Yesterday, for Jake’s first longer-than-ten-minute afternoon walk, I took him and Fergie a quarter of the way up the big hill. And ran into Big Red, our resident rattler. Fat little bugger, only not so little, about three feet long and quite good looking as snakes go. Lazily coiled in an erosion crevice on the side of the fire access road, he had his chin pillowed on a teenage-size dead rabbit with some fur missing and stared at us as we passed.
If it hadn’t been for the young guy sitting on his haunches a couple feet away staring at Big Red in fascination, I wouldn’t have seen him there.
“You just missed it, he had the rabbit in his mouth.”
“Oh darn,” I murmured.
It was bad enough seeing the poor dead rabbit lying there on his side like he was taking a nap, without witnessing that. And what was with the missing fur? I didn’t want to think about it. I’m always on the lookout for rattlers, what with two hyper curious dogs. Thank goodness this one had a spectator to warn me.
One time, BF (before Fergie) with a leashless Jake leading the way up the third leg of the hill, he trotted over a greyish rattler stretched across the road. Could’ve been a stick as far as both of us were concerned until I noticed the rattles out the corner of my eye. I shrieked and, jumping over the snake, grabbed Jake by the collar and charged up the hill dragging him. This was before the law caught up with me. Now, I’m a little more circumspect, checking around for Park Rangers before unhooking their leashes. And in case you’re thinking that maybe a leash would help me rein in both dogs upon the sighting of a snake. It won’t.
Like the time I saw what turned out to be a harmless gopher snake sunning itself on a steep side of the hill just as Fergie was about to step on it. Grabbing her muscular little body, leash and all, I pitched her sideways, like one would a rugby ball. The snake slithered away. This little stunt cost me mucho dinero in doctor and chiropractor bills and brought to light a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis—back problems that had been waiting to happen.
One thing I learned from the sighting of Big Red was that Fergie has a girl’s horror of snakes. She gave Big Red one of her classic craned-neck WTF looks, spun on her two heels and all but dragged me up the hill behind her. Good girl. Jake, on the other hand had slammed on brakes—more investigation needed. Have you ever been pulled in opposite directions by two bull terriers, who single-handedly could drag a tractor up the hill? It’s invigorating. Opens up the chest cavity, equivalent to at least twenty yoga Camel Postures, only a little more forceful.
When we came back down the hill, the snake-watcher was sitting on an embankment on the other side of the road, elbows on knees. There was no sign of Big Red and the rabbit had moved a few feet away.
“The rattler’s behind that bush,” snake-watcher said. “So I tossed the rabbit after him.”
“Wow,” I said, wondering if he’d grabbed the poor little bunny by the back legs, or what? Never mind that he was in striking range of Big Red. What I should’ve said was, why?
Meanwhile Fergie had made a beeline for the rabbit before I realized. Jake followed suit. Calling upon muscles that the two of them had helped develop, I planted my feet and pulled them toward me.
“How about a GREENIE?” I cried. If you’re not the fortunate caretaker of a dog, what Henry Beston calls another nation, a Greenie, is a very tasty treat. They swung around. Seizing the opportunity I started running, they followed.