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All Hostile Yard Rodents, Turn To The Right

June 30, 2009

ground-hog-dayIt occurred to me the other day that perhaps I’m not as prepared for Nature as I thought.

I was born and raised in New York City, where contact with other carbon-based life forms was limited, animalistically-speaking, to leashed dogs and the occasional squirrel or pigeon.   I also went to high school in a particularly dangerous part of the Bronx (school song:  “Look Out!  A Mugger!”), where squirrels and pigeons were smart enough to maintain a polite distance from the human residents, mainly so as not to disturb the drive-by shootings.

When we moved to New Jersey to raise our kids, I had this city-slicker fantasy that I would finally get to commune with Nature and befriend all of the charming woodland animals that scampered about my property.  My kids and I would frolic with the birds, and the deer, and the antelope, and the carp, and whatever else came our way, and they would sing a charming woodland animal song to me as I scattered woodland animal food for them, just like in a Disney cartoon, which clearly shows you how demented I had become.

Obviously, none of this ever happened.  The birds were more concerned with pooping on my outdoor furniture than singing, and the deer were much more interested in eating my flowers than frolicking.   This disappointed me, but it had no real impact on my life until the day my dog had a showdown with Cujo, the Hostile Yard Rodent.

Jade is a Border Terrier, a quirky, happy-go-lucky breed, and I like to think of her as the Roberto Benigni of dogs (“I luff evry-BAHDY!”)  She’s never met a human or an animal she didn’t like, so when she woke from her afternoon nap in our sunny yard and saw another four-legged being standing over her, she naturally came to the conclusion that it had come to play.  I did not become involved in the game until I heard Jade yelp and walked out to the side of the house to see her, nose to nose with a hissing football with a bushy tail and bared fangs that obviously did not have a game of Tug-of-War in mind.  Border Terriers are known for having their own minds, but when I called her, she turned tail on the football and ran, with only a glance back that said, “You’re lucky she called me, or you would be SO over!”

Because I was already operating at a disadvantage due to having grown up in an ecological wasteland, I called the veterinarian, who told me to bring her in so they could check for bites and give her a rabies booster.

“What kind of animal was it?”, she asked, still looking at her clipboard.

“Well, it might have been a beaver.  Or a very large squirrel.  Possibly a jackalope.”

The vet glanced up from her clipboard.  “You’re not from around here, are you?”, she asked.

“Well, I don’t really know what kind of animal it was….”, I said, feeling like a total doofus.

“Stay here.  I’ll be right back.”

When the vet came back, she was holding what appeared to be a stack of flash cards, and she spread them neatly on the examination table.  Each card had a different rodent on it.

“Pick one”, she ordered, and I suddenly realized what she was asking me to do.  She wanted me to pick the culprit out of a line up.

“This one”, I muttered, obediently pointing to the third card.

“That’s a groundhog”,  she said matter-of-factly, doing an admirable job of staying professional and not laughing hysterically at me, although I could tell she sort of wanted to.

Fortunately, Jade was fine, and although she avoided the spot in our yard where she had met her match for a while, was none the worse for the wear.  I, however, am still humiliated.  But at least now I know what a groundhog looks like.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. stewlev permalink
    October 6, 2009 9:40 PM

    While my son and his wife did 3 years in New York I had custody of the 3 miniature daschunds. Each weighed 11 pounds and when the neighbors kid karate chopped part of the fence down the 3 girls cornered the 130 pound neighbors dog and had him cowering for mercy. The also wasted a ‘possum, a number of birds, frogs, snakes, and mice. The only thing that trespassed in their yard and got away were the squirrels. They rid us of a mouse problem we had in the house. They’re now back in Austin and we do miss them.

    I grew up on Morris Ave. between Kingsbridge Road and 192nd St. over by St. James Park and the old Fordham Skating Rink which might have been before your time. I left permanently in 1965 and have been in Houston since 1971.

  2. Chris McG B. permalink
    October 6, 2009 8:12 PM

    Hey, I thought that our school song was:
    Sine, cosine, cosine, sine, 3.14159, go science!

  3. Carolyn permalink
    July 1, 2009 3:22 PM

    Next time you see a hissing football in your backyard, give me a call. I’ll send Wilson over and he’ll take care of it in quick order. He’s good at ridding the world of hissing footballs (as you know).

  4. July 1, 2009 9:05 AM

    Hey, I grew up in the ‘burbs and I wouldn’t have known exactly what that thing was. (Might’ve been in my first three guesses, but nothing definite.) How exotic! It’s like you’re living in the Amazon rainforest.

    • Deb permalink*
      July 1, 2009 9:36 AM

      Amy, It truly is. Any day now, I’m prepared to see some animal on the Endangered Species list (Newspapers? Mom-and-Pop convenience stores?) make an appearance. I’ve got my machete handy, believe you me.

      By the way, for anyone who might be reading this, Amy R. will be making her debut this Sunday, July 5 as a crossword puzzle constructor for the New York Times. I think everyone should get hold of a copy and do her puzzle.

  5. July 1, 2009 8:12 AM

    You need a bigger dog — mine have been known to EAT ground hogs (as brutal as that sounds, it’s actually a GOOD thing, because ground hogs can really tear up some garden green beans!). LOVE your blog!!! 🙂

    • Deb permalink*
      July 1, 2009 9:18 AM

      Lori, The ironic thing here is that Jade is a Terrier, so her DNA is supposed to tell her that she’s programmed to hunt these suckers down and dispose of them. No one’s ever told her that, though, so for now she just thinks they’re weird-looking dogs.

  6. joecab permalink
    July 1, 2009 7:13 AM

    But was it a … DRAMATIC groundhog?

    Hey where’d you grow up in the Bronx? I grew up around W. 176th and University Ave in Morris Heights…

    • Deb permalink*
      July 1, 2009 9:17 AM

      Joe, I KNEW you were a Bronx boy at heart! I actually grew up in Riverdale, cheek-by-jowl to the Henry Hudson Parkway, but went to Bronx Science.

      • joecab permalink
        July 1, 2009 10:43 AM

        I never forgave my parents for moving us to NJ when I was in eighth grade. I was DYING to go to Bronx Sci. *sob*


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