Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 2-11-13
Mark Twain once said that “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” That’s true of people of course, but certainly true of dogs. My dad once had a Jack Russell terrier that couldn’t have weighed more than 15 pounds, but she thought she was a Rottweiller. She could back my Labrador off her food bowl or her favorite chew toy. Even though she was little on the outside, she was big on the inside. She was aptly named — Spunky.
My friend April had a feisty little dog like that, a red Dachshund named Woodrow. He was stocky and muscular and looked like a miniature Durock hog from the rear. He helped April’s daughter, D’lin run the goats when they needed to be exercised in preparation for the stock shows. All she had to do was turn him out in the pen with goats, and he’d go to work. If the goats didn’t want to get going, Woodrow would scoot underneath them and nip them on the belly or the inner thighs. It didn’t take much of that to put them in motion.
He loved to chase skunks and got sprayed lots of times. He even grabbed a porcupine by the tail once or twice and got a mouth full of sharp quills to show for his effort. But even that rude rebuff wasn’t enough to deter Woodrow from chasing all the varmints off April’s property. Perhaps his favorite target was raccoons. Like most farmers and ranchers, they had more raccoons than they ever wanted. They were forever getting into the cat food and garbage. They stole eggs and ate baby chicks. But Woodrow and his fellow ranch security guard, Gus, a white Australian shepherd, kept them in check — for the most part.
But one night there was a loud ruckus out on the carport. It was a cold wintry night, the week before Christmas. April was in the hospital with pneumonia. D’lin and her dad had just come in from the evening chores. Gus and Woodrow wouldn’t stop barking and the sound was reverberating off the metal walls. Finally, D’lin and her dad got flashlights and went to see what all the commotion was about. There was a stack of horse blankets stacked up in the corner of the carport. Both dogs were looking under there and barking ferociously. D’lin squatted down and shone the flashlight under the pile. There was a huge raccoon backed up against the wall snarling at her.
Her dad found a golf club and whacked the raccoon a couple of times. He was unconscious when they pulled him out. Then Gus, thinking he had dispatched the ’coon, jumped on him and started shaking him violently. Then he started swinging the limp animal around in circles. On the second pass, Woodrow clamped onto its tail. But since he didn’t add much weight, Gus didn’t even notice that he had a “hanger-on.” Woodrow growled fiercely as he tightened the grip on the raccoon’s striped tail. D’lin and her dad laughed at the comical sight of the little wiener dog around in the air repeatedly.
Finally, Gus took a break and laid the varmint on the ground, but it took some coaxing to convince Woodrow to let go. Then both dogs stood proudly beside their prey as if they’d stalked it for miles through the African bush country and brought it down on their own. They never realized that it was the initial blow to the head that felled their enemy.
D’lin went back inside to get ready for bed while her dad fetched his shotgun to finish the job he’d started. Even after the carcass was hauled off, Woodrow kept returning to the sight and sniffing and growling. He may not have been the hot dog he thought he was, but he showed them whose side he was on. His canine pride made him even more motivated to keep patrolling the perimeter looking for intruders. It was a long time before they were bothered by any others. ❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.