No one has a happy hamster story
Woody (who is my dog) made a friend last night. Around midnight, I let him out to pee before bed. And because it was around midnight, and I learn nothing, I let him go outside off leash. I do this sometimes. I know the risks but I’m lazy. The point is he wasn’t on a leash and I didn’t have my phone. Which is a shame. I’d love to have this on video.
He ran over to the grassy area and checked his usual pee spots. Then his ears pricked forward and he posed like a bird dog for a second before tearing off towards a wooded area. I thought it was a cat, or maybe another homeless dude sleeping among the trees. Welcome to any major city where no one can afford housing or drug treatment.
I don’t usually chase Woody. I’m not going to catch him and all he understands is, “You’re coming too? Oh fuck yeah.” But when he stopped at the edge of the trees and barked a very, “Hey! Who are you? HI!” I started running. He’d forgotten his name and I didn’t want whatever was in those trees hurting him. Then he dropped into a play bow, the pose that’s supposed to convinced another dog to play with him. The bow didn’t work so he tried a couple hops. I was waiting for a cat to spring from the bushes and latch onto his face. It’s happened. But no cat shot itself at him.
I reached Woody about the time he was rolling from a second play bow onto his back in a pathetic attempt at “come on, bro. I’m nice. We could be playing” This move—
That’s about the time I figured out what poor animal he’d been pestering. Standing there in the bushes was a possum, a possum who’s now possibly deluded into thinking he’s a badass who can scare off a dog. My dog, who is 75% “high prey drive; all small animals are prey” husky, and 25% pitbull (do they hunt?) thought a goddamn possum could be convinced to play with him. While I dragged Woody away, the possum was opening his little mouth in a solid impression of a lion.
When we got back into my apartment, I gave him his treat because all he remembers by that point is “I came inside; I get a snack.” But he doesn’t understand words so I told him, “motherfucker, Teddy would be so fucking ashamed of you.” Then I thought, or me. He’d be ashamed of me for hanging out with you.
(I love my dog. I thought it was funny. Calm down. Goddamn I hate that I cannot fucking write without knowing someone will read this shit and say stupid things to me. You’re right, let’s limit the audience for this one.)
I like possums too for the record. Or I don’t dislike them. I’ve heard they eat ticks and I hate fucking hate ticks. I’ve never been attacked by a possum. They’re fine. A little weird lookin’ but fine. And I’ve felt fucking awful any time I’ve had to dispatch one with a shovel because my dog, who was not Woody, almost murdered one.
My dog who was not Woody, but who I named Teddy, was an akita who’d been living in the woods behind the house I bought in Maryland. Depending on which neighbor you asked, he’d been hanging out for six months to a year. The akita rescue I contacted when I found him said they’d tried to catch him during one of the massive snowstorms the DC area got that year. So at least 8 months. Judging by the bone pile he’d left in the sort of den he’d made under the shed behind my house, he was eating alright.
Here’s a half-assed Akita history lesson: during World War II, due to a rabies outbreak, the Japanese government ordered all dogs destroyed except those used by the military or police. Dogs weren’t having a great time of it anyway—a starving population did what they had to. The akitas used by the military and police were german shepherd mixes on account of akitas cannot be trained to do shit they don’t want to do. A lot of the non-military orange and white akitas’ fur was used to line officers’ coats. The military akitas, dogs with black faces and larger ears are the dogs GIs saw and fell in love with and brought home to the US, where they didn’t have any other akitas to breed them with. So they bred them with German shepherds and mastiffs, why not make them a little bigger and badder. We’re goddamn Americans. We make everything bigger and badder. But during the dog purge, in an attempt to spare the dogs, a few akita owners set their dogs loose in the mountains. Some of those dogs survived, about thirty of them. And those dogs were carefully bred into what in any other country is called a “Japanese Akita,” a dog that at this point in no way resembles the American Akita.
