Regular readers will recall that Older Daughter and her husband Hank are the proud owners of a golden retriever. I call him Cork.
In yesterday's installment I noted that my poor wife was less than thrilled that Cork was coming. She was even less thrilled when Older Daughter and Hank neglected to bring the dog's cage.
At our house the beast has slept each night in a rather large cage. It's a pain, presumably, to lug it to and from the car and to fold and unfold it upon arrival and departure. Still, it's a piece of home for the dog -- the kids used in their own house, and for the same purpose -- and it's worked well for us.
Lately, though, Hank and Older Daughter have discontinued use of the cage in their own home (Cork may have grown out of the rug-eating phase that cost them a chunk of their security deposit at their last apartment). They proposed that the dog sleep upstairs with the rest of the family. On recent visits, Hank and Older Daughter have decided against using the futon
we bought for such visits and have camped out upstairs in the room that Youngest Son used to share with Middle Son. The room is equipped with a bunk bed. No, I don't ask questions.
Anyway, Long Suffering Spouse vetoed this idea -- she didn't relish tripping over the dog at night if she should have to make a comfort stop. The kids were miffed; they stayed downstairs with the dog on Friday night. I know I didn't mind.
Now, Cork, I hasten to add, is a lovely dog. He's bulked up a bit since his puppy days (he's around 2 now) and he probably weighs in at about 85 lbs. He still thinks he's a lap dog, of course. And, for all his shedding and slobbering, he really is very gentle with the Baby to Be Named Later. At one point on Saturday, he laid on the floor next to the baby as she played with toys and grabbed fist-fulls of fur from his side, all without so much as a whimper of protest.
Of course, by then, he was on his best behavior.
He had to be, because of what he'd done earlier in the day.
The Curmudgeon home comes with a fenced-in backyard, accessible from a sliding glass door in the den. There's very little that grows in our backyard, and very little of what does grow there is worth worrying about. So we ordinarily have no problems in letting Cork roam free in the backyard where he can sniff and dig and break off sticks to his heart's content. (He's neatly pruned a couple of bushes for us, inadvertently perhaps: He's killed a couple of others.)
And Cork was in the backyard for a fairly long time on Saturday morning. The weather wasn't terrible and the rest of us were able to eat our breakfasts without undue canine interference.
I was in the living room with Long Suffering Spouse, Older Daughter, Younger Daughter and the baby. Hank and Olaf were in the den, flipping between sports channels on TV. But then, out of the corner of his eye, Olaf spotted some extracurricular motion in the backyard. No, it wasn't Cork -- he's hard to miss -- it was something by the hose stretched out in the middle of the yard, something small. Is that a mouse?
Olaf thought to himself.
Long Suffering Spouse, at the opposite end of the house, was instantly alert. If there's anything she hates, it's mice. As on Saturday morning, one need only think
about a mouse in order to command her full attention. "Mouse? What mouse?" she demanded. "Where?"
"I don't know what it is," Olaf said. "It's very small, like a mouse, but it's not moving very fast at all. It's barely moving."
Hank had gone to the window by this point. "Maybe it's sick," he offered.
"Well, you better keep Cork away from it, whatever it is," commanded Older Daughter.
The young men went into the backyard, one to investigate the little creature, the other to try and round up the dog.
Soon, though, we had a report.
"It's a baby rabbit," Olaf advised us. Hank nodded solemnly. Cork, newly returned around the house, bounded around in case anyone had dropped any breakfast.
"It's still alive."
"Did Cork get it?"
"It doesn't look like it's been bitten."
Now Younger Daughter was out in the backyard with a box and Older Daughter was looking up rabbit rescue locations.
It turns out, however, that little baby, still-nursing rabbits (like this one) are notoriously hard to rescue. They have an annoying tendency to die instead. The rabbit rescue sites said the best thing that can be done is to return the little creature to its nest.
Now I've telescoped a really overlong exchange into this still-overlong explanation for the sake of moving the narrative along. The question now, however, was where was the nest?
The kids combed the backyard (it's not that big, folks) for several minutes, but to no avail. Then Long Suffering Spouse took charge.
Rabbits, it's true, aren't mice. They're not even rodents. But my wife's critter-radar, if not infallible for rabbits as it certainly is for mice, is pretty darn good. She wasn't out in the yard for a minute before I was summoned.
"See," she told me, pointing a row of dug-up plants alongside the backyard toolshed, "that's where it was." Gray fur on the ground corroborated her hypothesis (I don't know how the rest of them missed it).
Pretty clearly, too, it was Cork who was responsible.
The ruined nest was empty, suggesting that Cork had probably eaten the other kits whole. Why he spared this one, at least temporarily, is not hard to figure: He wasn't through playing with it yet.
Dogs are wonderful, loyal companions. Even Cork. But they are related to wolves, you know. They make unconvincing vegans.
The baby rabbit was put back by the nest in the slim hopes that its mother might rescue it. Cork was restricted from the backyard during the remainder of the visit. When he was let out again, it was under supervision -- and, immediately, like the cliched criminal, he immediately returned to the scene of the crime. We shooed him away before he could do any further damage.
It probably didn't do the baby rabbit any good. It was gone the next day anyway.