Mood: Dialectically distempered
We have a small dog, a big oak tree, and several hundred squirrels. The dog, Mingus, is a twelve-pound mutt with the short legs of a corgi. (Mingus is a girl, by the way. She wasn’t named after the jazz great Charlie Mingus. She was named after a friend’s cat who was named after Charlie Mingus.) The oak tree would challenge two normal-sized adults to hold hands around it. And the squirrels, of course, are evil little tree-rats with rotten souls. They’re the reason we don’t try to grow tomatoes anymore.
A couple of years ago, Mingus was standing under the oak tree when a squirrel overhead lost its grip and fell right in front of her. The dog froze in surprise, and by the time she shook herself into action it was too late; the squirrel was back in the branches, throwing acorns at us and laughing.
Mingus could never quite let go of that event, or the shame of her missed opportunity. From that day on, whenever we let her out, her first stop would be the oak tree. She would circle it five or six times, looking up to see if any rodents were plummeting through the air. Then, reluctantly, she’d leave it to do her business.
But yesterday, her determination paid off. Another squirrel fell from the branches and landed almost on top of her. Mingus had been preparing for this moment for two years, and the squirrel never had a chance. It was dead within thirty seconds.
Up to now, our dog’s greatest hunting feat had been catching dropped potato chips. I think living with three cats, all of whom regularly muscled her away from her own dog food, had eroded her self-esteem over the years. But now that she was a full-fledged squirrel-killer, she could hold her tail high. We filled her food dish that night, and she growled when the biggest of the cats approached. Of course the cat paid no attention, and soon Mingus was sitting about five feet away, watching her dinner disappear, but at least she had taken a stand.
Life doesn’t often offer do-overs, and mine usually compound the original embarrassment because I still can’t get it right. But the moral of this story is that sometimes we get a true second chance to redeem past mistakes, and when we do, it changes us. Until our familiars treat us as they always have.