I often remind dog owners that their pets are not toys or little babies, but rather living, breathing carnivores that have wolf instincts hard wired into their DNA. I learned how true my own words were last Tuesday morning when I took my dogs to the dog park.
It was just turning daylight and some creature was moving on the ground in the park, which I presumed to be the usual squirrel. My dogs, Joy and Kali, like to chase squirrels, but the furry rodents are never in great danger since they hear the thundering canine hoofs and scamper up a tree.
However, too late after I had let my dogs inside the fenced enclosure, I realized the creature was a rabbit. I had never seen a rabbit inside the park before, only wandering around the periphery of the woods. It had apparently tunneled under the fence at some point.
The chase began, with the rabbit far ahead of the dogs. I have never seen Joy run so fast, even though she’s getting arthritis in her hips. Finally, Joy and Kali cornered the rabbit and Joy grabbed it up. I had been watching the whole scene in disbelief, but finally moved in to try to save the poor creature. Kali back away from the fracas.
It was too late for the bunny. Joy had already killed it and was tearing into the flesh. I took a stick and tried to flip the rabbit carcass over the fence. Joy snarled at me like a wolf caught slaughtering an antelope. When I pushed at the rabbit with the stick, Joy growled and snapped the stick in two, as if it were a toothpick. I knew if that had been my arm, it would have been mangled just like the rabbit.
I finally backed away and left Joy alone. When she had finished her feast, she came slowly toward me, tail wagging, as if she’d been sitting on her haunches, scratching fleas. Not a sign of that viscous dog I’d seen just a few minutes earlier.
Fortunately, Joy is not a face licker, because I couldn’t have taken that smell of freshly killed rabbit on her breath.
The whole episode took me aback because I hate to see any animal die. I never could watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom because I didn’t like seeing lions running down the straggling zebras and feasting on them. One of the reasons I’m a vegetarian is that I don’t want to feel responsible for animals being killed.
My poor dogs think they’re getting a treat when I let them lick my yogurt cups. They usually get their only real meat from the little plastic tubs of Beneful that I carefully dole out by the single spoonful to enhance their dry dog food. Once, when I brought in a hot dog home for them to share, it sparked a fight.
I have to face the fact that my precious dogs are nothing more than killing carnivores. Just open any dog’s mouth and look at its teeth. Those incisors weren’t made for eating Kibbles and Bits. They were made for killing creatures and tearing apart their flesh and chewing their bones.
Humans have domesticated dogs over thousands of years, and they have lived like civilized creatures inside human homes. They lie beside us on our sofas and let us lead them on leashes around the park. But they have to be loved and respected for what they are.
So I love Joy as much as ever, even though I witnessed that hideous act. However, I do taunt her by calling her “Easter Bunny Killer” sometimes. She just wags her tail.
Jones is a Carrollton resident and reporter for the Times-Georgian.