Friday, June 26, 2015

Nurse the Hate: The Squirrel Incident

I got home yesterday after work.  All I wanted to do was get out of my work pants and into my play pants and go see Todd Snider.  I have tried to see Todd Snider play about 117 times and failed on each attempt for a myriad of reasons, none of which seem that insurmountable.  Todd is sort of a laid back drifter hippie singer songwriter, so I think he would cut me some slack in my not making it to one of his shows yet.  I bought his book and most of his releases.  That must count for something.  This time I was very focused on actually seeing him perform.  I changed clothes quickly and let the hounds out.

The hounds went out and made an enthusiastic bee line for an area by the fence.  It is never good when two dogs are very excited about a particular spot in a fenced in yard.  There are very few things that a dog is going to find on his own that are good for the dog’s owner.  I know plenty of stories about dogs finding terrible things to roll in, dead animals, and bad choices of things to eat.  I know very few stories about dogs finding a stack of bootleg LPs or a case of vintage champagne.  I peered outside trying to figure out the source of the excitement.  The dogs sniffed at something small and brown slowly moving just under the fence.   Uh-oh.

I went outside hoping it was nothing but feeling a sinking feeling in my stomach it would be something horrible.  It was.  A squirrel was crawling with just his front legs, dragging his back legs behind him.  He was breathing hard, obviously in great pain.  I noticed on his back a wound from what I guessed to be a BB gun, a green backed fly already on top of the wound feeding on it.  His frightened eyes met mine as I knelt down to look at him.  Son of a bitch.  I couldn’t leave this animal like this.  His eyes had a pleading quality to them, however much I may have projected that thought from being surrounded by so much death recently.  

The neighbors behind me have a couple of teenage boys.  I don’t know them.  They are the kids that years ago built a shanty in the shared woods directly behind my house.  Most families would have thought, “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t let the boys built a fort directly in the view of this guy’s back windows.  He might not want to look at a hobo village year round for three years.” but empathy hasn’t been the neighbor’s strong suit.  On a few occasions I have seen the boys step out onto their deck and shoot a BB gun into the trees behind my house.  The sound of a BB going through leaves is unmistakable, as is the sound of the sliding glass door shutting quickly when they see me in the back patio and escape back to their comfortable living room.  Two other times I have found small animals in my back yard hit by their BB gun.  Once was an injured squirrel that crawled back into the woods before I could do anything about it.  The other time the dogs found a dead chipmunk and ran around playing keep-away with each other as I tried to cajole them into giving it up.  That was more fun for the hounds than for me.

All I wanted to do was change clothes and go listen to Todd Snider sing some songs.  It wasn’t much to ask.  I was in a good mood.  Now suddenly I have to kill a defenseless squirrel.  I didn’t ask for this.  I like animals.  I don’t want to hurt anything.  I certainly didn’t sign up to have to kill something before my dogs got to it, or have to walk away and pretend that the animal would be fine if I left it alone.  “Hey Greg!  How was work?  We left a moral dilemma for you with no winning scenario!  Love, the cruel hillbillies from out back.”
I was really angry about the whole situation.  There is no reason whatsoever to be killing the squirrels.  There is even less reason to shoot the squirrels and leave them in a mortally wounded state to crawl around in the woods.  I understand that there is a hunting culture.  I also understand that the hunting culture is not one of cruelty, but of respecting nature and the animals that are taken.  You shoot what you eat.  I had it.  I walked behind the woods, hoping to haul the whole family out of their home so the boys could kill the mortally wounded animal in front of their parents.  I was hoping to create a memorable scene that would stain them in shame and responsibility, and hopefully not one that would confirm their love of torture and later mass murder.  I figured it would go “Scared Straight” or “Jeffery Dahmer: The Early Years”.  Admittedly, I didn’t have much of a plan but went in on pure emotion.

I rang the front door bell and the somewhat groovy mom answered the door.  She is a petite woman with a yoga instructor vibe.  I expected her to be surprised and horrified about what her kids were up to in my yard.  I told her that I came home to find a whimpering bleeding squirrel hauling its back legs behind it in my yard, and I was there about a second before my dogs did something horrible to it.  This is when I was thrown a curveball.  She started to laugh and covered her mouth with her hand in a demure fashion.  “Oh hahahaha!  I’m sorry!  I know the way it is with hounds! Hahahaha!”  This was not what I was expecting.  The only issue in this scenario to her was the silly notion that the dogs ripping an injured animal apart might be seen to some as gruesome.

I live in a subdivision, not a ranch.  We don’t have hunters in tree stands waiting for elk to sashay by.  I tried to explain how I was uninterested in finding injured animals in my backyard, I was uninterested in my dogs ripping these creatures apart, and further suggested that perhaps the behavior of her boys may be a bit cruel to abandon wounded animals.  She corrected me in the way all suburban mothers do, as it probably wasn’t her boys as she had instructed them to “always finish the animal off when they take target practice”.  While I was not surprised at her denial that the boys were involved (I have never seen a suburban mother seriously consider that her damaged child might have done anything they have been caught red handed doing.  In fact, I will bet Dahmer’s mom still considers him a good boy.), I was surprised at the term of “finished off”.  Had she seen too many mafia movies?  What the fuck was that?  Who has a mother that talks about “finishing off” little animals?

I walked back to my house in a bit of a daze.  I don’t think I had made any point.  Wait, I know I didn’t make any point.  I walked over to the squirrel, which had now wedged itself between the fence and a large tree.  His body heaved from the effort.  His mouth was now slightly agape, his eyes staring at me, now three flies on his wound.  I did not want to kill this squirrel.  I also did not want to leave this squirrel in this condition.  I hated the people that lived behind me for putting me in this position.  I hated them.  I decided the lesser of two evils was to kill the squirrel.  I went to the garage to figure out the quickest and most merciful way to do it.

I grabbed a shovel.  I decided that a quick blow would be the best course.  The problem was that the angle of the squirrel against the tree and that of the fence left little room for an effective strike.  I hoped the squirrel would move to more open ground, but with the recent rains making the ground very soft, that might not be good either.  I struck the squirrel.  He yelped in pain, the blow glancing due to the way he was wedged in.  I quickly brought the shovel down again and again, my hand scraping the side of the tree.  The squirrel squealed briefly and then quieted.  My hand dripped blood, the skin from my thumb ripped open by the bark.  I felt terrible at the needless savage way in which this animal had died at my hand.  He didn’t deserve that.  I didn’t deserve it either.   

I took the limp body of the squirrel and placed it in a lawn bag.  The blood from my thumb made a “thwack thwack thwack” sound hitting the paper of the bag.  I stood up and saw the woman from the house next door looking at me from behind her curtain.  She disappeared when I looked at her.  I walked back to my garage.  I threw the bag away.  I bandaged my hand.  I went inside as it began to rain.


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