I was alerted to the presence of the snake by the persistent barking of the dogs. I stopped by in the kitchen and reached for some tongs and a plastic container and went to the backyard. I was expecting to see a black rat snake or a prairie Kingsnake, but when I got there, the snake rearing its head up to attack between the two dogs seemed unfamiliar and unusually aggressive. As the dogs kept up their barking, the snake tried to lunge several times, throwing itself at each of the dogs in turn with great power and an open mouth. They nimbly jumped back every time that happened. I realized that I was not equal to the situation. I would not be able to put this snake into a plastic container without getting bitten.
While Leo kept up an almost incessant yapping, Brownie only barked periodically, getting closer to the snake than Leo ever dared. Then when the snake seemed distracted by the other dog, Brownie would pick it up in the middle, shake it, and then throw it across the yard.
I considered trying to get the dogs in the house, but I was afraid that even if they did obey me, which was doubtful, because they were so excited, distracting Brownie in the middle of the fight might end up getting one or both of the dogs bitten. So I let Brownie proceed. Bow, watching from the safety of the inner pens, was rooting for Brownie.
After several captures, shakes in the air, and body-bitings, the snake was dead. Brownie still wouldn't let me touch it until hours later. I thought maybe he wanted to eat it, but it was intact when I finally took it away and discarded its limp body in the thicket of the pasture.
My friend tells me it was just a harmless bullsnake, and that if it had been a venomous snake Brownie would be dead now. But I did the best I could under the circumstances, and Brownie did not get bitten once during the encounter. He was actually very careful and meticulous about his work, attacking the snake only when it was distracted and not allowing the head to make contact with him during the struggle. After the kill, Brownie kept the snake to himself, holding it in the middle and shaking its limp body. He would not allow me to touch it until he was absolutely sure that the danger had passed.