Friday, July 1, 2011

Has your dog ever caught a critter?

A couple weeks ago, I posted about how my dog dug to China in hot pursuit of a mole. He didn't get it, but he did get himself covered in mud and earned himself a bath far too early on a Sunday morning.

If only he'd gotten the mole, I wrote, I wouldn't have been so mad about the whole ordeal.

Well, I'm not sure, but I think he might've got one this week.

Much like that Sunday morning, I let Sensi outside early Wednesday for his after-breakfast potty break and noticed he was spending longer than usual outside. This time, I didn't waste a moment going out after him. I slipped on my sandals and ran out the door, calling his name as I closed the door behind me.

But this time, he came charging at me. He was not dirty. And so, I praised him for responding so beautifully to my call, let him inside and forgot about the whole thing.

A couple hours later, I decided to sit outside on the porch to enjoy the gorgeous day. I let Sensi out with me and he meandered over to the side of the house where he last dug for the mole. My view was obstructed and I couldn't see him, but once again, I thought, "Gee, he's been over there for a while now. Wonder what he's doing."

I walked around the garden beds to see and found him lying on the grass — unusual for Sensi. He only likes to lay down on sod. Our grass is not carpet-soft, however, and he's only ever laid down on it a couple times in the three years we've lived there.

So again, I praised him — bending down to give him a good neck rub. As I bent down, the direction of my body twisted a bit and that's when I saw it. A dead mole, lying belly up, about three feet in front of Sensi's face. He wasn't lying down because he thought the grass looked good for it. Oh no, he was keeping an eye on the dead animal.

A few feet beyond the little mole carcass was a rip in the grass. It looked like the mole had been traveling along in one of his holes when snap! Something just grabbed him up, ripping the mole out of his little hole and leaving an mole-sized opening in the top of the tunnel.

Did Sensi do this? I think so. I'm not sure. But here's the behavior history that makes me think why he's responsible:

1) He got bathed the last time he dug for a mole — definitely a punishing consequence. Perhaps this led him to try a different method of getting the mole, hence the rip-out?

2) The mole had no external injuries. This totally screams Sensi's name. He doesn't know what to do with real moving prey. The closest he's ever gotten to "real moving prey" is the baby bird last summer that tried to fly out of the nest. And what did he do with that? He bumped it with his snout, catapulting the poor thing further in the air before it crashed down on our driveway and died. And then he didn't know what to do with it. I think the chances are good that if he did catch something, he'd toss it around like a toy and leave it.

3) Why would my dog leave a dead animal? We've come across dead mice and rodents here and there on our walks over the years. Like all dogs, he's tried to roll on a dead animal, but I've always been there to tell him no. He doesn't try anymore. He understands that, "Mom says leave dead animals alone."

4) Was fear of getting caught with a dead animal the reason he came running so fast toward me when I called him from his morning potty break? Maybe.

Now, my biggest doubt that he's the responsible for the dead mole comes from the fact that he simply has never caught any critter ever before. Even the baby bird was a fluke. He bumped it and the resulting fall on concrete is what caused its death — very different from chasing, seizing and holding prey.

Then again, what else would rip a mole out of its tunnel and leave it for dead on my lawn? Any wild predator — from the feral cats to the raccoons — would've eaten it.

I guess it will always be a bit of a mystery. If Sensi is responsible, I approve of the way he handled the situation. He didn't destroy the yard to get the mole, he didn't sink his teeth into it and he didn't drag it back to the front door. He just laid there, keeping an eye on it.

My Aunt and Uncle's cat and dog used to work in tandem to catch rodents. The cat would catch it, the dog would steamroll it and they'd both stand proudly by the front door with the dead rodent between their paws.

I never thought I'd have a dog-critter story to tell. Catching critters has never been my dog's strong suit.

But I know lots of dogs live for chasing down a chipmunk, so tell me, what is your dog-critter story?


  1. Our dogs are critter lovers too. The local chipmunks like to perch out on the steps at our back door and nibble on acorns while our dogs go nuts from behind the glass. The only time our Rottweiler ever actually caught a critter was a poor, confused muskrat that was traveling between our pond and his cubby below our front steps last winter. They were both startled and confused by the encounter, and Bella finally learned the lesson that some critters bite back!

  2. Dog-critter story? I wish I had just one!!

    My Pit mix, Roxy, hunts for the local groundhog in our yard. She's snagged him a few times, but always lets go when he screams. When she first spotted him 2 years ago, she corned him and play bowed, but since that day, she's tried to eat him when she see's him.

    Roxy and my other dog, Buster, a Vizsla mix, found a baby opossum in the yard once. It didn't move, so they just stood about a food from it, staring and waiting. It was hissing at them and just wouldn't move. I brought the dogs inside, and went and check in an hour and the little thing was still just sitting in the same spot. He left after a couple of days, but it was so strange that he didn't leave the first chance he got.

    There is a bird's nest in one area of our yard, and when there were babies, the birds were dive-bombing Roxy and Buster in the yard. Roxy seems to be inherently aware that she can not chase them into the sky, but Buster isn't quite as bright. He will spend hours attempting to chase them into the sky, if I let him.

    The deer hop the fence to sleep in our yard and just hang out, eating whatever it is they eat. I found one nesting in the yard last year, and I always catch a few in the yard in the spring time. Before I realized they did this, I had let Roxy into the yard and followed after her, only to find her 50lb-self chasing after a 250 lb buck. The deer ran in a few circles (the yard is probably 40x40) and Roxy was closing in on him (she cut through the circle after him while he kept running around and around). He eventually jumped back over the fence, scraping his legs and hooves over the top of the fence. This happened a few times before I decided to go out there and scare them off before letting the dogs out, because I worry about one of them catching a hoof to the face.

    Plus, the squirrels and chipmunks scamper right in front of Roxy and they drive her purely insane. She runs into the yard with a purpose, every single time, searching the spots she last saw some sort of critter. I'm actually surprised any of them come in our yard at all, now, with Roxy terrorizing them!

  3. Once I was walking with Akita mix Lucy down the sidewalk. A squirrel darted right under her nose. She snatched it in her mouth. I yelled NO! Lucy glanced at me with a look that said, "sorry dear". She then clamped her jaws into the squirrel and dropped his limp body on the sidewalk.

  4. Thank you all for reminding me how lucky I am!

    Megs, I too check for/chase off deer in the yard for my dog's sake. I remember when he was younger and we were living in a different place, we had some property where we could let him off leash. We happened across a deer bedding down and were practically right on top of the poor doe when she noticed us and jumped up to run off. Sensi first took off after her, but realizing how big she was, he turned right around and began running from her in the opposite direction!

    My dog is not a hunter ...