I found all this out when a Japanese Akita showed up on my doorstep in Maryland and I spent a month trying to figure out how the fuck he got there. It’s a rare dog. I lived in Japan and I’ve only ever seen a few of them. I figured someone must be looking for him but no one had reported him missing, and he didn’t have a chip. He didn’t come from an east coast breeder. There were none. At the time, there were only three breeders in the US breeding Japanese akitas and they were all on the West Coast. I talked to all of them. Their dogs were all chipped. Best guess was, someone at Andrews AFB brought him back from Japan, and due to the usual reasons people abandon dogs, with a bonus of akitas are banned on base and possible deployment, they set him loose in the woods. And because he was an akita, he knew how to survive, by which I mean, he could motherfucking hunt. It was a problem.
I want you to look at this picture. Take a minute to say “awwww” or whatever weird internet words you say when you see a cute picture of a cute as shit dog.
Okay one more for good measure.
Now keep that image in mind as you continue.
I didn’t talk about the problem much while he was alive. I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s opinion on it. By “it” I mean that he was a serial killer, a very cute serial killer, but goddamn he loved murder. I mean he loved murder. He was never happier than when he was hunting something to kill. And he was goddamn good at killing. In the time I knew him, he murdered several possums, raccoons, squirrels, a skunk, several snakes, a goddamn coyote, groundhogs, and a girlfriend’s nine year old daughter’s bunny. (I don’t want to hear it. As far as I’m concerned, he put the damn bunny out of its misery. Don’t get your kid a bunny, or a hamster. Have you ever heard a hamster or bunny story with a happy ending? No one ever has.)
It’s impossible to make a complete list of his kills. I’ve got all that up there and someone will text me with something like, “Dude you forgot about the deer.” And I didn’t. But I’m not sure he killed the deer or dragged home fresh roadkill. The glaring omission is one we’re not going to discuss.
Ah, fuck it. He’s dead. Listen. When I said huskies have a strong prey drive and consider all small animals prey, it’s because huskies have a strong prey drive and all small animals are prey. It’s one of those characteristics they list next to any arctic dog. Clearly there are exceptions. But you can’t really change a dog’s nature. Or you can, but you’ve ruined a dog. Anyway, Teddy, an akita, another arctic dog, was a little more true to his nature than Woody is.
Here’s a picture of Teddy going after a squirrel.
One of my neighbors used to feed the stray cats. There weren’t any stray cats when I moved in. Then I took the akita off the streets and there were a few, then a few more. You know how cats work. Pretty soon there was an entire colony living in a parking lot up the street, and they’d stop by my neighbor’s for dinner. Unfortunately, they often took a shortcut through my yard.
To be clear, I didn’t leave Teddy alone in the yard. He wouldn’t allow it anyway. He wasn’t clingy, but he needed to know where I was at all times. Either way, if he was out there and a cat showed up… No one needs details. I tried to stop it a few times. Shouted at him to not do a murder. But shouting just made the cat freeze. Teddy didn’t freeze. He was busy doing his favorite thing in the world. The cats had a better shot of making it to the fence if I just let nature take its course.
Here’s another picture of Teddy.
That photo was right after he showed up. I hadn’t torn out the old carpet, which was good, that it was being torn out. It absorbed most of his stank until I could risk giving him a bath. I couldn’t get close to him yet. But after a little while, if I didn’t make any sudden moves, he’d come hang out in the same room, near an escape route of course.
I wonder sometimes about whether or not anyone ever bought the house behind mine in whose yard I’d toss the bodies. I wonder if they’ve started a true crime podcast about the potential serial killer who lived next door. They’re not wrong exactly.
Here’s Teddy in a bush he dove into, hunting something in the snow. As far as he was concerned, I cramped his style a lot.
Once I moved here, the murder rate slowed. No yard. No roommates to leave the door open and let the dog escape, and return a few hours later dragging something furry or feathered. By the time I got him another yard, he’d slowed enough that the new neighbor’s cat just taunted him from the fence line. He did bring an armadillo in once and my vet got to answer a lot of dumb questions about bubonic plague.
I miss him a lot. But I do not miss hiding the bodies, conducting fake bunny funerals over a mound created from an overturned flower pot because the ground was too frozen to dig, staging accidents on roadsides in case anyone was searching for the cat—at least they’d have closure.
But goddamn I really never thought I’d have to deal with a dog trying to make friends with a possum, and I’m more worried about what else he’ll try to talk into a game of chase. I guess we’re both lucky he’s pretty fast.