My daily noon dog walk yesterday began like many others. Buddy and I took off down my street, heading toward the woods. Snow was falling with a few inches accumulating on the ground. As we neared the intersection at the end of my street with the forest beckoning beyond, I noticed what looked like a pile of brownish-gray leaves on the curb.
Buddy immediately perked up, and before I knew it, he was running at the leaf pile. His retractable leash played out its full fifteen feet, and my shoulder jerked in its socket as Buddy kept trying to run at the leaf pile, which had unfurled into the form of a gray squirrel.
I have learned the hard way that when it comes to my dog and squirrels, the health of my shoulder muscles is more important than trying to save the squirrels from his hunting instincts, so I let the leash go. By this time, Buddy was behind the squirrel, which came running out into the snowy intersection.
One would think that the squirrel would run anywhere but toward another threat (me). But this squirrel headed right at me, my dog on its heels. The squirrel hopped through the snow sluggishly. Whether this was because of the snow depth or because there was something wrong with it, I couldn’t tell.
As the squirrel came closer, its course stayed true — right toward me. I remembered a time when I was young and a wild squirrel climbed up my leg to get my peanut butter sandwich.
I spread my legs a bit wider to discourage the squirrel from any leg-climbing ideas. Did it think I was some sort of stumpy tree? The squirrel kept coming, passing directly between my boots. Buddy was a few feet behind, his leash dragging through the snow.
Uh-oh. Buddy was headed directly between my legs, too. He is a very tall, eighty-pound dog. I lifted up one leg so he could pass under.
Then I heard the tires of a vehicle slowly crunching through the snow. I looked away from Buddy and saw a white pickup truck approaching. More chaos. Just what we need!
The squirrel continued its sluggish trajectory to a tree in a neighbor’s yard. In the meantime, I was able to grab Buddy’s leash and command him to “Leave it!” (As in leave the squirrel alone.) The command actually worked. He stopped and I grabbed up the slack in his leash, holding him tight and out of the truck driver’s way. The squirrel was now high in the tree.
The driver, seeing that all was under control, eased into the intersection. Beneath my scarf I began laughing at the scene that must have confronted him. Through his frosty window, I saw that he was laughing, too.
We waved at each other and he continued on his way.