So I let out a “JESUS CHRIST” Graham Chapman would have been proud of, which was lost in other noise.
I’d seen a hawk stoop before, naturally, but usually from a safe distance. Though there’s a lot of drama packed between the fences, our backyard is relatively small; I was unprepared for the sound of a feathered predator going about its business. There was a snap of wing-braking, a puff of feathers–you know how when the Twilight movies first came out we were making jokes about FURSPLOSION? It was kind of like that, only without shredded clothes flying everywhere.
It was, as I said, a hawk–probably the very one hanging around lately, playing with our crows and no doubt looking to expand some territory since the hunting ground along the highway has been torn up for expansion. It looked huge, puffy, dangerous, extremely intent on business…
And very, very hungry.
I don’t think Boxnoggin knew quite what to do at that point. His head cocked but his front paw–lifted in order to make him a very handsome statue, it must be said–remained aloft. The explosion of flapping continued, wing-snaps very loud despite the fact that birds are hollow-boned and lighter than anything of corresponding size. By the sheer racket being made, it doesn’t seem Not-Tony Hawk (such I christened them in the heat of the moment, for sometimes a name just appears unto us word-miners) knew they were supposed to be light and thus, logically and relatively quiet.
There was a scream. I’m not sure if it was Rip Van Rodent, because heaven knows he had reason, or Yours Truly, because I don’t know if a squirrel can produce that kind of sound. I don’t remember screaming past my original horrified expostulation, but that’s no indication.
All right. So let’s hit pause on the screen here, and take a look at what’s going on.
That blur of brown, white, and gleaming beak is Not-Tony, a surprisingly large hawk engaged upon lifting up a hubris-laden snack from the grass. The smear of brown and fluffy tail is Rip Van Rodent, who might have avoided the claws through sheer luck but is probably not going to have such beneficence from Fortuna much longer. In the northern half of the yard amid the garden boxes there’s me, with my mouth hanging open–either yodeling like King Arthur faced with a Vorpal Bunny or just plain letting out a horrified, wordless cry. And that black and white inkblot is my poor, dear, dumb dog, caught mid-vibration as he’s about to erupt into motion.
Boxnoggin did not know what the hell. Of course, he never knows what the hell, but the dim intimation that perhaps he should take some manner of action had worked its way between the two (count ’em) neurons he has firing at any given point inside that thick, surprisingly capacious skull. (They rattle like dried peas in there.) For Box, “taking action” consists of a relatively limited set of options.
There was no window to yell out of and no other dog in sight; since those are generally prerequisites for yapping, #1 was right out. He had unloaded himself of solid effluvia at the regular time that morning, leaving him with (so to speak) no pylons to deploy, so option #3 was out as well. There was no time to go blind, so #4 could not happen just yet. Which meant he was left with peeing (option #2) or the final and most attractive prospect (Mambo #5), chasing whatever had drawn his attention.
And, multitasker that he is, the dog tried to do both at once.
That’s right. Sixty-plus pounds of lovable furry dumbass lost control of his bladder and at the very same moment decided he was gonna get a piece of whatever action was occurring in the southern half of the yard. But he had forgotten one crucial detail.
That’s right. His front paw was still up.
So my dog peed himself, tripped at the same time, and landed flat on his face while someone (either Rip Van or me) was still mid-yell. Not-Tony Hawk paid no attention, for slow-lumbering earthbound giants are, to Family Accipitridae, largely irrelevant unless they leave behind something to feast upon. Boxnoggin scrabbled, splattering pee in every direction, and finally got his paws coordinated. He dug in and took off like a freshly untethered jet engine while I was still staring at the hawk, and the leash snapped taut.
I had the leash wrapped twice around my hand, but that was clearly not enough. Bones crunched together, I staggered, and the thought that maybe I should tie the damn dog to my waist like I do every day for walkies went through my head, tiptoeing through the quiet of shock. It hurt like a sonofabitch, but only later.
Because now I had a pee-soaked dog (almost) unloosed upon the unsuspecting world, Not-Tony was using their wings to buffet and daze their prey, and Rip Van?
Well, the squirrel wasn’t quite dead.
To be continued…