Tessa's First Kill

In October of 1996, about 6 weeks after my beloved Toby had died, we bought a Labrador Retriever. I wasn't all that happy about it, as I wasn't really ready for another dog, but Susan was insistent that she wanted a Chocolate Lab, and I've been married long enough to know when to argue and when not. At least, thought I, I'll get a hunting dog out of this.

No such luck: I was informed on Day One that "Tessa," as she was to be known, was NOT to be a hunting dog. No sirree, I could forget that idea entirely. My wife decreed her to be A Princess Of Dogs; the plebian world of mere retriever-hood was beneath her. She came from an upscale kennel in Springfield VA, selected (as Royalty usually is) with an eye to her breeding. She is from a long, long line of show Labs, and was selected for her beauty, of which she had an abundance. It clearly would have been unreasonable to think that such a high-born dog would ever, under any circumstances, debase her lineage by becoming a working retriever.

Four years later, Her Highness Tessa was as beautiful as ever; but, since she is in fact a dog, she had more or less a dog's outlook on life. She ate anything at all, any time, and as fast as possible. She cut colossal farts, so vile I could have bottled them and sold them to the Army. She chose to sleep on her back with her paws in the air. She chased (and ate) June bugs and caterpillars. If we hadn't had her spayed she'd have become a complete and utter slut. Nevertheless, despite her growing disillusionment at this Peculiar Princess, Susan was inclined to believe in the myth right up until 4:30 in the morning of October 8, 2000.

At that hour, Meg the Nuclear-Powered Border Collie jumped on the bed to tell me she HAD to go out, right NOW, Boss! I put her off, so she transferred her attention and her ice-cold nose to Susan's ear. After a few minutes of urgent nudging Susan grudgingly threw off the covers and grumped down to the basement with both dogs in her wake, and opened the patio door. Out they scooted, and squatted. Moments later I heard, actually through the mists of sleep, dogs barking. I thought nothing of it, though. A few minutes later Susan appeared in the bedroom door, wailing, "Tessa killed a RABBIT!"

Meg was the first to spot the rabbit. She suddenly broke off from her oh-so-very-urgent whiz and took off down the yard, barking. This incited Tessa to join the fun, and they chased the poor thing down the hill and up again, back and forth—that's where the barking came in—and eventually cornered it in the angle between the wall of the house and the electric-meter box. There Tessa disported herself as The Angel of Death, grabbing it and shaking it per the usual canine method. Susan made her drop it, and came up to get me.

I came down in my bathrobe to find one exceptionally dead bunny and one very smug, self-satisfied Labrador Retriever, who was prancing around and bragging: "I killed a rabbit! I killed a rabbit!" Meg was on the edge of hysteria, barking "...and I HELPED! " so everyone in Westover Hills would know about it. Susan was in tears at the horror of it all.

Mind you, it was then about 4:55; I wasn't about to do much with a dead rabbit right then and there, so I put the victim in a plastic bag, and hung the bag on the fence for further processing in the morning. It was cold that night and I figured he'd keep.

The next morning about 9:00 I went down and retrieved the body to skin and clean it. My fly-fisherman neighbor, who had heard about the incident, asked me to save him the ears (apparently rabbit ears make great trout flies) so I cut those off and set them with a few square inches of belly skin. All the while I was processing the rabbit Tessa kept interfering, trying her damnedest to get hold of it. Well, after all, it WAS her kill. I suppose she thought she was entitled to it, but I read her the clause in The Contract (the one that's been in force for 100,000 years between dogs and humans) that says I get to eat the rabbit and she gets what I choose to give her.

I finished the job of cleaning, tossed the carcass in the sink to be washed, wrapped up the offal, and went up to the garage to throw it out. After that I went back to get the ears and skin and THE EARS WERE GONE. Not to be denied her rights, Tessa had very craftily waited until my back was turned, stood up on her hind feet, grabbed the ears and the belly skin off the table, and eaten everything she could, hair and all.

Now, THAT'S a Princess!

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