By Patti Zint
The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic.
~Henry Ward Beecher
~Henry Ward Beecher
I could have avoided all that trouble if only I had remembered to keep the cat in. Five little human noses were pressed curiously against our glass door, each vying for the best view as our loyal old mutt, Pup, squeezed in beside them.
"Mom! There's something out there!"
Recalling the bank robber who was chased down in our back yard last summer, I raced toward the sofa, pushed past the kids, and peered through the locked glass door, ready to defend my young.
Following five little pointing fingers, I saw it. The rear half of a mouse lay neatly on the patio: no blood, no gore, a neat kill. Sassy, our dainty gray-and-white cat, sat smugly near her gift. I sighed in relief. A rodent carcass I could handle.
"Okay, kids, stay here," I said, grabbing a couple of paper towels. I scooped up the remains and headed to the Dumpster, Sassy trailing behind me, yowling her protest.
"Thank you for sharing, Sass, but no thank you."
"Mrroowph!" Sassy snorted.
Excitement over, we all went back to whatever we were doing.
"Mom! There's another one!"
Five minutes couldn't have passed. I resolved to bring in the cat as I grabbed another paper towel and stepped through the door to the patio, but as I reached down for this one, which was still, thankfully, intact, it leaped.
"Eeeeek!" I screamed.
Five screaming kids and our suddenly alert old mutt shot through the open glass door, much to the disgust of Sassy, who marched slowly amidst the pandemonium, tail high, through the open door. She had clearly washed her whiskers of us.
Flabbergasted, I watched our old hound take the mouse between his jaws so that all that could be seen of the tiny creature was a dangling tail that waved up and down while Pup raced in circles to avoid the kids' attempts to catch him. Ugh! The last thing I wanted was for them to see a mouse chewed alive! I ordered my older son to get a paper bag while I joined the chase.
"Pup! Drop that!"
Pup's frisking days were long gone, but something about this adventure had set him off. There was a twinkle in his eye and a look of pure mischief as he easily avoided the little bodies that hurled themselves at him. He kept the long tail that bounced in his soft-mouthed jaw just out of their reach. Sticky, warm dog slobber drooled down the tip of the critter's tail and flung everywhere as Pup romped with his prize.
"Pup! Come here!" I yelled.
Tail wagging waves of happiness, Pup approached me coyly and sat, eyes rolling toward the kids, who for once obeyed my outstretched hand that told them to stay.
"Good dog," I said patting his head. I motioned to Aaron to bring the bag as one of the younger boys asked if the mouse was dead.
"It's wet and slobbery. Might be dead. Stay back," I said, eyeing our dog appreciatively as he looked proudly back. "Pup, you have to give it to me," I said holding the bag open just under his mouth. Then in my sternest command voice, I said, "Drop!"
To my surprise, he did. The wet little vermin plopped right into the bag where it lay very still for approximately 1.3 seconds, not long enough for me to close the bag, before leaping with great vigor onto my shoulder, causing me to do a crazy screaming wiggle-dance. The chase, along with the cries of encouragement from the kids, was on again.
"Run, Mousie! Get away!" screamed my daughter.
"Save yourself, Mouse!" urged my nephew.
"Poor little mouse!" wailed my younger son.
But it was Pup who stole the show. Jumping sideways, he followed the bounding leaps of the mouse until it settled near a bush. To further impress us, Pup lifted his forepaw, pushed his nose out and actually pointed!
Silence reigned as we took in the spectacle of our mellow old mutt behaving just like a spry hunting dog. The wretched rodent chose that moment to make good its escape.
Quick as lightning, Pup stuck out his head, opened his jaws, adjusted for the angle, and the hapless mouse went right back into his mouth as if pulled by an invisible cord. The kids whooped and praised Pup, who started his serpentine trail through the yard again, mouse tail flapping.
I retrieved the empty paper bag and once more issued the sit and drop commands. Pup obeyed, beaming, and as lively as I'd ever seen him. This time I closed the bag fast, mouse intact, dead or alive.
"Good dog! Okay kids, we got 'im!"
Pup's youthful glow remained as he basked in the praise of the kids, who lavished him with treats and superhero attributes, even fashioning a cape for him that he quickly gnawed off. This was clearly a crowning moment in his life we would remember forever.
It was at that moment my six-year-old son Sam asked the question that has led to the increase in our family by sixteen hamsters and two mice in the past several years.
"Mom, what are we going to name Pup's mouse?"