Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chewer versus the Canada geese

My dog Chewer is very elderly now, but when she was a puppy, there was no greater joy in her life than chasing other animals. She was a pound puppy first, so we still don't know what her breed is- the vet guessed "border collie/German shepard cross-" but whatever it is, she is undoubtedly a herd dog, with the a herd dog's instincts, and has been merrily herding me, my parents, and my cats for the past fourteen years.

Now, when we moved to what is currently my parents' house, the area had been a farm until very recently, and most of the neighbourhood was a field of mud and grass. Nowadays, it looks like any recently-developed suburb, but at the time, we were more or less living in a marsh. The animals- two cats and the dog, at the time- were in heaven. They spent their days roaming the field, hunting mice (many of which appeared, headless, on our doorstep) and getting sprayed by skunks. Chewer wasn't well-behaved enough to be let off her leash in the residential area, but once you got outside the neighbourhood and far enough away from the highway that she wasn't in danger of running in front of a car, my dad would unclip her leash and let her run free. She was ecstatic.

At the end of the street- well, what we considered the street- there was a steep hill, and at the end of that hill, there was a fairly sizeable pond. During the spring and summer months- when we moved there- it was home to a flock of Canada geese. Those of you who have never encountered Canada geese probably assume that they are fairly docile, noble creatures- the swan's slightly uglier cousin. This is false. Canada geese, like their cygnian counterparts, are evil. They are vicious. I have never gotten close enough to one to try and strangle it, but if I had a reasonable amount of alcohol in my system, I am sure the prospect would look like a good one.

Chewer, herd dog that she was, adored those geese. As far as she was concerned, they were not only her flock- they were her own personal playmates. There was no greater joy in her life than charging down that hill and watching the geese scatter in every director, honking indignantly. It was her own personal nirvana- a dogvana, if you will. So when the geese decamped for the winter, she was a little sad, but there was snow to roll around in and other neighbourhood dogs to wrassle with, so she got over it soon enough. She didn't forget those geese, though.

In the spring, the geese returned, as geese are wont to do. But, also as geese are wont to do, they hadn't just come back to swim in the pond. They'd come back to lay eggs. And the one thing testier than a Canada goose having its habitat disturbed is a Canada goose having its nest threatened. You do not go near wild animals who are protecting their young, especially when they are long-necked, sharp-toothed, avian animals. Unfortunately for Chewer's sake, her "wild animal" instincts had faded in the face of spaying, regular meals, and a fireplace to sleep in front of, so she had no idea that the geese were on the offensive. As far as she was concerned, her playmates had come back, and it was time to party.

My dad unclipped the leash. Chewer began her sprint down the hill, as usual. The geese looked up. They stood up. They puffed up their feathers. And then, as one, they leaps forward into the air, charging towards my hapless dog with a great war cry of "WAWK-WAWK-WAWK-WAWK-WAWK!"

I was not witness to this personally, but my dad was, and he's told the story so many times that I can picture exactly what happened next. Chewer skidded to a stop, paws splayed forward. She took stock of the army of geese bearing down on her. Now, I don't know how smart my dog is- she's been known to stockpile treats for future eating, but she's also been known to be defeated by the puzzle of a beaded curtain. But somewhere in that doggy hindbrain, instinct kicked in. She recognized a threat when she saw it. She turned around and dashed back up the hill, angry geese snapping at her tail all the way.

The pond was filled in about a year after we moved there, in order to make way for a high school football field. The field was fenced off and locked, so there was no way to take the dog for walks there. The geese, berefit of their pond, took their goslings off elsewhere. I assume that the geese Chewer terrorized have long since died, and the story of the suburban predator is but a gleam in their great-great-goosechildren's eyes. But what I do know is that from that day on Chewer has never been known to go on the attack against a Canada goose. She learned her lesson that day. Dog or no dog, some predators are too dangerous to tangle with, and there are none more dangerous than the proud. The majestic. The deadly. Canada geese.

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