Right now we are in the season of the squirrel, of the mouse or worse, the roof rat. The sentries work shifts, based on whichever one is up to get a drink of water or just needs to stretch a bit. That guard gingerly pushes the plastic dog door cover open, snout first. There's the slightest wiggle and faint inhale from a nose the size of a walnut.
If the sniff and snuffle inspection are clear, the guard eases its head a little farther out the door for a visual. Dependent on whether the lookout is cataracted or not, the guard might spot the wisp of a squirrel tail as its owner frolics along the back fenceline.
The Sentry alerts the other soldiers with a noise that's somewhere between a sigh or a yelp. If the nearby dogs are stone deaf, the beagle whose ears are as big as Bologna slices will rouse them with a clickity click run on the hardwood. If the older soldiers are fast asleep on their backs, paws straight in the air in a dead cockroach pose, not even the occasional sound of "shooting bunnies" will awaken them. (A friend's euphemism for "cutting the cheese."
The younger ones slink into a ridiculous cat-stalking position. It's futile since even the monkey grass isn't tall enough to hide the beagle, let alone a lab. They try to belly crawl across the yard. Crawl, crawl, crawl, stop. It's easier for the beagle since her belly sways about an inch above the ground.
They move closer and rise slowly on their haunches. They channel a cheetah's heart as they swoosh through the air and hurl their fat-furry bodies as high as a zinnia to capture, well, kill, their prey.
Most times they are unsuccessful unless a hapless mother squirrel builds her nest near my house. The squirrelings are too young to know the exit strategy of a squirrel under attack. They freeze on the side of my brick house, just like those ceramic squirrels that your grandmother nailed to her house as a decorator item.
When the dogs leap at the younguns, their little eyes bug, their downy tails twitch, and they bounce, bump and scamper around like my husband and I did when the house alarm went off in the middle of the night. We now rely on our canine alarm system.
If I see junior on the bricks before the dogs do, I scream to startle the little varmints hoping they'll make a run for it. Sometimes I can wrangle the soldiers, who have reverted to their true nature of a wolf pack cornering an antelope the size of a Jimmy Dean sausage roll.Now and then the soldiers are victorious. I'm typically not at home. But, to make sure their victory is acknowledged, they have on occasion brought their corpses into headquarters. Luckily, they place them on dog beds.
Since my husband has the observation skills of a table lamp, I am usually the one that makes a sideways glance at the dark thing that's typically not on the white dog bed. My response is to run into another room while screaming. I grab my carcass removal tools, usually a pair of disposable rubber dish gloves and two plastic grocery sacks.
A warning to all citizens of Memphis: It's illegal to put dead things that didn't come under plastic wrap from the store into your trash can. Your job is to call city services to alert them to the departed, one that's now shrouded in doubled plastic grocery sacks sealed with a knot and sitting on the curb. The collector usually looks aggravated when he has to drive all the way to my house to snatch up something that could have easily been run over by a car.
So like people who (illegally) bury their dead pets in their back yards, you can bend the law a little if the weather is cool enough to cause a stink. For those who are tidy and organized, there's always a sealed Zip-Loc bag. For the rest, you can put your "small bag of trash" down inside a kitchen garbage sack. Toss in the regular trash and deposit it all in your trash cart. Now, I'm not admitting nor am I encouraging scofflaws, but if a squirrel meets an untimely end on an unclaimed bit of Earth, don't the laws of nature take care of the rest?
So, while my dogs may feel blue at the end of baby squirrel season, they know that soon their job will return when baby birds start getting kicked out of their nests.