Saturday, November 8, 2008

None were constrained -- jcarolek

Yesterday as I was working, I suddenly heard my dog Killian alerting the world to impending danger. Since all of the delivery types had already made their appearances that day, and since the pitch of her yelp was high, as she affects to alert on non-human interlopers, I took my time getting out to see what was causing her such concern.

I didn't have to go far. I stepped out the front door and walked to the end of the covered porch, and looked down to the scene below. Killian, notching it up to an even higher pitch, thereby assuring me that I needed to REALLY take note, was dancing around a black snake. The snake was a pretty good sized one and it was the most aggressive one I have seen here. As Killian barked and postured, the black snake coiled, raised, opened its jaws wide and released its darting tongue, "striking" at Killian.

Meanwhile, Benson, the big gray cat, adopted from the humane society almost two years ago for the singular purpose of having a good outdoor "mouser," sat back at a discrete distance and watched the show. Naturally, since each of the players in this little drama were unconstrained, I felt comfortable they would know when enough was enough, and would back off. I wasn't worried about the black snake hurting the dog or the cat. I decide to see whether I could capture a picture of this snake in his aggressive stance.

With camera in hand I started snapping pictures. Killian, who generally detests the camera, was completely oblivious to it... completely distracted by the snake. Benson, who, until the camera arrived on the scene was only interested peripherally, suddenly became bent on being "part of the action." He nudged me as a squatted to the ground to take a close-up of the snake and Killian... thanks, Ben, now the picture is blurred.... Eventually, I had to tell him to quit or I'd have to just give up on my mission. So, since he was chastised for daring to disturb ME while I was taking pictures, he decided he'd take a closer look at the snake itself... after all, I was right there, and the snake CERTAINLY wouldn't hurt him while I was there!

As soon as he turned his attention to the snake, the snake changed his position to actively hiss and strike at Benson, given Killian pause for just a moment. Benson half-heartedly poked at the posturing snake, and then decide it was either too dangerous, or too much work to get involved with that black asp.... he moseyed off to resume his spectator position once again, and Killian resumed the ear-splitting warnings to the snake.

OK, OK, I was going to be deaf if I'd let this go on much longer so I got my stick and picked up the snake to transport him back into the deeper safety of the woods. My stick, in this case was a rather limber and long piece of molding and did not support the weight of the snake well. Add to that the natural instinct of the snake to slither off of anything he didn't CHOOSE to slither onto, and it is no surprise the snake was back on the ground within a few seconds... but Killian was ready and she grabbed that snake and shook him for all he was worth, before releasing him and starting her barking once again.

I eventually got the poor snake into the woods but I also had to take Killian and close her in the garage so the snake would have some time to get away.. I'm sure he was injured by the dog's teeth, and I really don't know whether there is such a thng as "shaken snake syndrome" but if there is, that snake is suffering from it today. Still, I had to remind myself that these are all creatures of this earth and their interactions are that of nature. I can observe, try to convince my "domesticated" animals that they should "care" about the other creatures, but reality is they will shake rattle and roll according to their instincts.

And I got to thinking about whether we really are so different from them. Are we not drawn to certain things, certain people, certain events? Do we not react rather instinctively to intruders? Do we not act territorially? Do we not sit back and watch others when we are a little too timid to participate in the challenge ourselves? When caught by surprise, do we not rear up and try to defend ourselves, even IF we have accidentally crossed some unmarked territorial line? And when someone carrying a big stick enters the scene and attempts to change the natural course. do we not watch with anticipation to see whether this will offer US a better opportunity to get "our" way?

Well, I guess I saw a lot of similarities, certainly in my own character, when compared to the actions of the three actors on nature's stage yesterday. I can think of situations in which I was the snake, others where I was the dog and MANY where I was the cat.... I wonder who is capturing all of THAT action on film? (OK, memory stick...)

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