Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Yep, Another Excerpt From: Walking With Benny (#204)

First, a bit of background about Jack Russell Terriers, of which Benny is one: Reverend John Russell, of Devonshire, England, originated the breed in the mid-late 1800s. He wanted the perfect dog for hunting foxes. And he pretty much got it. They are compact, strong, agile and intelligent. (Debate, in some circles, still rages over the latter characteristic.) However, most of today's JRTs aren't getting much fox action at all. It's been my experience, via Benny, that they have happily adapted to chasing squirrels as their primary raison d'etre.


There’s a sleek, young-looking black squirrel at the top end of the grove who has begun waiting for me every morning. Or more properly, waiting for my peanuts. I leave two in his territory, one on each of two adjoining cedars. At first I’d rarely see him, but on the return portion of our walk some 20 minutes later, the two peanuts were nearly always gone.

Sometimes I’d spot him on our way back, usually higher up in one of the cedars. But recently, on a couple of occasions, he appeared to shadow me as I walked through the grove, hopping from tree to tree alongside me, some 10-15 feet away. It dawned on me that the little beggar recognized me now and, having stashed or eaten the first two peanuts, was hoping for another for the road.

I’ve always believed diligence should be rewarded. I told him so and left one.

So for about the last week, as Ben and I were on the home leg of our morning walk, there he’d be - all but checking his watch and tapping his foot - awaiting his third peanut.

Unfortunately, a couple of days ago, Ben cottoned on to this. Usually, he’s 30-50 feet ahead of me and intent upon his nose’s business. But on this day, he happened to turn and saw the little guy scurry down the tree trunk to get his bonus treat. So, both yesterday and today, Ben has dashed ahead to those trees, looking for the squirrel who is looking for me. (Okay, my peanut.) As the squirrel clambers down a tree at my approach, Ben tries to clamber up it to meet him. The squirrel is not at all fond of this game and retreats a foot or two.

Ben, of course, interprets this as him winning! So, he redoubles his tree-climbing efforts.

Party pooper that I am, I call a halt to the proceedings by leaving a peanut and calling Ben away.


Many of the folks I meet on our walks, especially those who profess familiarity with terriers in general and JRTs in particular, comment on how well Ben listens when off the leash. I adopt an appropriately modest expression and mutter something about it taking a lot of work. And that’s no lie. But I think one practice in particular has helped.

Ben eats two smallish meals a day, morning and evening, and I always walk him before he’s eaten. I theorized that a hungry dog is more apt to want to stay in touch with his meal ticket.

I mean, if a full-bellied, content dog happens upon a really interesting scent that went WAY over thataway, why should he heed that vaguely familiar voice receding in the distance? What the heck does he need you for now?! We’re talking a really interesting scent, possibly a skunk!

So, there’s one of the secrets to becoming a Jack Russell whisperer and I suspect it’s applicable to every breed: Walk a hungry dog.

Sure, he’s going to swallow every rotten salmon egg he comes across but the occasional bit of barfing is better than chasing him all over heck’s half-acre.


Dawno said...

I am so glad I can get a JRT fix here virtually. I've loved them since I first saw Eddie on Frazier, and if we weren't a cat family in a small rented duplex, I'd probably have one or two of 'em.

Thumbelina said...

You are really so full of wisdom. Truly.

It takes a bit of plain ol' logic to outwit a JRT. They are indeed intelligent, but only as far as their stomachs (or noses) allow. ;0)

Thumbelina said...

PS Dawno - cats and JRTs do not mix. Really. The terrier spends his life with his nose attached to a cat's bum and more often than not gets a swipe with a claw for his trouble.
They live in mutual hate. They do not fight all that much once they have got used to each other, but will never be friends. never.

Dianne said...

a JRT whisperer! Hilary called you the tree whisperer in reply to a comment I made on her blog

that's a whole lot of whispering, I love it

I enjoyed the image of an impatient squirrel tapping his foot and checking his watch

Kappa no He said...

Oh, Frank! I started walking Cha with a pocket full of broken up jerky treats. I wanted to teach him to be a good boy and, say, not maul the little old lady farming her rice field. But he can smell them and as we walk he dances around me on his hind legs, occasionally nosing my pockets for his treats. It's so funny that I now do it just because it makes me (and quite a few strangers) laugh.

Sally said...

Hi Frank
I once heard it said that at the start/heart of any dog scuffle you'll find a terrier. They certainly are a characterful breed! Incidentally, Rev Jack (John) Russell is buried in the village of Swimbridge, where I lived for a year or two, and which is a few miles up the road from my place.

Bruce Robinson said...

Thank you.

Leah J. Utas said...

Another enjoyable look at Benny's life.

Frank Baron said...

Dawno, they ooze personality and are creative and playful. And, it must be admitted, nuts. Total whack-jobs. :)

Thank you Thumbelina. I have to (mildly) disagree with you about JRTs and cats though. Ben adores cats, especially kittens. They must activate his feminine side because he mothers them. (Hilary had a cute film of him doing just that on her blog not long ago.) He would love to romp with adult cats too. Unfortunately, most let him know in no uncertain terms that they'd rather have a bath than get dog slobber on them. ;)

Dianne, I've been called worse. Loudly. :)

Terrie, treats are a great tool for training and keeping a dog's attention. And apparently, for entertainment as well. Picturing Cha makes me smile too. :)

Maud, it's good to see you again. I was beginning to worry. If you happen to visit Rev. Russell's grave one day, I'd be pleased if you passed along my gratitude for his work. "Characterful." Love that word. I'm stealing it. And it's sure apt for these pooches. :)

Bruce, you're welcome. :)

Leah, glad you liked. Thanks for letting me know. :)

Skunkfeathers said...

