The Reluctant Bird Dog

Blue spends much of the first five to ten minutes of every potty break diligently sniffing the backyard. He will often stop in certain spots to give them a more thorough going over before moving on to the next spot. Eventually, he is satisfied that he knows who has been in our backyard and where they did what. Only after he has secured his perimeter, will he get down to “business.”

I have often wondered what sort of creatures he is smelling. For readers new to us, we live in a very rural area. We have all manner of visitors that I have actually seen with my own eyes: deer, ermine, fox, turkey, dogs, cats, a pair of mallards in our pond, a great blue heron in the hole left by my pool, the neighbors escaped sheep, another neighbors escaped pig, skunks and two weeks ago our neighbors two houses down had a black bear raiding their bee hives. Throw in all manner of mice, moles, voles, shrews, frogs and snakes, and the backyard is a veritable cornucopia of inviting, intriguing smells.

I have, however, been even more interested of late, what might be in our backyard. You see, we fenced it in completely around July of this year. The fence is 6 feet tall and goes down to ground level. There is only a small space under the main gate by which creatures smaller than a breadbox might enter. I saw the neighborhood cat come in that route once. Just once. He took a good look around, realized he had entered a den of wolves with only one way out. He bid his favorite rock and hunting spot farewell and beat a hasty retreat. He hasn’t been back since.

The mystery was partially solved for me last night when Blue went outside for his last potty break around 2 a.m. Off he went, down the stairs, nose to the ground. As was his wont, he followed his nose on a meandering course toward his favorite potty spot. He had almost reached his destination when he suddenly veered off slightly to the left. What’s that smell? And in an instant the cold, crisp, silence of a 2 a.m. morning in Maine erupted in a flurry of noise and confusion the likes of which none of the participants had anticipated when we all got up this morning.

It began when a grouse, in full myocardial infarction, launched itself skyward, in a desperate bid to escape what must surely have seemed to the bird to be a very bad decision on its part. Clearly this was a bird that was not from around these parts. And it had no apparent sense of smell since it opted to bed down for the night in an open backyard which was also the heart of a wolf’s domain.

Blue, having received no prior training in bird dog behavior, screamed like a little girl and followed that up with a noise that was part tubercular cough and part yelp. Meanwhile his legs were frantically pin wheeling backwards from the spot he had, only minutes before, been peacefully sniffing on his way to take a nice pee.

Blue, traumatized by his unexpected field dog trial, did a quick potty and came running back inside to hide from the big bad birdie. No amount of cuddling could soothe him. Even his favorite cookie wouldn’t do the trick (though I must point out he wasn’t so traumatized that he didn’t take the cookie and eat it). Eventually, I was able to get him settled down to sleep for the night. It wasn’t long before Blue was crying and growling in his sleep, deep in some nameless, shapeless nightmare. Or was it nameless and shapeless? Perhaps it had wings and feathers.


  1. Oh, I can see this scene unfolding in my mind and it gave me a good giggle! Blue sounds like a hound after my heart. Bunny imagines herself to be a great huntress, too, but I suspect that if it really came down to it, she'd react a bit like your Blue!

  2. So funny! You never know what lurks outside there, Blue.


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