The Mighty Huntress
After three-and-a-half years' constant practice, the Dragon Baby caught her first squirrel this week. There we were, almost home from our lunchtime walk, and one minute she was next to me on the sidewalk, while the next she was emerging from the other side of a tree with a young squirrel in her mouth. It all happened so fast, I wasn't quite sure what to think, never mind do, so I stood there, entranced, as the squirrel squeaked and the Dragon Baby tried to shake it just as she has her toys so many times. But squirrels, unlike stuffed hedgehogs, have teeth and claws and muscles with which they can fight and move. Just as quickly as she had caught the squirrel, suddenly it was away back up the tree, barking and looking down at us as the Dragon Baby, undaunted, settled back down on the sidewalk so as to keep an eye on her prey.
And I thought it was bad when she ate the baby mouse! When she caught the squirrel, my first thought was that she was surely going to kill it--the shaking was so vigorous and the squirrel looked so fragile--but apparently squirrels are tougher than baby dragons, at least inexperienced ones. But was it a bad thing that she had caught it? I worried that the squirrel would hurt her, but once she had it in her mouth, it didn't seem like there was anything I could do, nor was I sure I really wanted to--it was her prize, after all. I was also somewhat in shock: she chases squirrels all the time and had never once come anywhere close to catching one. Just the other day, in fact, I had been musing over doing a post about how dogs are more or less the embodiment of hope: the Dragon Baby has been trying and trying and trying to catch a squirrel pretty much since she first went outside, and yet never once did anyone tell her she was going to be able to.* She simply kept trying because it was fun and the squirrels were there to chase. If only (I had been thinking to myself) I could get myself to practice writing or fencing or fiddling with that abandon, with no thought that I might ever succeed, but simply for the joy of the chase. And then she caught one! No wonder I was in shock.
When I posted a status update on Facebook about our adventure, my sister commented that her dog Paka caught a squirrel a few years ago and now "fancies herself a big huntress," to which I replied: "Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of. [The Dragon Baby] was pretty impossible when all she could do was chase them." But it's funny: the past several days, I thought sure that she would be even more squirrel-mad (if that were possible) than she had been previously, but she's actually pretty much the same. As if having caught one, while a great adventure, wasn't that great a surprise, so confident has she always been in the chase.
You and I both know that there is an important lesson in this.
*More to the point, when we're walking, I actively try to discourage her by telling her that the squirrels are evil and up to no good--plus I don't want her running off after one and going into the street.**
**If you're wondering, I let her chase them when we are in the backyard or at the park in the fenced area. She spends most of her time in the backyard banging up against the wooden fence as the squirrels run along the top and at the park trying to bounce her way up the trees while the squirrels leap from branch to branch out of the playground. The squirrels know very well what they're doing, as does she.