Trucker and I were taking a stroll one evening when he dropped behind me a few steps about half a block from home. I didn’t think much of his lagging since we had walked a ways and he was tired. It was during the short approach up our driveway that I looked down at him beside me to see a severely decomposed squirrel carcass, as flat as a frying pan, sticking out of his mouth – front legs on one side, tail on the other.
He had managed to scoop up the furry pancake so quietly from leaves piled along the road that I had no clue he was carrying it. He nearly brought it into the house with him. My eyes must have grown wide when I saw it. He surrendered it proudly as I grabbed it barehanded, in a panic, from his mouth.
I realize that he was just “being a dog,” perhaps bringing me/us home a snack, presenting me with this gift of love.
Sometimes I think that he mimics my arrival home from grocery shopping, weighed down with bags full of goodies and boxes of dog biscuits like a hunter who just dragged home a dead animal to feast upon. The joy he displays upon my arrival from the grocery store, however, doesn’t look like my expressions when he brings me decomposing creatures. Despite my shock, I always remember to thank him for his efforts.
I have read sources online noting that when a dog brings you a gift of a dead creature they are acknowledging you as the “leader of the pack,” or that you are “in charge.” Others note that dogs bring you dead things to “make you happy,” to “thank you” for taking care of them, or to “show their pride” of how they hunted.
These sources say not to panic when your dog brings you something dead, but to remain calm, thank your pet for the gesture, and remove the dead critter immediately and place it in something so it cannot be retrieved by the dog again.
Trucker has thankfully never brought me anything alive. Apparently he likes his gifts already deceased and ready for us to feast upon. The flat squirrel Trucker brought me that evening went into the outside trash can. It wasn’t the only carcass the can has seen.
Case in point: One summer afternoon as I tended my perennial gardens, Trucker was roaming around our backyard and our landlord’s yard next door. We live along a river, and a small brushy area lies just to one side of my driveway.
I heard a crunching noise and looked up to see Trucker nestled in groundcover plants along our fence, chewing on dried up squirrel remains. Again, my bare hands removed it from his jaws with the gentle words of, “No-no. Icky.” I then placed the squirrel parts in the trash can.
Back to yard work I returned. Trucker disappeared for a few minutes. Again a crunching noise caught my attention, and I looked up to see him lying in the same place gnawing on the rest of the dried up squirrel body. I snatched it from his mouth and wondered where he had the rest of it stashed and how soon he’d return with more.
Dog biscuits and bully sticks are abundant at my home for Trucker to munch on. Trucker, however, apparently has a taste for dried squirrel.
One day this winter as I unloaded groceries from my car in our driveway, Trucker bounced around like an excited child. I noticed him disappear into the brush while I carried bags into the house.
On one of my trips from the car to the back door, I heard his collar tags jingle beside me. Thankfully I looked at him before letting him dash into the house. From his mouth protruded the twisted wreckage of a creature so decomposed it was barely discernible. It looked like multiple carnival-size soft pretzel twists intertwined.
I was carrying in bags of food at the time, so I think that Trucker wanted to carry in his own frozen contribution.
Stunned again, with wide eyes and bare hands, I removed the dead creature from his mouth. Trucker smiled and stepped inside of the house while I left his prize outside in the driveway to photograph. I sent the image by phone to a friend with the words, “Tell me what this is,” attached to it.
The response from my friend was an, “Lol,” and, “Looks like something dead.” This body also went into the trash can.
I don’t know why these remains keep surfacing for Trucker to find. Although we are in a location where wildlife flourishes. I do know one thing for certain, Trucker would never let us go hungry. He is a generous hunter who graciously and delicately presents me with these startling surprises.
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About the author: Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author of Raising My Furry Children, artist, and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. Read more of her work at tracyahrens.weebly.com and raisingmyfurrychildren.weebly.com.