A Food and Her Terrier

It’s easy to explain why I like living with Jack Russells. They fly into my arms for biscuits. And they courageously protect the house from vermin. For example, Dixie whined recently at 4 am to go outside. Once I’d cracked the door, she burst into the back yard, screaming in her native terrier tongue, “SKUNKKK!”

By the time I caught up, she was on her arch nemesis’s back, riding Pepé Le Pew like a bucking bronco. I grabbed the garden hose, aimed and fired. My goals were to get my pooch off Pepé and to get the skunk to leave without spraying. Dixie dismounted, and the skunk disappeared over an ivy-covered fence, but he left his mark as he went. Well, two out of three wasn’t bad.

I gave Dixie a perfumed doggy bath, which did very little to cover Eau de Pepé. Still, the sun rose on the kind of gorgeous Saturday that reminds us why people pay $2 million for a rundown cottage – the kind of day perfect for pruning an apple tree. The terriers joined me in the garden, all sniffing where the skunk had been. One moment Dixie was beside me, nose to the ground, and the next she was in the neighbor’s garden. She’d followed Pepé’s path, up a vine-covered fence, down 15 feet on the other side, up and over a stone wall, then up an embankment, where she stood, grinning as only a terrier can and wagging her nub of a tail. The other dogs barked, egging her on.

Dixie said, “Pfffttt!” which translates, “I’m Terrier of the Universe.” She took off, and since she’s small enough to squeak under fences, and talented enough to climb over them, she had a huge advantage over me, a mere human.

I ran down the street and around the block, praying I’d be able to head her off at the pass. All of a sudden, there she was, at my ankles, trotting with me. I offered her a biscuit, hoping to nab her. No way. She was on to my scheme and off down the street, ducking in and out of backyards, where I couldn’t go. The white flash of her hind end appeared occasionally, taunting me.

Because it was such a beautiful day, there were plenty of people out gawking at me jogging down the street, placing bets as to who would win the chase. The odds were not in my favor. Not knowing I’d be in public, I’d worn my favorite gardening jeans with the ripped seat. Luckily, I hadn’t gone commando that day. And I was getting exercise. I could skip the gym. I checked my heart rate. It was definitely above my fat-burning zone and rapidly approaching cardiac arrest. I hoped one of the looky-loo neighbors would be kind enough to call an ambulance when I collapsed.

I hadn’t seen Dixie for a while, so I didn’t have a clue which way to go. I needed luck or maybe a set of wings. I heard a whistle from on high. A whistle? God whistles? I looked up and saw the cable guy in a cherry picker. He had a view of the whole neighborhood. “She went that-a-way!” he said.

So I ran that-a-way. Dixie poked her white snout through a fence and barked, “Na-na-na-na-nah,” and disappeared. The cable guy whistled and pointed the other direction. Dixie appeared, gave me her defiant terrier face and took off. She knew the cable guy had ratted her out, but she didn’t give up. Back and forth we went, with me huffing, Dixie dodging, and the cable guy pointing.

Finally, I came upon her at the front of a neighbor’s garage door with a solid fence on either side of the driveway. She wasn’t conclusively trapped, but she was cornered well enough that I could reason with her. I tossed biscuits in her direction, hoping her addiction to treats would seem more “reasonable” to her than her need for revenge on Pepé. She sampled the biscuit closest to her. Then another, and another, until she was at my feet, whining, “More?” I held another at my chest level, and she leapt and let me catch her.

I waved my thanks to the cable guy and headed for home with Dixie in my arms. One of the neighbors who’d been watching shouted, “What kind of dog is that?”

“She’s a very naughty dog,” I said, giving her a little smooch on the ear.