Who’s Afraid of a Little Wolf? My dog is for the birds — and not in a good way – InForum

Who's Afraid of a Little Wolf? My dog is for the birds — and not in a good way - InForum

I was heading west on I-94 toward my parents’ home, where I’ve spent the last few weeks visiting and helping them out.

My cell started ringing.

I answered. It was Mom’s voice, sounding a bit more agitated than usual.

“Tammy? When are you coming home?”

She sounded so wound up that I assumed the worst. Had Dad fallen? Was Mom’s heart giving her trouble?

“It’s Copper!” she exclaimed. “He caught one of my mourning doves and has it in his mouth. We tried to get it away from him because it was still alive but he won’t let us near it,” she continued, her voice climbing even higher.

I envisioned my elderly parents — both using canes, my dad with a pacemaker and my mom with a stent and a bad valve — hobbling after my dog as he played “keep away.”

“Just yell at him,” I sputtered, even though I suspected it wouldn’t work. We aren’t discussing a rigorously trained hunting dog here. We are talking about a La-chon, or

Lhasa Apso-Bichon Frise,

whose combined gene pool is wired for charming humans to get his way,

guarding Tibetan monks

and exhibiting fits of star temperament and pig-headedness. The only time he willingly brings us anything is when his pig ear is too tough to chew and he wants us to bite it in half for him. (We politely decline.)

I thought of how my mother loves her birds. She never fails to buy bird seed for them and has suspended feeders across her front yard. My parents can sit in their sunroom for hours, watching the antics of the finches, sparrows and other assorted varieties who stop there — gorging themselves at Margaret’s All-You-Can-Gobble Smorgasbird.

Their birds are serious business — and now my dog has tried to murder one. Had I read somewhere that doves mate for life? Had Copper killed someone’s beloved hus-bird? Copper had really given her mourning doves something to mourn about.

Mom’s voice brought me back to our current dilemma. “And now he keeps trying to get in the house and we won’t let him in with the bird in his mouth,” she said, sounding ever more panicky. “He puts his paws up on the glass like he wants to get inside and he looks downright proud of himself. And by now, I’m certain that bird is dead. What should we do?”

My foot had moved onto the accelerator, nudging the cruise control well past my still-mostly-law-abiding 78 miles per hour. My gas tank was nudging empty, but who had time to stop?

I envisioned getting pulled over. An officer might forgive someone speeding because their wife was about to deliver a baby or a loved one had been in a terrible accident. But for someone whose dog killed a bird? I’ve watched a lot of “Dateline,” and that defense didn’t have a flamingo leg to stand on.

“Maybe offer him some steak from last night?” I suggested, weakly. Perhaps it would distract him so he dropped the bird. (Although his

French Bichon lineage

might prefer squab over steak.)

But would Copper think he was being rewarded for his dastardly deed? Would he start massacring mourning doves because he thought the humans around him would starve without his dogged devotion? Maybe the same brain quirk that convinced him he was as big as a bull mastiff also told him his overfed humans were emaciated.

Finally, I reached my parents’ house, coasting in on gas fumes.

Thankfully, there were no parents chasing Copper around the yard. Instead, the guilty party was peering out the patio door from inside, sans bird. He must have surrendered his great catch. The squab squabble had ended at last.

Everyone in the household seemed to have calmed down considerably. Mom told me she didn’t have to resort to a “steak”-out. Copper suddenly just dropped the bird and they snatched it up. Dad disposed of the poor bird and, ever since, Copper had been trotting around the house like he’d spent the last half hour delivering Meals on Wheels to the housebound (which, maybe, in his own mind, he did).

I apologized profusely but Mom seemed unperturbed. She pointed out a smattering of feathers and blood high up on the glass patio door, which suggested the dove had flown into it and injured itself. So Copper hadn’t killed the bird; Windex had. Maybe he was just trying to perform mouth-to-beak resuscitation.

OK, maybe not. As my pragmatic, former-farm-wife mom said, “He was just being a dog.”

She’s right. We tend to get outraged when our

dogs act like dogs.

Over time, as we’ve wrapped our pups in cutesy sweaters, fed them gourmet food and bought them Tempur-Pedic mattresses, we’ve sometimes ignored the wolf-ish reality of our furry companions.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback by any other name is still a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

And, unfortunately, it’s a dog-eat-dove world.

Tammy Swift hails from a family of storytellers. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter; a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor; a writer in university relations, and a marketing, social media and communications specialist.

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