I get into a lot of arguments with people about the intelligence level of squirrels. Many immediately state, “They’re stupid, I mean, just think how small their brains are.” More still will take a slightly morbid stance, “If they were so smart, how come most of them get run over inches from a curb?” My response? Those people are all idiots. Squirrels ARE intelligent, and I have proof. One word – Dora.
Like many dogs, Dora has a bizarre fascination with squirrels. I will argue, however, that Dora’s squirrel-vision is slightly more unhinged. She very closely rivals the cartoon dog in the movie Up where the simple utterance of the world “squirrel” creates such an intense look of concentration and focus that you start to wonder if Dora is, in fact, able to see The Matrix.
I didn’t realize how bad her squirrel problem (nay, addiction) was until a dreary April day about five years ago. A run of the mill, normal, late afternoon walk turned into absolute mayhem thanks to Dora’s obsession with all things squirrel. We were heading back home when Dora managed to trap a terrified squirrel under the stairs of a cement patio. As the petrified little creature tried desperately to find an exit route, Dora quickly realized that she had just crossed off one of the items on her life’s bucket list – piss off a tree rodent. Then as quickly as the joy of her squirrel-trapping success became a realization, it turned into a clear “holy shit moment” because, as would have been obvious to anyone, Dora immediately comprehended that she had no idea how to proceed with the situation. A clear oh my god! look clouded her face and Dora did the only thing that made any sense to her at the time – she freaked the fuck out. And when I say she freaked the fuck out, what I mean is that Dora turned into a raging howling maniac of a canine whose mannerisms could only rival that of a cocaine addict who just found out that their “little baggie” actually contained ground up pop rocks. It took me what seemed like an eternity to just grab hold of her as she literally bounced from cement wall to cement wall, barking as if her tail was on fire. Trying to grab hold of her was similar (I would assume) to grabbing a baby pygmy hippo covered in Vaseline. I’d make contact with fur, grab hold, only to have her wiggle and squirm and yelp her way out of my arms. She repeatedly pawed and twisted out of my vice grip each time increasing her barking volume to a fevered pitch of intensity. In a desperate attempt to get the squirrel to escape, I starting yelling at it to save itself at first opportunity, which it attempted to do with concentrated fury (understanding basic commands is proven intelligence – that’s a fact). Dora, being ever so helpful, continued her incessant barking and general freaking the fuck out.
In a final attempt to detain my clearly psychotic dog, I managed to semi-tackle her and scoop her up into a football hold. Even though she continued to snort and bark and generally loose her marbles, it was enough for the terrified rodent to make its grand escape. It seemed like an eternity before I was able to calm Dora down (apparently my vain attempts at getting her do so some yoga breathing fell on deaf ears). Wrongfully thinking that the drama was over, as I was bending over to place a now panting, mildly hyperventilating, overexcited dog back on the ground I noticed, in sweet terror, that the whole squirrel freak out incident was in full view of a set of large picture windows – complete with blinds drawn. Normally the room beyond was a large empty space void of life, but at this particular moment the saints of all things funny decided to pack it with sophisticated executives, swathed in fancy suits and dresses, as they gathered for a meeting of the high-paying minds. As utter panic and embarrassment radiated through my body upon the realization that this ENTIRE squirrel freak-fest had been witnessed, I immediately looked down at my half panting, half smiling dog whose facial expression could only be interpreted as oh my god, can we do that again?!! Taking a deep breath I stared down at Dora’s sweet face and said the only thing I could think of at that moment, “You have a serious problem. Like, for real.” With my head hung low, I muttered mini threats at my dog to get her fuzzy ass in gear, as we headed back home where I poured a much needed shot of hard liquor.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) painted a clear picture of how psyched out my dog is around squirrels, allow me to revert back to my original argument that they are indeed intelligent little creatures. There is a daily occurrence at my house which I lovingly refer to as “the squirrel games”. I suspect they are similar to reindeer games but with much smaller equipment and slightly less name-calling. Almost every morning Dora will high tail it out to the backyard, bounding out the back door like a lion freed from a cage, and bark her head off for the sole purpose of ensuring that the yard is rid of squirrels. The message is clear – this is a squirrel free zone, thank you very much. It didn’t take long for me to notice, however, that the squirrels were, in return, completely messing with my dog. They had clearly formed some sort of squirrel alliance as they would strategically work together to outsmart Miss Dora. One particular morning, when I clearly had nothing better to do, I spent a good hour just watching how the squirrels would mess with Dora’s head. One would be the “look out” while another would be “the distractor”. The distractor would run across the middle of the yard or along the top of the fence, catch Dora’s attention, and immediately instigate a chase that was worthy of a high budget action movie. While this transpired, another squirrel would arrive, seemingly out of nowhere, and nonchalantly make their way onto the grass and dig up some previously stored food. This song and dance continued for an hour. This takes pre-planning, people – these furry little shits are SMART. After each “game” finished, Dora, always thinking she was the ultimate victor, would strut her way back into the house glaring up at me with a you’re welcome expression on her face. Oh my adorable little fur ball, if you only knew what was really going on.
As entertaining as it is to watch my dog get mind-fucked by squirrels, I do appreciate that there is a life lesson to be learned. Understandably, however, I struggled a bit on this one. What I eventually came up with is this:
IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE INSANE, IT MAKES LIFE SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING
This is one lesson I will gladly defend the next time I’m accused of being a little cray cray because I think clowns are just serial killers in make-up (which they are, FYI).