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Dog Tales: The Challenge

Brief by Jim Forrest

Animals – December 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

Before the back-yard fence could be constructed, we tied our German shepherd on a long rope secured by a swivel anchor near the house so that the dog had a large arc from one back corner of the house to the opposite one. After several whip lashes as a consequence of testing the length of the rope, she learned the outer limits of her domain. What she couldn’t cover physically, however, she guarded vocally. Judging from her activity, squirrels were the ones she watched out for the most. In terms of energy spent, they posed the most threat to the homestead.

I really never gave much credit to squirrels for intelligence, but they did seem to learn just how far out this strange creature could go. This was revealed by the developing circular path worn into the grass. The squirrels stood just beyond reach. The dog and the squirrels each stopped short of the outer limits — the dog on the path, the squirrels just beyond the path.

The poor dog was harassed by squirrels. They would dance just beyond the limit and chatter, taunting the dog. She would go ballistic during these vocal dueling matches. She rarely tested the rope, but stayed just at the end. As sometimes happened, a particular squirrel would really get to her, and she would strain at the rope.

I begin to think something had to be done to relieve the poor dog. I imagined her psychiatric bills that I might have to pay (you can’t get insurance for this) if I didn’t. While the dog was being taken for a walk, I moved the anchoring pin about three feet toward the outer limit and waited for the consequence.

It wasn’t long after the dog returned from walking her mistress that the squirrels gathered for their evening’s entertainment. At first the dog went to the path and barked her challenge to the squirrels, who in turn chattered and danced their taunt. This time, a particular squirrel taunted her. She couldn’t resist straining against the rope to eke out the last inch available.

Now, I’m not sure which one was more surprised at the result — the dog or the squirrel — but both had a wide-eyed look when the dog passed the outer limit path and ran up to the squirrel. The last scene was the squirrel running for its life, not knowing why the strange creature had suddenly found new freedoms, and the dog looking around at the house in bewilderment, not knowing what to do. I was on the floor.