Crows, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, seemed the bane of Major's existence. Crows and great blue herons, hawks of course but that's fine, and just about every form of wildlife larger than a finch. Well, blue jays were friends because he was guaranteed some of the peanuts I set out for them. And a stray dog visiting in the yard will create as great a ruckus as a small deer on the far side of the lake.
Not much of a retrieving retriever, he certainly liked to watch the passing scene, commenting loudly at whatever caught his attention and expecting my full attention in return.
Then there were the squirrels. Like their chipmunk cousins, they seem to have no purpose except to raise the hackles on this retriever. Quite fearless, they perched on the deck's railing or climbed the trees when not content to scavenge for the fallen leftovers. On rare occasions they have been discovered in the window feeder itself.
Major's warning was obviously unheeded for now two squirrels played in the yard. The retriever sat quietly by the glass door watching their comings and goings. I called to him from near the door to the garage. He understood immediately which still surprises me though I don't know why it should. Now approaching from behind, he was able to lead the two on a hair-raising chase all over the yard. They won, needless to say, but the exercise was unquestionably profitable for all.
Later I became aware that this bark really meant business and that he meant he wanted my attention - right NOW. It was darkening dusk as I opened the door. He raced past and out and I glimpsed no more than the briefest motion of some animal as the two disappeared.
Earlier I had seen a set of strange footprints - definitely not cat and much too small to be retriever though he soon had them muddled as he seriously sniffed beneath the deck where they had earlier led. The dog quickly lost interest so I assumed the quarry with the strange feet was long gone. Perhaps I'd been in error for this blur of a critter had been no more than twelve feet from the deck.
Satisfied that his only duty had been done, Major retreated to the warmth of the house.
When he went out again a little later, his bark again demanded immediate attention. I could see him at the base of the pine so grabbed the lantern. Dead. A flashlight proved useless though I had no doubt something was up that tree. Just getting my attention seemed reward enough. The dog turned and returned with me to the house.
Shortly after (any dog lover knows this going out and coming in is a regular happening, a very regular occurrence), I was alerted again to his loud demands. Sneaker clad on a snowy night, I hastily grabbed the nearest heavy jacket and once again joined my barking dog.
I was surprised to see that he had actually captured his quarry - till I recognized the blazing eyes of an opossum. I'd seen the dead act played more convincingly with an earlier retriever but it was enough.
Savoring my praise, the retriever turned away from the little animal and marched proudly back through the garage. I could follow this time. He had done his duty and garnered all the reward he needed.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org