessly outnumbered, the brave dog nevertheless charged the closest one, which obligingly zigged and zagged and doubled back, keeping comfortably ahead of the frothing canine at 6 o'clock.

Rabbit B, meanwhile, seemed perfectly content to sit and watch the drama play out, figuring either that this wasn't his battle or that his brethren was in no serious danger.

He was right on the second count.

The battleground shifted, however, when Rabbit A's evacuation route took him a little too close to Rabbit B's defensive position. For whatever reason, Rabbit B did not see this as a potential problem. And, honestly, it shouldn't have been, because when Jake gets an idea in his head, he's never demonstrated any inclination toward mental flexibility.

But just this poor rabbit's luck, Thursday turned out to be the one day that Jake was able to think outside the box.

Charlie said that Jake, under a full head of steam, was almost past the sitting rabbit when at the last second, he reached over and snatched it off its haunches, slicker than a frog snapping up a mosquito.

There's been no living with this dog since. His opinion of himself has never been small, and now it's off the charts. And he's probably fueled for another three years of critter chasing, although if you were to poll the neighborhood small animal association, I doubt that a substantial percentage is concerned.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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