It was dusk and I was in the garden surrounded by elongating shadows and dark patches where the weak moonlight did not yet reach. I was busy, and enraptured in my chores as I was, I did not hear it approaching. It snuck up on me, stealthily and silently as my back was turned. My hands full, I unassumingly turned and suddenly faced the intruder. Dark fur stuck out of it in dirty tufts, a long snake-like tail was coiled at its back. Claws sharpened by previous kills were held in the air and a pair of red eyes fixed on me.
My hands shook and I dropped my load. I called out for help and cowered in the dark as I waited.
But here I must stop my narration and put you in the picture.
I own three dogs. None bought all adopted, or rescued as I like to say. Two are girls and one is a boy. Two are pure-breed fox terriers the other is a mix between fox terrier and English pointer. So technically I have three hunters – but I don’t, their ancestors’ hunting blood does not run through my three dogs’ DNA. Three cowards I have, terrified of their own shadow, but that will come later.
The mixed breed is a girl, bigger than the pure-bred fox terrier but smaller than the pointer. Her coat is a beautiful shiny black and white resembling the patches on cow hide. Her head and ears are shaped like that of the fox terriers but her body and almond eyes are those of the pointer therefore she has a head too small for her body, inevitably making her look too fat. But she doesn’t seem to mind; she eats anything I put in front of her and doesn’t waste a thought on the calories, she would eat me if she didn’t love me as much as she does. Her name is Lilly, short for Manuela. She chose her name herself. I had inherited her along with her appellation, but once I tried to reaffirm with her that she approves of her chosen title so I called out to her, “Michaela!” I shouted the name three times, each time louder than the previous. She didn’t look up. Then I tried other forms of the name Lilly. But she didn’t respond to Michelle or to Lillian. Eventually she answered and loped towards me when I called Manuela, so that was settled.
The same was done with the other girl. Tina in short, she favours the name Christina which I discovered following the same process I had with her step-sister. If I had any choice in the matter however, I would have called her Queeny. The name would have fit her like the jewel-studded pink collar that I bought for her when she first came. She is a pure breed foxy. Tina has two preferred postures; standing poised and ready to pounce, her long un-clipped tail standing straight and slim in the air; or sitting with her legs crossed and her paws pointed, touching each other elegantly, both ears propped upwards at a parallel angle and her head looking both ways with her chin slightly up, her beady, black eyes looking down at her subjects. When she is making ready to bolt, she lifts one delicate paw in the air and hangs it there in readiness. She is all white with a black mask on one side of her face, adding to her mysterious femme fatale demeanour. Tina is dainty; grace and dignity commanding her every movement. She doesn’t gorge on the fodder like the other two, but first smells whatever I put in front of her and then, only if she approves, does she nip deftly at her food.
The other fox terrier is male. The youngest of the three he is still in his infancy. At six months old he follows three inches away from my heel wherever I go; inevitably causing me to trip over him disgracefully on many more than one occasion. He is still very eager to please, unlike his two rebellious sisters. He is playful, bubbly, and seems impervious to pain. He is trampled by Lilly more often than I can count but still puts himself valiantly under her gigantic paws and in the way of her food, willingly inviting punishment. He is heavy and unable to jump higher than a foot but still heroically tries to fly over the two-foot high, flat ceiling of their kennel, only to roll in the air and land heavily on his back. Embarrassment and pain do not bother him and so immediately he gets to his feet and tries again. He is called Rambo. Again, I had no choice in the name selection. I prefer the nickname Rambubble for him – short for Rambo-bubble. He answers to it happily.
Those are my three dogs. Each bred for hunting foxes and wild rabbit, they are hunters by nature – or so the dog book says.
In the small island where I live, there are no foxes however, nor any wild rabbit. There are rodents though, rats to be exact. And this brings me to the erstwhile related predicament.
There I was, ambushed by the half-metre, dark, furry, red-eyed miscreant while I was cleaning the water bowls. It held me there fixated under its bright red eyes. While I was standing paralyzed, my bladder playing tricks on me, I called my three hunters for back-up. They came loping around the bushes, took one look at the attacker and screamed like they had seen a ghost. Had they been real women they would have grabbed their skirts, hitched it up above their knees and jumped on the first suspended surface they could find. Being dogs, they howled in terror and ran away to their bedroom, actually closing the door behind them. So, with no other choice available to me at the time, I ran. I bought traps, cheese and rat poison and placed them strategically all over the garden.
Over the coming week I heard the same howls of terror, from time to time, emanating from the garden. I would look outside one of the windows and see the should-be hunters scurrying away in fear, but no sign of the assailant. The traps remained persistently empty, and my hunters stubbornly untested. The nights where the worst, with my fear-stricken dogs expressing their horror for all the village to hear, night after night. I did not sleep a wink, and neither did the neighbours. My good fellow villagers though, albeit the dirty looks I received each morning on my way to work, did not report the unwanted noise to the authorities, and so in gratitude, I smiled helplessly back at their dirty looks while on my way to the car.
One day the howling took on a new tone. It was no longer high pitched and panic-stricken, but incessant and ceaseless – my children were telling me something. I looked out of the window and saw my three guards barking in unison at one specific point in the bushes where I knew I had set one of the traps. I grabbed a broom and a metal spade and went forth into the garden. True enough, the hare-sized rat, was there in the trap – dead.
I will not go into detail how I managed with eyes closed and a pinched nose to extract that horrid thing from the trap, but I did. And when its over-sized, limp body hit the ground with a splat, all the courage deserted my three little non-hunters. The hairs on their coat stood on end and like three terrified cats they hissed and dashed off. Only then I remembered that I had forgotten the rubbish bag. So I left my dead prize in the garden and went back to the house to retrieve the black body bag.
Back into the garden, I was called forth by now courageous-sounding barking. I found them there, all three clearing a metre wide diameter around the rat. They were barking at it.
“There she got you, you bastard!” Lilly was shouting and spitting amid gnarled viscous teeth.
“She got you, she got you, she got you…” Rambo taunted happily, his tail wagging its way to becoming a rotary flying engine.
“We are not amused,” Tina said once, threw her nose in the air, and left me to it.