I know an acquaintance who has a JRT that, among his other attributes, has self-designated himself Protector (of the family) From Cows. Thus, anytime on a road trip that a field with a few cows is driven past, their fearless JRT was bouncing about the vehicle with a vengeance, barking at and snarling at the cows, keeping them away.

This changed on a trip to one locale: a few cows showed up ahead and to the right approaching a mild hill, and her JRT was all over it, bouncing off the minivan windows like a possessed sentinel.

Then, as the vehicle topped the rise, the vista below beheld THOUSANDS of cows.

She swears that her JRT -- up to that moment, a Warner Bros Tasmanian Devil -- took one look, stopped barking, and sat down in the back seat, chastened.

A cow enforcer, no more.

Anonymous said...

Benny is a celebrity among us. We all know feel an affection for him if we happen to read you are Hilary. It is only fair that you would let us know how you have tamed his wild heart!

Hilary said...

Well geesh, I came here to see what you may have replied to my comment and find that the comment doesn't exist. Hmmm..

I wish I had kept the video of Benny running back to, and refusing to leave the spot below the dam, where that little girl was tossing stones into the water. He was intent upon finding said stones. His hungry belly didn't comply very well that morning. Good thing you had the leash. ;)

Mostly he IS pretty good.. unless people are throwing things, fish are swimming, there are dead fish to roll in, there's another dog to play with, there's a squirrel to chase, there's ....

Mostly he's pretty good. ;)

Barbara Martin said...

The squirrel knows it's you, Frank, from the scent.

When I lived in an apartment south of Lawrence on Yonge I would put out the left over bird seed from my parrots once a week, usually a Sunday morning. A couple of times I was late, and then got the shock of my life when a large gray squirrel jumped from the oak tree onto the screen over my living room window. He shook the screen and chattered angrily at me to get my attention. He stayed there even as my standard poodle went over to bump his nose against the screen and growl. I went out ten minutes later and the squirrel was sitting on the fence waiting with his tail twitching. Squirrels are very clever, and humans should take note of it.

Frank Baron said...

Skunkfeathers, I read your story as a vote FOR JRTs having a semblance of intelligence. Benny and his kin thank you. As do I for the visit. :)

Meredith, "tamed" would be a stretch. It's probably more accurate to say that after a couple of years together, we've "reached an understanding." Mostly. ;)

Exactly Hil! That's what I said, right? That he "mostly" listens! Sometimes. :)

Barbara, I agree. We have much to learn from squirrels and other animal kin. Thanks for your story. :)

Reb said...

I like the new look Frank. I've just been catching up, I had a bit of a lost summer :)

You're going to spoil that squirrel Frank :) Very clever to walk Ben on an empty tummy.

Stace said...

I am one of those who query the JRT's intelligence! I had one when I was a kid, and he never seemed that smart to me! Matter of fact, when both our dogs died on the same day (after munching on a poisoned rabbit), I don't believe I had much thought for poor old Brutus, my grief was all for the Labrador!

Frank Baron said...

Reb, I know your summer has tested you. I hope your path runs smoother from now on. :)

Well, you see Stace, there's the thing. You were a KID! The subtleties of JRT intelligence were beyond you at the time! I'm sure if you had one now, you'd appreciate their smarts.

Or something about them. Probably....

Thumbelina said...

Frank - actually I have to give way and agree, I just didn't explain myself very well. My experience with JRTs is much more limited than yours and I was thinking more of the cats' response to have a dog attached to their bum (or mothering them). Most cats I know have other ideas but since you have one that gets on with Ben and lets him mother him/her, I yield! When I had a JRT here they were ok, but the cat tolerated him. Poor Duke just got bullied by a cat and turfed out of seats etc!

Frank Baron said...

Oh, for the most part I agree, Thumbelina. Benny is something of an exception. I know many of the JRT books and sites mention that mixing the two is like oil and water.

I'm pretty sure Ben's love affair with cats will last at least until he gets his nose raked with claws. :)

Anne C. Watkins said...

JRT Whisperer. Heh. :)

Squirrels also LOVE sunflower seeds. I usually have a yard filled with irate birds every time I replenish the feeder. lol

Frank Baron said...

I hear ya' Anne. It's a daily battle here too. Squirrels vs. birds. Benny vs. squirrels w/ birds caught in the crossfire. Birds vs. squirrel with Ben vs.-ing both.

My backyard can get pretty hectic! :)

Anne C. Watkins said...

Hee hee, Benny is a busy boy! I can just imagine how hectic your backyard can be. :)

The Merry said...

Can I borrow Benny for a squirrel patrol? My shepherd shrugs that off "Not in my job description. I chase cats." The squirrels are getting pretty uppity, and I might need some terrier backup next time I try to garden.

Merisi said...

Walk your dog hungry, how clever! :-)
Our long-haired dachshund is used to walking before breakfast. Now I wonder if this is the reason that he is so faithfully following me, even when he's not on the leesh? ;-)

Frank Baron said...

Anne, the backyard usually looks like the aftermath of a small hurricane. Which, come to think of it, kind of describes Benny....

Merry, if we happen to be in your neighbourhood sometime, I'm sure Ben would be happy to oblige. Thanks for the visit. :)

Merisi, I suspect that's at least partly why. That, and because they're faithful companions. Most dogs want to be near their people (pack). They're social creatures, after all. Thanks for dropping by. :)

Zuzana said...

Ben is the most fun dog, as I have seen from numerous pictures and clips at Hilary's place.:) No one can be in a bad mood when he is around.:)
Thank you so much for stopping by my place and for leaving such a kind comment.;)
I absolutely love the picture in your header.

Frank Baron said...

Thank you very much for the return visit, Protege. Any friend of Hilary's is welcome at my door. Glad you like the picture. It's of one of my favourite places in the world. :)