About that name

[a message to the terrier mail list]

Well, Barley continues her work as a silent hunter.

Peggy and I were perched on our deck yesterday evening, sitting quietly watching Barley worry her deflated playground ball, graze on the tall grass, root for earthworms, excavate the irrigation system, you know, the usual.

Barley was on the “top level” of our back yard; the “down below” is a three foot drop off a retaining wall where we have the rockeries, the dry stream bed, the native woodsy plants, and so on. She is perfectly capable (although I wish she wouldn’t) of sailing right off the retaining wall when she is on Squirrel Patrol. We always yell “Use the stairs!” and occasionally, she does.

So all of a sudden we hear the flush of wings, and a trio of robins are making a diving pass at the taller plants; Barley sits bolt upright at the first whoosh of wing and then launches at warp speed down the stairs and into the campanula and along the fake stream bed. There is a Hitchcockian looping swirl of birds, scored with much robin chattering, then Barley comes prancing up the stairs, tail and head aloft, with the smallest robin firmly clamped in her jaw.

Cairns 1, Robins 0.

I follow her as she jumps up with her prize into the raised bed containing the hydrangea bush, and she reluctantly responds to a stern “Drop it!” The bird is mortally wounded. It passes in just a few moments.

We put Barley in the house so we can dispose of the bird. Barley watches through the window. The little robin is clearly this year’s crop and the apparent parents stand forlornly on the fencetop, occasionally winging over the scene of the crime as if to make sure the little robin is not still there.

This morning when I let Barley out, she dashed over to the last place she had seen the bird. Then she dashed to the edge of the retaining wall and leaned over the edge in that alert, puff-chested stretched-out pose, while a large robin perched on top of a wrought iron bench in the yard directly below chattered angrily at her. Barley has a look of eager concentration, like a submarine commander figuring a firing solution on an unsuspecting enemy target.

Barley’s concentration breaks, though, when a squirrel streaks across the fencetop — the robin flies off the bench, Barley flies off the retaining wall and so begins her ritual morning patrol of the perimeter.

This terrier moment brought to you by Mother Nature, and terrierists everywhere.