I arrived at work at our new Southampton office late in the day, parked in the lot, put the leash on Bella, got her to jump out of the car and began walking toward the back door.
As we got close to it, Bella began looking over to her left, where the broad lawn of the property stretches out for about 100 yards to bushes bordering Seasons Lane in the back. And I know what she is thinking. She is thinking how much fun it would be to, instead of going into the building, go to the left and onto that newly mowed grass. There are bunnies there. And she loves to chase them.
Oh no, I thought to her, we are not going out there, we are going in, through the door to the office. Maybe a little later, just before sunset, we will go out there. But for now, we are going into the office.
Bella does not wear a dog collar. She wears a harness. The idea of a harness is that when you want her to go one way and she wants to go another, you can give her a little pull and it does not grab her around the neck as a choke would.
I gently pull the leash. She pulls it back. I’m thinking, well, we could go over there first, I suppose, but, well, I’ve got the wrong leash for that. In the car, I have a 30-foot retractable leash that gives her lots of play when I walk her. She is now on this short six-foot leash, better to keep her close in the office. I should also note that I can’t let her run free on the grounds at the office. She sometimes goes off for a considerable distance before running back. At the office here on County Road 39 there are too many cars for that.
I should at this point describe Bella to you. She is two years old, 15 pounds, white with tan spots, long white fur that feathers off the back of her legs as a hunting dog’s does, a tail that sticks straight up but ends in a white spilling-over fountain of fur. When she wags it, it shakes like a cheerleader’s pom pom. She has the face of a Cocker Spaniel or King Charles, but the ears, instead of falling down as they do on those dogs, stick up and, at the last two inches, fold over. I publish here a picture of her. She’s almost always happy, ready for anything. But on this occasion, looking for bunnies.
I look over. I do not see any. Maybe she thinks she will go over there and they will come out to say hello. They are not going to do that.
Bella is still pulling me off to the left, toward the yard. Okay, I say, and, as I sometimes do, I start to move off in that direction for her. But then I think, I really should pull her the other way, back to the car, so we can get the retractable. I recall prior major events with her on the retractable. She starts by my side, races out the full 30 feet at which time the line goes taut, makes a twanging noise and then my arm is pulled out of its socket. It’s a scary business. But it’s just one of those things you have to do for a dog.
Okay, okay, I say. She is not buying this. She wants me to take her out into the lawn now, on the short leash. This is too important. Can’t wait for anything. And so, that’s where we now go, she pulling and I stumbling along after her.
It seems as if she sees something way out there at the end of the lawn. I look out. I don’t see anything. She is misinformed. But she keeps pulling. In fact, she is pulling so hard that even though this is a harness, she starts making scary cough and choke noises as she is dragging me along.
Ack. Ook. Harpumph. Ack.
She doesn’t care that she is doing this. She is absolutely pointing and heading toward one particular spot in the grass, far off. I still don’t see anything. And then, as we arrive at about 30 feet from the spot she is looking at, I do see it. It’s a damn bunny. White. Sitting on her rump sideways to us. Looking straight ahead as if she doesn’t see us coming up from the side. She is not moving.
Ack. Ook. Ook Harruph goes Bella. Unh, unh, unh go I.
Now we are 20 feet away, slowly closing the gap, this choking, skidding, harrumphing, clawing at the lawn, falling all over each other duo obviously not sneaking up quietly as we might have liked to do. And the bunny continues to sit there.
We get to 15 feet, then ten.
Ook, ook, harrgh, harrumph, oog.
I am not going to let this leash go. If I do, she will chase this bunny all over kingdom come, all the way down Seasons Lane to the little park at the dead end possibly, or wherever the bunny’s hippity hop takes her. I hang on. This bunny cannot possibly be unaware of the approaching danger now. But still she does not move.
Now we are six feet, then four, then…action! The bunny leaps up and, quick as a flash, makes three quick consecutive hops then disappears into the bushes 20 feet further on. It’s been a split second. Bella is caught flat-footed. With the leash or without, this was not going to be the day, the first magical day that she’s ever caught a bunny.
Bella makes one final lunge, makes a really loud harrumphing noise, then, panting and licking her chops, sits on the lawn and stares at where the bunny has disappeared. Now I am up to her.
“There was no way, no way,” I tell her.
She turns her head and looks at me. If you’d let me off the damn leash, she says, I’d have had her.
She looks away.
And you know it, she says.
Not true, not true, Bella, you are kidding yourself.
And with that, we turn and, with Bella trotting along show-dog fashion, head for the building and the end of the day and into the evening for the closing of the paper.