Allen Street Al is back living under the deck after a two year hiatus. He couldn't have picked a worse time to reopen the tunnel that runs next to our foundation, as our granddog arrived last night for a week-long visit while his mommy and daddy take a vacation in D.C.
Our resident groundhog disappeared a couple years ago, around the time Suki was reaching her maturity. So it was only natural to assume that common sense prevailed and he decided to move elsewhere - like on the other side of our fence. But in the last couple weeks, we started having sightings, again. First he was snapping off snow pea pods in Amy's garden and dining alongside the crew out in Chickenland. Now, he has taken to sunning himself in the middle of the backyard, grazing casually on the un-mowed grass, despite the fact that, a couple times a day, Suki has bolted from the house and given chase all the way into the thicket along our back fence.
Last evening, shortly after his arrival, Rhesus entered into the fray, altering the dog/groundhog dynamic drastically. Suki can run fast, but Rhesus, with his longer legs, can run even faster. A few years ago, before we got Suki, Rhesus was visiting and actually caught a groundhog. I had to go out there and break it up before one of them got seriously hurt. Groundhogs can be fierce fighters when cornered - and they have teeth that can eat through concrete. I actually pulled the dog off the groundhog, which looked at me gratefully before hightailing it to the escape hatch it had dug under the back fence. Since then, we have heard stories of the R-dog's feats - catching and killing squirrels, snatching birds out of mid air...
You learn something new every day. I always thought of my dog as a herder and a watchdog. That goes with being an Australian Cattle Dog. Even before Rhesus arrived to join the chase, I noticed that Suki always gave Al fair warning before going after him. She would fly out of the house, barking, and let him stay about a body length ahead, until he was safely on the other side of the fence. Groundhogs are slow. Suki is pretty fast. I got the sense that she was just running him off her turf. Last night, when Rhesus spied him in the garden, he took off after him without making a sound and almost caught him. The same thing happened with a cat, early this morning.
The difference is that Rhesus, with his hodgepodge ancestry, is a hunter and Suki is a watchdog. They have different motivations. In general, Rhesus tends to bark a lot less than Suki does. When they are out in the backyard together, Rhesus is constantly moving about with his nose to the ground. Suki will do that for a few minutes when she first goes out, but soon places herself strategically on the top step of the stairs leading up to the deck, from which she can survey the entire neighborhood and keep an eye on the neighbors. When she is in the house, she can often be found staring out one of the windows - looking for trouble. I was comforted by this when we had that string of break-ins in town awhile back.
All this has given me a new appreciation for all those little yappers that bark at us from their houses as we go by on our evening walks. Good for you, you little junkyard dog wannabes. You serve your masters well.