I may be slow, with a wobbly hind end and a serious limp, but I managed to catch a gopher. I admit the little guy was cornered in the barn, but still, I caught it. Me.
Just to clarify, for those who aren’t familiar, the animals I’m referring to are technically Richardson Ground Squirrels, often called prairie dogs, but around here they’re just gophers. And, as cute as they are, they are farm vermin and will dig up your entire property, eat your garden, create a minefield for livestock, and attract much larger burrowing critters, like badgers who dig holes big enough to swallow a human leg up past the knee (just ask Teresa).
We spotted the gopher as we were headed out to the barn on Wednesday morning and chased it across the paddock, Chico in the lead, of course, but me not so far behind. When the gopher went under the barn door we knew we had him. There was no way he had an escape hole dug through the concrete floor.
We ran in, he cheeped to alert us of his location (which they always do for some reason), Chico went left, I went right, and there he was, cornered by the wall and a shelf unit. I haven’t had a gopher in my mouth in years but I jumped in and grabbed him. He was huge! He fought! I tried to give him the old shake of death but my wobbly back legs gave out and I plopped down onto the floor. Despite my unplanned, sprawling sit, I held on. His claws were flailing at my face—
It was about then that Chico jumped in, grabbing him just as I let go. He finished him off, which was fine with me. I always enjoyed the thrill of the chase and the catch but the killing, not so much.
You may see the whole thing as rather barbaric, and I suppose it was, but I felt so alive in that moment, like I was four rather than fourteen, and I walked a couple of inches taller on my way back to the house.
There’s not a lot of excitement in my life these days, which I’m normally fine with, but every now and then, it’s good for the old canine soul to do something completely instinctual and dog-like. It used to be chasing coyotes, baying as I went, or running down a skunk or a porcupine and dealing with the consequences. I don’t recommend any of these activities but, at the time, they were pretty thrilling.
These days, my hunting and chasing amounts to following Chico on his yard patrols, sometimes watching him catch something, always far behind and never in the thick of things. Wednesday was different. Wednesday I was a wolf. Wednesday I forgot I was an old dog, just for a minute.
There’s a scoreboard on the fridge in the kitchen, a little friendly competition between Nollind and Chico. Well, this old dog is on the board.