Sunday, February 2, 2014

Why I Hate Groundhogs

I told this story on Facebook a few years ago, but I thought I'd add it to my blog just for an extra warning.

One brilliant day in April during my college years (so not TOO long ago…), as I was enjoying a well-deserved spring break at home, I had a violent, bloody, and terrifying encounter with a groundhog…or, as I call it, a giant rodent.

I let my adorable 30-lb half-dachshund, half-Labrador dog, Boots, out into the backyard. Boots, always the fearless protector, immediately started barking and I glanced out the window. I saw what I thought was a statue of a giant rodent; you have to know our neighbors, but it was perfectly understandable that Kyle Doehla, prankster extraordinaire, may have decided to put a statue in our yard. Anyhow, I went outside and quickly realized that what Boots was barking at was not a statue put a very still, yet latently violent, giant rodent.

My appearance outside took the conflict to the next level. Boots saw me and circled around the giant rodent, ostensibly to protect his darling mistress. Though I appreciated this maneuver, Boots’ movement only angered the giant rodent, causing it to jump onto my dear dog.

Boots and the giant rodent were locked in a horrendous embrace. As I attempted to break up the battle, they snapped and snarled, bit and clawed. Boots was acting only out of self-defense, but the giant rodent took pure pleasure from inflicting pain. The two combatants were well matched –about the same size, nearly the same weight. The giant rodent’s teeth, however, were thirsty for blood.

Finally, I glimpsed it….a break in the match! I reached in and grabbed my 30-lb dog. As I was wrenching her away from the giant rodent, the teeth of the beast whistled through the air, a hairbreadth from piercing my (now delicately flushed) skin. I sprinted from the site, only able to run-and-curl Boots because of my awesome martial arts strength and a hefty bit of luck. While fleeing, I heard the giant rodent gnashing and clicking his teeth. The sound still haunts me to this day.

I got inside and called my uncle, our veterinarian. I described Boots’s lacerations and bleeding, and he concurred that Boots did not need to be seen immediately. Instead, since the wounds were not life threatening, he would come by our house that evening. The biggest worry, though, was the possibility of rabies. My uncle said that, if possible, I should catch or kill the giant rodent so that it could be tested for rabies.

No one else was home, but I had my wits and determination, along with a constant stream of anger-laden adrenaline. I covered Boots with a blanket and then I morphed into what I call “Cold-Blooded Cathy.” She hardly ever appears, but the possibility of her presence should scare the collective knights of King Arthur’s court. I went to the garage and grabbed my dad’s pitchfork, then walked outside and spotted the giant rodent, still cavorting about my yard, reveling in the damage done to my dog.

I walked within two feet of the giant rodent, the pitchfork hefted in my hands. The giant rodent’s eyes, black as hell and full of malice, stared at me, laughing and daring me to prove my pitchfork prowess. True, I could stab the giant rodent, but if I missed or didn’t kill it instantly, it might squirm, it might be angered, it could attack me. But could I even muster the courage to sink the pitchfork into the pulsating demonic mass of fur, muscle, blood, gristle, and gore? I may seem the most vicious person in the world, I may have dissected hundreds of animals and eaten billions of hamburgers, but I still have a fragile, sensitive side (I call it my latent Malcolm). And it *was* still just an animal.

Before the decision could be made, my mom drove up in her minivan and the groundhog scampered away, safe behind the fence in the neighbor’s yard. My mom, a bit shocked at finding her youngest daughter wielding a pitchfork in the middle of the day, listened to the story and, together, we walked into the house to care for Boots and await my uncle’s visit.

The giant rodent, I assume, went on to pester many innocent pets and gorgeous, conflicted humans. Boots never developed rabies and her cuts healed fairly quickly. But my emotional scars still have yet to mend; my inability to actually kill to protect my dog still haunts me to this day. Am I a good or bad person, or am I just thinking that a giant rodent story could make it so?

So, to conclude, do not wish me a Happy Groundhog Day because I still have access to that pitchfork. However, please feel free to send me stories regarding how many groundhogs you have killed. If you choose to celebrate Giant Rodents’ Staring at their Shadows’ Day, I hope that soon you may actually find a life. ;)

(For added pathos, Boots passed away in October 2006. But her memory and bravery live on!)