Friday, September 4, 2009

Lizards, the Suburban Desert Badgers

Dachshunds are bred to hunt badgers. Their floppy ears and long nose are for finding them. Their long thin bodies and powerful short legs are for tunneling to them. And their intense stubbornness is for fighting them. Living in the suburban desert southwest, we do not have a lot of badgers digging up the landscape. Not to worry, our dachshunds have found a worthy and plentiful alternative. Lizards.

It does not take a long time living in the desert southwest to become acquainted with lizards. They are to the southwest what frogs are to the northeast. They hang out around houses. They eat bugs. They scurry off to wherever they live. After a few sightings, you get over the fact that they look scary, and appreciate having them around. Unless of course, your unofficial job is to protect the house and the people inside it; in that case the lizard suddenly becomes your mortal enemy.

Our two dachshunds have taken fairly different approaches to lizards. Couper will chase them if he sees them. When the lizard gets away, Couper will easily shift back to his primary obsession, playing. Godiva, on the other hand, now has no greater obsession than lizards. It has overtaken stealing socks and biting toes. It sometimes interrupts her desire to eat. Way too often, it interrupts all our desires to sleep.

We are not sure when or how this obsession started. One day she was a normal puppy (well, kind of normal). The next, she was Wile E. Coyote. Somewhere in between she discovered lizards, chased lizards, found that lizards were fun to chase, found that lizards were very difficult to catch, and became amazed that lizards could disappear (escaping up walls or in holes). Suddenly, she went on a perpetual hunt.

She now likes to sit at the sliding glass door in the kitchen, looking out back. All of a sudden, you will hear her squeal. There are two choices, she has to go potty (unlikely) or she has seen a lizard. So, we let her out in the off chance that she has to do business.

Anytime she goes outside now, she sprints to one of the two places she associates with lizards. The first is in the back corner of the back yard. Behind our big mesquite tree, there are some extra tiles for the roof, which the previous owners stacked up and left. In the middle of the stack, there is an opening that a chased lizard must have crawled in once while escaping Godiva. She makes sure to check that gap and both sides of the tiles to make sure that lizard hasn’t come back. When she exhausts that corner, she goes all the way to the other corner of the back yard, which is actually a paved alley between houses which leads to a gate to the driveway. It is essentially where we keep the garbage and recycle cans. Apparently a lizard has escaped from her in the gap under the fence. Only when those two getaway routes have been cased, will she then get to the business of going potty, or just as likely, go inside until she wants to check again…usually 10 minutes later.

This is all well and good, except she has taken it to the next level. Instead of eating, she likes to sit by the door and look for passing lizards. While she stares, and squeals, and scratches on the glass, we have to make sure that Couper does not swoop in for a second helping of dinner. It becomes a little exhausting. However, not nearly as exhausting as when she wakes us up in the middle of the night for lizard patrol. Nothing is more aggravating than having her desperately wake us up, taking her out to go potty, and having her only check her lizard getaway spots. When she is done, she sits calmly on the mat at the door waiting to be let in while we go out of our minds pleading with her to go potty so that we don’t have to go through this again in another 45 minutes.

As for the hunt, when she actually does find a lizard, she has found that they are a formidable foe. They are very quick, very good at changing directions, very small which helps in hiding under things, and can climb higher than a dachshund can reach. Very tough to catch. Almost impossible. Almost.

One Saturday morning I was sleeping in. Godiva, Couper, and Couper/Godiva’s Mommy had gotten up to eat and do whatever it is that people and puppies do on Saturday morning (I have no idea). At one point, I heard a bit of a commotion outside. Couper/Godiva’s Mommy was yelling and there was some clanging. I didn’t hear any ambulances, and the shouting was over in a minute or two, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I woke up hours later, Couper/Godiva’s Mommy and I had the following conversation.

Couper/Godiva’s Mommy: Do you know what your daughter did this morning?
Big Buddy: Who? Huh? What?
C/GM: Godiva caught a lizard.
BB: What? Really? Cool.
(I see the look of disgust on Couper/Godiva’s Mommy’s face. I quickly recover)
BB: I mean, oh no, really?
C/GM: She saw one, started chasing it, cornered it, and somehow got it. I saw her running around with it. I started screaming at her to drop it, but she just kept running away. So I got a rake and tried to scare her. I eventually got it out of her mouth, but part of the tail was gone.
BB: Oh, no, that’s horrible. {Oh my god, that is the coolest thing ever. I can’t believe our little Godiva actually caught one of those things. Those are insanely impossible to catch. I wish I could have seen that. I bet it was incredible. Hey, can Couper/Godiva’s Mommy hear this? Of course not! Everyone knows when I put stuff in brackets and italics like this, I am only thinking this…Just have to put on the sad face and not say what I am thinking…which is this is freaking amazing!!!}
C/GM: And the lizard was clearly hurt. I tried to get Godiva away, but she would not go.
BB: Poor lizard. {I knew Godiva was quick, but this is incredible! I mean, I don’t like that the lizard was hurt, but, hey, it knew what it was getting into, coming into Godiva’s back yard. My little Godiva must be some kind of athlete. I am so secretly proud of her. Keep up the sad face thought…no prideful grins}
C/GM: The lizard started climbing the wall, but stopped about two feet up. I had to fight to keep Godiva away, but the lizard was just frozen there.
BB: Lizard must have been hurt or scared. {Damn right it was scared!!! It couldn’t escape from my girl Godiva when it was healthy, what chance does it have now! I wonder if any other dachshunds have ever caught a lizard. I bet Godiva is the first ever. I am so proud of her….must..keep… frowning…}
C/GM: So I had to push the lizard along with the rake until it got over the fence into the neighbor’s side.
BB: You mean the neighbors with the dachshund, puggle, and golden retriever?
C/GM: Yes.
BB: Oh. I’m sure it is fine.
C/GM: Anyhow, it was horrible getting that out of her mouth. Hopefully she didn’t eat the tail.
BB: Bad girl Godiva! {You awesome lizard catching dog} Don’t eat the lizards!

Eventually as time passed, I confessed to Couper/Godiva’s Mommy about how cool I thought it was that Godiva was able to catch the lizard. She decided that since I thought it was so cool, I could get it away from her next time. So, hopefully there will be no next time. Godiva’s proven her point. No need to repeat it. Anyhow, we like lizards. They eat bugs.

In the meantime, catching the lizard has done nothing to quench Godiva’s thirst for the chase. If anything, she is even more obsessed. At least our laundry is safer.