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Monday, June 12, 2017

Dog Love IV - Chasing Squirrels

I have a friend who brings her Chihuahua mix on our nature walks. She says the dog needs to be walked in the outdoors. That’s fine with me, but… her dog has really short legs. It doesn’t walk. It runs alongside an average sized human. So on top of the ADD sensation I get from being near it, I can’t help but feel sorry for this little thing that has to do a full-speed trot to keep up with us.

And then she sees a squirrel.

Let me tell you this: Nothing gets a Chihuahua more excited than a squirrel. Maybe because a squirrel is the only thing that’s smaller than she is. Who knows? So she bolts out to the trail in blind excitement to catch the squirrel or bark at it. Whatever her Chihuahua brain tells her to do. Her tail shoots up in the air at a ninety degree angle and she disappears in the bushes.

And we humans who were until that moment enjoying a nature walk, have to stop and look for her. To make sure that this tiny ball of nerves doesn’t disappear into a squirrel tunnel or get kidnapped by a larger critter, like a coyote for example.

The first time it happens, I feel sympathy for my friend, who stops in her tracks and starts yelling the dog’s name—“Chiquita! Chiquita!”—in the hope of bringing her out of her squirrel-induced trance and back on the trail.

The fear of losing a dear one is familiar. It remember the day I took my three-year old daughter to a store in downtown San Francisco and lost sight of her for two seconds. I was shaking so hard, I could barely breathe until I spotted her under one of the clothing racks. So I can empathize with a dog owner who screams the name of a tiny dog swallowed up by the bushes.

But that dog is oblivious. Maybe Chiquita resents her name. Maybe a big bad squirrel caught her. Maybe she can’t hear well. Whatever the case, I start to lose patience and find myself hoping that a nature dweller did me a favor and snatched her, or that she fell into a squirrel tunnel and is never coming back.

I beg my friend to put the dog on a leash so we can walk more than two minutes at a time without stopping, but she laughs and says the dog is having fun. Yes, the dog is having fun. But I’m not. And that’s my point. As long as the dog is having fun, we human friends of dog people don’t matter.

So we keep walking, and stopping, and waiting for that little thing to come back from its futile squirrel hunts, until it collapses from exhaustion, because remember, those tiny legs have to do a lot of work to keep up the pace.

My friend picks up the dog from the ground, ties a leash around her neck, and keeps her in her arms, because Chiquita is too tired to walk. But she soon recovers and is back on the ground, running as far as the leash can stretch.

But my troubles are not over even when the dog is attached to a leash, because that hybrid Chihuahua thinks that just because she can bark, she can scare people we meet on the trail and their much, much bigger dogs. And I have to endure the embarrassment of being seen in the company of a mini-dog who suffers from delusions of superiority.

Where is that coyote when you need it?

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