I wandered down the field this morning, balmy sunshine sinking into my arms. It was one of those mornings that make you smile, when you suddenly feel happy to be alive.
Bollo was milling around my feet, foraging through bushes, checking out the sweet smells of the countryside. Or so I thought… You know that moment when you suddenly get a feeling there is something wrong? It’s almost like a sixth sense thing; you get a feeling in your gut, the hairs on the back of your neck prick up?
I glanced around. The field was empty. No people, no cows, nothing. And no Bollo. OK, I thought, he’s chasing bunnies through the hedge. I called him. Nothing. I know, I hear you – he’s not the best behaved dog in the world. He drags me down the road sometimes, pounces on the dogs at training class, runs a hugs tongue over the trainer’s face. But, believe it or not, when it comes to the usual commands of sit, down, come – he’s pretty good. So, imagine my confusion when I’m standing in the field, listening to my own voice, dog-less. I called again. Another time. This was getting beyond a joke. My voice dropped several octaves (sometimes an edge of irritation makes all the difference). Still nothing.
Hmmm. Now I was starting to get worried. He’d never been out of sight for so long. I climbed through the hedge; a hawthorn snagged my arm. Ouch! And what do I see – a view of himself laying down, back to me. I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or angry, especially as the cut on my arm had started bleeding.
“Bollo!” I cried, “What are you doing?” He turned to face me, his eyelids stretched back in surprise at how I managed to clamber through his precious hedge. And then I saw it. The rabbit hanging out of his mouth. (I need to intercept here: Bollo chases the odd rabbit, but if he catches up with them he has no killer instinct. He danced around the last one he cornered, before planting a huge lick across its back and watching it hop away.) But this was no fluffy, healthy bunny. It was a dead bunny, a very dead bunny that by the looks of it had been dead for several days. And – it was headless. Great!
I’ve mentioned before, I used to have a german shepherd. He was a gentle dog in many respects but when he wanted to hold something in his mouth, or refuse something (like tablet medication) he clenched his mouth together and nothing was budging it. Now labradors are supposed to have soft mouths. We give Bollo tablets for his poorly joints and he takes them gently. We can open his mouth, examine his teeth, remove something if we need to like a stick that’s got stuck. My daughter even put her head in there once. But when it comes it a mangy, dead rabbit – forget it. I pushed, prised, pulled and screamed. Nothing was doing.
I was beginning to wonder if I’d be here all day, engaged in a battle of wills, when we heard a whistle in nearby field. He jerked his head, momentarily distracted and – dropped the rabbit. I’ve never moved so fast! I grabbed his collar, yanked him away while simultaneously kicking the bunny into the hedge. He didn’t even fight back, dazed by my ninja tactics. Getting back into the main field with him on a lead proved to be more of a challenge, but buoyed up by my defeat, nothing was going to stop me now.
I guess the moral of this story is: When it comes to potential food, no matter how disgusting, training and breeding instincts fly out of the window…