Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sex and Killing

A friend of mine got caught having sex with her boyfriend when she was a freshman in High School and spent the next four years restricted to school and home. So shocked were her parents at the sight of their young and innocent daughter in the throes of passion they overreacted. The story of how she got caught, where she got caught and the immediate aftermath is one of the most hysterically funny stories I have ever heard, and honestly, most of it was you- would- have- to- know- this- woman to truly appreciate the humor. She was one of those girls who was with the same boyfriend for a year or so before she had sex, and got caught the first time. It didn’t slow them down very much because they skipped school together, and had sex at her house when her parents were at work. But this isn’t about sex. This is about killing.

I remember the first time I saw Sam kill, and truth be told, it was my fault. I turned the dogs loose on the first armadillo I had seen on the property, and honestly, I thought Sam would run from it. I was a little afraid Bert might try to kill it, but they have armor, right? I mean, how could these animals evolve with armor unless it worked, right? Sam was still young, still very skinny, and as soon as he saw the armadillo he sailed through the slats of the deck rail and like a black torpedo tore after the armadillo. Bert took a few steps then stopped because it was already over. The armadillo was snuffling the ground and a split second before impact seemed to realize something was very wrong. Like a swimmer a hundred yards off shore feeling the pressure wave running ahead of a shark, the armadillo’s mind told it something was… Sam slammed into the armadillo at speed, grabbed it by the head and shook it for about five seconds. Then he dropped it and walked away, without looking back at all, and without ever making a sound. I still had Patches Anne Cat back then, the cat Sam was raised around, and Patches looked at me as if to say, “I’m going to need a handgun.”
The first time I saw Bert and Sam hunt as a team Sam launched at an armadillo and it heard Sam coming. The armadillo realized Sam would make it to the fence before it could, so it abruptly turned and Bert was waiting for it. I have no idea how he knew which way it would turn, or how they had planned the attack, but I’ve watched them do this a dozen times and it never fails. If the armadillo is slow Sam gets it before it gets to the fence, and if it breaks away from Sam then Bert is always in the right place at the right time.
I had hopes Lucas wouldn’t be as intense as Sam and Bert when it came to killing, and I had hoped now the two older dogs are indeed getting older, perhaps they would lose some of their drive. They let Lucas have the half dead possum, and they didn’t kill it outright, which is unheard of. Lucas mostly carried it around and barked at it but he didn’t try to kill it. I thought that maybe things would be different and maybe…
I’m not sure how they knew the squirrel would hesitate where he did, and I’m not totally convinced this was a coordinated attack but it happened too perfectly. And it was pure pack hunting technique where the prey animal concentrates on one member of the pack while another moves in on it. Not in a thousand years would I suspect Lucas could have gotten that high up a tree truck to nab a squirrel, and apparently I am not the only one surprised. The Loki Mutt was not playing this time, not barking, but took the squirrel down and chomped it the way Bert chomps things. Sam shakes them to death, but Bert is a brawler, and now so is Lucas. Squirrels have very serious teeth and can inflict damage to be reckoned with but Luke came out of it without a scratch. The older dogs, once they helped dispatch the prey, walked off and let Lucas play with it. Again, this is pure pack behavior; letting the younger pack mate have the kill after letting him make the kill.

We humans tend to view ourselves as out beyond, and transcendent to nature, and we aren’t. We get out feelings hurt when we catch our young copulating, even though most of us were frantically banging away in the backseat of a car at one point in time, way too young to be unleashing the sort of power we felt, but helpless and willing to do so. We’d like to think our four legged companions might enjoy nature the same way we do, by watching the little animals in their own environment, but when it gets right down to it we have as much chance of getting dogs to leave small mammals alone as we do teaching teens sex is wrong outside the bounds of whatever societal morns we’ve created.

My job at this point is as it always has been. I have a puppy to raise, and clearly he has the aptitude for hunting. I’m glad to see him learning from the older dogs, and maybe now he won’t get zapped by a snake. He is more Bert’s son than Sam’s, and I’m happy to see that, and I am very happy he seemed to think it was sport and not something he had to do to protect the food supply, as Sam does. There is a bit of projection here, yes, I do realize that, but it’s me trying to understand the canines I live with, inside their environment, without sugar coating the fact they kill things.

Take Care,
Mike

5 comments:

  1. Yeah, I don't think our canine/feline companions are actually 'tame'...or 'domesticated.' They just let us think so till the beast in them shows itself -- squirrel murder in my backyard shortly after I moved in. Not sure which dog did it -- the doxie or minpin. Signs on squirrel left no doubt of dog killing. And just the other day a stray cat I've been feeding nabbed a chipmunk as I came out of the house, got her to let it go. But then wondered why I did that -- the darn chipmunks have eaten a few of my sprouting seeds in the garden!

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  2. Hi CS!

    I would bet on the minpin, myself. Cats are feral animals unafraid of humans, and willing to trade affection for free food. If they were all ten pounds heavier we would have hunted them into extinction out of fear for our young.

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  3. that made me sad and I didn't like it.

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  4. What's really sad is how Sam came to be Sam, and why he's the way he is.

    Sam is a product of severe abuse when he was a puppy, and when I found him, or rather when Bert found him, he was very nearly dead.

    It's a natural thing for dogs to hunt, but Sam is a little weird about it.

    I'm sorry it made you sad, though.

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  5. Our cat and dog family members will always be wild in soul. Some act on their heritage, some do not.

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