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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Rest of the Snake Tale

Yesterday I posted prematurely, before all the facts were in. Normally, I don't do any writing on a Monday, because that is my day to be up and about when Lawrence sits with Bow. I have plenty of time to write and edit all during the week, so it would be a waste to spend the few hours I have away from the pens writing. But when Lawrence related the story of the black rat snake to me, and Bow was happy and content, lying around chewing his cud after lunch, I thought I had a few moments to jot down what had happened before Lawrence came back to relieve me after lunch. I was just re-reading my post one more time for typos, when Lawrence came back.

By this time, Teyman, our little rat terrier mix, was yapping away in the yard, and I suspected that she might have finally noticed the snake. Teyman is a hunter. I have seen her kill squirrels and unearth moles, and she is definitely a snake killer. The rat snake had been left unmolested on the other side of the fence, so it was possible that it had made his way into the yard, and now a fierce battle between dog and snake was raging.

I got ready to leave the pens, as Lawrence was back in charge, and Bow, hearing Teyman all excited in the yard, stirred himself from the corner of the pen where he had been lazing, took Lawrence's hand and spelled: "I want to go outside."

Lawrence decided to take this opportunity to pressure Bow into telling him how he had known about the snake. (Bow had refused to say before, but now he needed Lawrence's help to go outside, so Lawrence was using this leverage to get him to talk.) "Okay, Bow, you can go outside, but first, I want you to tell me how you knew there was a snake."

Bow, anxious to get out and see whether Teyman had caught anything, complied. "I saw," he spelled.

"You saw?" Lawrence asked, sounding kind of dubious. Could Bow see through a solid fence? But since no further explanation was forthcoming, he said: "Okay, Bow, let's go outside then."

Bow and Lawrence made their way to the outer pen, and I went through the garage to the backyard, to see what Teyman was up to. There was much excitement among the dogs, and Teyman did have something in her mouth.

"Did she catch the snake?" I asked.

"She caught a snake," Lawrence replied.

I moved in closer, and Teyman, proud of her kill, dropped it at my feet. But no sooner had she done so than Brownie, our chocolate Lab, picked it up again in his mouth, shaking it a few times for good measure, then throwing it up in the air and inviting me to play fetch with it.

The snake was not a big, black rat snake. It wasn't anything at all like the snake Lawrence had reported seeing on the other side of the fence. It was brown and striped and much smaller. Here is a picture.
The snake Teyman killed
Later in the day, Lawrence asked Bow: "Which snake did you see, Bow? The black snake or the brown?"

Bow answered: "Brown."

Now, we don't necessarily have to take Bow's word on it. He has been known to lie. But it does make sense that he saw a snake in the yard, and not on the side of a solid fence.

In real life, sometimes there is more than one snake. Especially during snake season!

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Bow Knows

Today, when I came back from shopping for groceries, Lawrence told me of something that happened while I was away. At one point, sometime between eleven and noon, Bow became very agitated. He kept gesturing toward the southern stretch of backyard fence, and he yelled at Lawrence, as if trying to vocally tell him that something was wrong. He did the same to the dogs. "It was kind of like he was telling the dogs to go out and do something about it, that there was someone or something beyond the fence."

The dogs did not seem aware of anything. They barked back at Bow, interpreting Bow's vocalizations as acts of aggression against them. Bow kept trying to get Lawrence's attention.

Finally, Lawrence asked Bow: "Do you want me to go out there and see who it is?"

Bow said "Yes."

Lawrence went out through the front door and explored the side yard to see what he could see. There didn't seem to be anyone out there, but on his way back he almost stumbled over a big, black rat snake that was lying in his path.

Bow hates snakes. He has always disliked snakes, ever since he was little. This is not something he learned from me, because I'm pretty tolerant toward snakes, compared to most people. But every time Bow sees a snake he gets very upset, and he once lifted an entire bench off the ground and threw it in the direction of a snake that was just outside his outer pens.

Lawrence didn't do anything to the rat snake, as we need the snake's help to get rid of rodents. Rat snakes are not poisonous. There was no reason to be upset that there was a snake near our house. Bow, however, seemed very upset.  But when Lawrence came back in, Bow was calm and happy. Maybe all he needed was for Lawrence to acknowledge that there was indeed a snake out there.

The question is: how did Bow know? The fence is very high, and it's made of wood, and it would be very hard to spot the snake through the tiny cracks between the wood slats. Snakes don't make much noise, so it seems unlikely that Bow heard the snake. And Bow's not telling. He doesn't want to talk about the snake anymore.

Did Bow know there was a snake out there? If he didn't know, what was he so agitated about? If he did know, how did he know? And why won't he tell us?