Henry was a really athletic dog. He was quick, intelligent, and agile. Henry surprised us one day when we were in Arizona visiting my Dad.
Both PD and Henry were in my Dad’s back yard. The humans were out in the back yard, too. Dad’s house was just two blocks from undeveloped brushy Arizona desert. His back yard had a nice view of Mount Graham rising up and dominating the skyline. We stood under the shade of his trees, visiting about trivial things and enjoying the view.
There was plenty of wildlife in the area, including birds. One little brown bird came swooping down into the back yard. He was trying to score something for food or perhaps some twig for its nest.
A black streak shot from the left. My stepmother exclaimed “Oh my!”
I looked, and Henry had snatched the bird out of the air in mid-flight. I was shocked! I had never seen Henry move that fast, and I certainly would never have expected a dog with such short legs capable of catching a bird.
And then, I realized that Henry intended to eat his catch. Raw bird meat, bones, and feathers were not on Henry’s meal plan. At least not the meal plan Wife and I had mapped out for him.
I tried to act calm as I walked over to Henry. “Drop it!” I commanded.
I was both surprised and relieved when Henry set the bird down. I picked up the bird and inspected it. It was badly injured, but not yet dead. I carried the bird over to the trash bin, and quickly dispatched it, putting the poor bird out of its misery with a quick twist of its neck.
This was only the first of many critters that Henry would successfully catch, or at least attack.
Henry’s next catch happened several months later, in our own back yard. As I said, Henry was not only quick, he was bright. He learned from his previous experience.
Wife had been looking out the window into our back yard. She spotted Henry just as he snatched a large black grackle out of the air. It seems he was perfecting his technique. Grackles are large black birds, and were frequent visitors to our back yard. I had seen both of our dogs take off after the big birds, scattering them up into the trees, but this was the first time one of the dogs actually caught one of the birds.
Wife began shouting at Henry and calling my name, telling me to hurry. We went outside, and there was Henry, with his prize on the ground.
I was beginning to think the capture of the bird in my Dad’s back yard wasn’t a fluke, after all. This dog could move!
When Henry looked up and saw us, he scooped up the bird in his mouth. I think he remembered from the last time that he caught a bird that I was likely to take his prize away from him. As I approached, I told Henry “Drop it!”
And he did.
But, then, recalling the last time I told him to drop a bird that he had caught, he picked up the bird again. Henry did not want to lose his hard earned reward. So he snatched up that big black bird. The bird went in head first, with its feet dangling out on either side of his mouth.
Henry began to run around the yard, the bird’s legs flopping around. Wife said he looked like he had a “Fu-Manchu” moustache.
I retrieved the sternest voice I could muster, considering the comical site in front of me … black dachshund running around the yard with the legs of a black bird dangling out from either side of his mouth … and ordered Henry to drop the bird.
He stopped. He dropped the bird. And he watched me. I walked over to Henry to retrieve the dead bird. Henry let me get within three steps, and then he reached down and picked up the bird again.
Before I could order Henry to “Drop It” again, he took a big gulp, and swallowed the bird whole!
I still have no idea how he managed to get that whole bird down his throat in one swallow. Nor do I know what happened to the remains of that Grackle. I watched the back yard for days, looking for droppings with feathers, bones, or maybe even a whole bird carcass. Nothing. As far as I can tell, Henry managed to digest that bird like he did his dog food. There was nothing in the yard to indicate that any part of the bird was vomited back up, or did not get fully digested.
I didn’t even find the feet.