Over the weekend, Aussie killed a woodchuck.
We’d just driven up the hill and parked near the entrance to our favorite woods, when both dogs made a beeline for an open pasture. Harry barked and barked; Aussie killed.
It was over by the time I got there. Harry was ready to take off, but not Aussie, who stood above the stationary woodchuck.
“Come on, Auss,” I said. “You did your thing, now let’s go.”
When she didn’t move I tried to leash her, but she pulled away from me. Instead, she kept on trying to pull the body with her mouth into the thick shrubbery, but it seemed too heavy for her. At some point she looked up at Harry, who just sat there uncertain about what comes next, as if asking for his help. Harry started barking again, following his usual dictum: When don’t know, bark. Aussie stopped pulling. She stepped away from the woodchuck, then went back; she couldn’t bear to leave it.
“Come, let’s go to the creek for some water,” I said to her.
Instead she sat down next to the woodchuck. There was no trace of blood anywhere, not on her nor on the dead body; she must have sunk her teeth into its neck and shaken it to death.
I decided not to leash and pull her, but to stand and keep her company, take my cue from her. Aussie, the dog who greets me so sweetly every morning when I sit, pushing her head right into my bathrobe to smell all of me, was now totally in her wild element. Someone said that beauty takes you beyond the known world; so does the wild.
She clearly wanted to drag the woodchuck into the bushes and couldn’t. She looked at me; I nodded and said Yeah. I have no idea what I meant by that. But she got something because she wagged her tail, as if we finally understood each other, then sat back again.
Harry circled us, looking at me with a question in his eyes: Aren’t we going into the wild? The wild’s right here, I told him silently.
Aussie proudly savored the moment. There was no den to drag the woodchuck to, no one else to join her at the kill.
I’m waiting for my pack to come and join me.
We’re your pack, Aussie.
I’m waiting for my real pack.
Who’s your real pack, Aussie?
She sat, panted, looked down, and gave the woodchuck a couple of licks. Not eating licks, something else, and looked up at me. I felt that she was teaching me something really important, but what it was I didn’t know.
I wanted to go home. I’d had a busy morning, ahead lay more work, and this was enough drama for one outing, but I also wanted her to go down to the creek, get wet, and drink her fill. Of course, she could have drunk her fill from the water bowl at home, but I felt that this time she had to drink at the creek.
Finally, on her own, she got up and walked off quietly, and stayed quiet for the rest of the short walk. She didn’t run, she didn’t push Harry into chasing her, she showed no trace of her usual flamboyant self. She ran down to the creek, drank, and came back. I called her, she came, and I leashed her.
“Come Aussie, let’s go home.”