Ernie, intrepid hunter

He is twenty-five pounds of muscle and skills that come from an unknown heritage. [Although that is about to change with a doggy DNA kit sitting just over there.]

One of his favorite pastimes is sniffing out small animals.

Principally, we’re talking about rabbits, the wild ones that hang out on your property and eat your garden clean. [They are the main reason I had to build the formidable cage: to protect the vegetables growing from seed.]

Around the shack we know where they live. Ernie and I work as a team to find and encourage them to homestead elsewhere.

In the daylight my contribution is 6’3” of height to see over vegetation – hay, wild flowers in season – that he can’t. His talents includes a ground-skimming nose. Between the two of us there isn’t much we miss. [At night he has the decided advantage: x-ray vision that rivals Clark Kent’s!]

As we have learned, one of the main rabbit hideouts is a thicket of dewberries that birds and the rest of Nature have planted.

That hutch is their safe house, confirmed by The Ern’s prior encounters.

Here is how our battle plan is executed:

It is morning light. Most of the winter vegetation is brown and droopy. Ernie is running without a leash. He is free to roam.

Very deliberately he circles the tangle of barbed but berry-less branches; judiciously and cautiously he thrusts and parries with those sticks. To support my partner I lift a foot and rattle certain spots of that web. That gives any cotton-tail huddled underneath the impression that he is under attack. And of course he is, but it is a battle Au natural: we have no weapons, except for Ernie’s incisors. The rabbit’s formidable defense is lightning speed.

Ernie maintains the scheme and ups the ante by nosing under a sparsely tangled opening. The rogue tenant knows he is vulnerable and must hear Ernie’s being on the scent: to a human it sounds as if someone is breathing in and out of their nose so fast that they are nearing exhaustion. One can only image it sounds like a vortex to a hare.

I give a few more kicks to the skeletal mound; there is rustling underneath. The animal is rattled for sure.

BANG!

As if flying out of the barrel of a 30-30 a white bullet pops from the patch. The dog wails in hot pursuit. The mad dash continues parallel to the neighbor’s wired fence.

It is so rewarding to see my buddy – former street waif – stretching and using every sinew to catch the intruder.

Alas, the projectile darts through the wire and whizzes through the field next door. Are the random spectators – goats and cows – observing the chase too?

Ernie is left standing, resting on two wire squares longingly looking in the direction of the lost opportunity.

However, as with any true champ, he is undaunted: there is always tomorrow.

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