Saturday, December 8, 2007

the teeth of an Airedale

People who walk Airedales get used to cars stopping in the middle of the road and people shouting, “Airedale!” after which a conversation ensues. Generally the other person has an Airedale or used to and both of you agree this is the best of all possible dogs. Today when I was walking my dogs, a car pulled up to a stop sign and from it came a different shout: “The biggest teeth of all dogs!” Being several yards away by that time, I just turned around and waved.

It happens to be true that Airedale terriers have very large teeth, along with very strong jaws. Being deep-chested dogs, they also have loud, deep voices. When they play, their growls sound to the uninitiated as if they are killing each other. The time you want to worry about an Airedale is when it’s being quiet.

Which brings me to my confession. A few weeks ago the silver-laced Polish hen got out of the coop, Keeper the Airedale bitch immediately grabbed the chicken, and I grabbed Keeper. Darwin hopped around barking, as he does when anything exciting is happening. I tried the trick where you fold the dog’s lips over its teeth and press down so that the discomfort will make the dog loosen its grip. Nope. Also no hope of prying the dog’s jaws apart. So I gave her a good smack on the butt and wrested the chicken away when she opened her mouth. You are not supposed to hit dogs or children.

Other than losing a few feathers, the chicken was fine but I think she could have used a few drops of whiskey to perk her up. After I put her back in the coop, she stood there in shock, beak agape, panting. It took her a while to unfreeze and go back to pecking at her crumbles.

I felt guilty because this was my fault. Yet it was also just part of the perilous life of a chicken. Chickens can live fifteen years, yet few do. It’s a dangerous world.

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