In the case of Dog vs. Groundhog, rest assured that size doesn’t matter. If you’ve ever wondered whether a plucky rodent can hold his own against an inquisitive and slightly clueless dog, wonder no more: even this young groundhog held his own against Reggie’s impertinent sniffings. (Click on any of today’s images for an enlarged version.)
Let’s just say I’m glad it wasn’t a skunk or porcupine that Reggie and I encountered during this afternoon’s walk at Goose Pond: had Reggie gotten cheeky with a skunk or porcupine, right now he’d be either stinky or pin-cushioned. Instead, today’s groundhog–a youngster who was inexplicably guarding a stretch of path where I’ve never before seen groundhogs nor any sign of a burrow–held his own against Reggie’s in-your-face investigation after an attempt to crouch and freeze like a furry rock didn’t dissuade canine curiosity.
They say that curiosity killed the cat…and dogged inquisitiveness nearly earned Reggie a nipped nose. Just as I did when Reggie encountered a snapping turtle, today I worked myself into a frenzy shouting “No,” “Leave it,” and “Come here” to a dog hell-bent on getting closer to a kind of critter he’s never investigated before. I now know from experience that groundhogs, when cornered, chatter their razor-sharp incisors in a move that’s almost as intimidating as human saber-rattling…and they aren’t afraid to make a lunge or two against a predator that insists on getting Too Close.
I shouldn’t be surprised that even a young groundhog can be a formidable opponent since various American writers have suggested as much. In Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan describes his hapless attempts to fire-bomb a groundhog that had raided his Connecticut garden; closer to home, New Hampshire’s own Maxine Kumin wrote a famous poem about shooting a family of garden-raiding woodchucks that refused to be “gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.” Even Henry David Thoreau, who was no fan of blood-sports, went wild for woodchucks, claiming in Walden that the mere “glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across [his] path” was enough to make him want to “seize and devour him raw” to imbibe “that wildness which he represented.” Having come within spitting range of a pissed-off groundhog, let me reassure Thoreau that seizing and devouring one raw would be no easy task. Inspired, perhaps, by Alek Therein, a Canadian wood-chopper who visited Walden and “made his last supper on a woodchuck which his dog caught,” Thoreau apparently thought ground woodchuck as easy to obtain as ground chuck. In case Thoreau is listening, I can testify with certainty that live groundhogs are far feistier than raw hamburger.
At the end of their brief face-off, it was groundhog, not dog, that triumphed if for no other reason that groundhog didn’t have an owner to interfere. When it became clear that neither dog nor groundhog was making way for the other, I intervened, cornering Reggie with a wet towel, wrestling him back onto his leash, and then literally dragging him back to the car. (I officially have No Comment as to why I was carrying a wet towel at a place where swimming is prohibited.) If Groundhog Triumphant looks a bit ruffled, keep in mind that he’d been puffing and chattering in the seconds leading up to this shot. Even tooth-chatterers and saber-rattlers can get a bit flustered from their own histrionics.
- Apparently it’s the season for groundhogs to be out and about, appearing first on Gary‘s and then on Beth‘s blog. The blogosphere, it seems, is a wild place: be careful out there.