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Joe Trimmer

The other morning, as I was finishing off my first cup of coffee and one of the paper’s crossword puzzles, my dog, Annie, began to bark. Slowly at first, then more in earnest.

In and of itself, that’s not unusual for her. She barks at any intruder on her domain, real or perceived.

Her tail was up, ears alert, and her nose was almost pushing against the glass. She usually looks to me to see if I’m signaling her to cease (a wag of my finger). This time she wouldn’t break her gaze. I could see no one had pulled into the drive, which will set her off. So I got up and walked to the French doors to see what was so interesting to her.

A scene right out of “Wild Kingdom” was unfolding right before our eyes; prey and predator warily waiting. Granted, it was on a much smaller scale, given the urban setting. A cat had the high ground – a brick wall at the back of my property – and was staring at its prey – a bunny rabbit, frozen in its track, some 30 feet away. Could it make it to potential safety of a dense hedge, some 20 feet in front of it? An interested observer, a squirrel, would dart this way and that pause, rear up on its hind legs, then dart away, tail swishing.

All three of these creatures have teased Annie at different times. Birds have seldom interested her, although she was startled once by a cardinal who had spotted its image in a window, and flew into it, violently. Annie was on “guard duty” behind the window. She got up quickly and looked down at the stunned bird, which groggily stood and flew a short distance to a tree where he sat for several minutes, shaking his head. We named it “Punchy”!

Meanwhile, back on the African Plain, er... my side yard, the drama continued. The cat was still on the wall, its tail swishing. The rabbit had not moved a “hare” (bad pun), not even a twitch of its nose or long ears. The squirrel still darted about like a referee trying to urge the two combatants to action, to no avail.

Annie had stopped her barking, but we both stood and watched. Nearly 10 minutes, the cat stood up, stretched, and smoothly jumped down from the wall. The rabbit did not move. With a quick look, almost a salute, at his opponent, he went into the hedge, across the street and disappeared.

The bunny still didn’t move. Finally, a minute or so later, it relaxed, glanced around, then scampered into the tall, ornamental grasses by the wall. Safe.

This episode of “Wild (almost) Kingdom” was brought to you by me and Annie. She always gets the last word.

My previous dog, Duchess, had several animal opponents – a squirrel named “Ears” (he had one white ear); then there was “Opie,” the possum, who managed to scare the dickens out of me on two occasions. Mustn’t forget the raccoon named, what else, “Rocky.” Shortly after we moved back to Decatur, on Sunday morning, two deer came loping around the corner before disappearing down Millikin Place. Duchess just stared, as did I.

Joe Trimmer is a Decatur historian.


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