Our backyard in Florida had lots of trees and therefore lots of squirrels. Ivan made the most of this fertile hunting ground. When we moved to Illinois, the few trees at our new house were not large enough to tempt squirrels. I love trees, so within a month after unpacking dog beds and treats, we had 14 trees and 2 bushes planted in our back yard. Among those was a lovely oak. All of our trees have flourished in the intervening nine years, but the oak tree has grown prolifically. It is now large enough to produce acorns, and the squirrels have found us. A couple of days ago, as I watched a squirrel pop over our back fence and bound across the yard, I was reminded of the first time Ivan caught a squirrel in our Florida backyard.
2003: Ivan was galloping big circles around the yard and I was sitting on the patio, mentally listing all the yard work I needed to do when I heard an abrupt noise and noticed Ivan suddenly still among the trees. I hurried over and discovered a squirrel feebly kicking as Ivan prepared to pick it up again. I think he was examining his prey when his nosey mom interrupted him. He saw me, grabbed the squirrel and raced off. I trotted after him, like an idiot, "Ivan, sweetie, drop the squirrel. Look what I have." I waved liver biscotti, peanut butter bits, and anything else I could find in my pockets. I would have even tried bribing him with money had there been any on hand (Ivan, look, here's a twenty if you drop the squirrel.)
I cajoled, pleaded, waved liver bits, but nothing I had could even begin to equal the fascination of the squirrel that hung limply from his mouth. I crept forward, treat-laden hands extended, but he looked at me with patient disdain as if he couldn't quite believe I was foolish enough to think he'd give up a fresh squirrel in exchange for my paltry offerings. The entire time I was following Ivan around trying to reason with him (?!) I was absolutely terrified that he was going to eat this squirrel and catch some horrid disease or choke or, or something else really bad. I was too panicked to think of all the disasters that could befall him, but I was sure there were a lot. Finally, and I hate to even say this, I turned the hose on him. Shocked that his loving mommy had turned on him, the poor baby jumped straight into the air and dropped the squirrel. I leaped between Ivan and the squirrel, using the hose to keep him from his prize. He kept running from side to side, trying to get to the squirrel, and I kept spraying the poor little guy with the hose. I aimed the hose at poor Ivan with one hand while I lugged the top of our concrete birdbath across the lawn and upended it over the squirrel, apologizing to the squirrel the entire time, although the squirrel's earthly concerns, if they still existed, were fast slipping away.
After I turned off the hose and herded my wayward baby into the house, I toweled Ivan dry and apologized for being such an evil mom. My sweet boy didn't appear to hold a grudge over this gross mistreatment. I took Ivan for a long walk, then gave him a treat and went outside to bury the squirrel. I covered the burial site with two layers of bricks, scrubbed the bird bath with a diluted bleach solution, and hosed soapy water into the spot on the grass so Ivan wouldn't dig around in essence of squirrel.
Due to Ivan’s hunting prowess, the entire northeast corner of our Florida backyard was a brick-covered cemetery for his victims. It’s only a matter of time before the hunting games begin here. I’d better bring home a few bricks and get my shovel ready.