Look at that face! So sweet and snaggle-toothy. Don’t you want to kiss it? In no way would anyone be able to look at that fuzzy mug and see a cold-blooded murderer. But yes – my almost two-year-old bulldog Emma loves to hunt and kill little creatures. She especially loves chasing lizards and dragonflies around our lanai; the few times she’s managed to catch one, she gingerly carries it outside, lets it go… then proceeds to stomp it to death in front of me.
It’s difficult to come to terms with your pet’s true nature. Emma only became obsessed with “hunting lizards” in the past year or so. We live in Florida, so from spring to summer we have a bunch of those little Anole lizards running around and doing push-ups at each other. They’re pretty awesome, and I get a big kick out of watching them. For whatever reason, when this past spring rolled around, Emma seemed to really start paying attention to them. And bugs. And anything that moved, really. We’ve come to learn that Emma is a fairly reactive dog, which means that if she sees something moving she has a tendency to go for it. Leaves, mommy’s earring that fell out of her hand – pretty much anything small and mobile. Unlike a leaf or an earring, though, lizards and bugs move and keep moving. They must be stopped.
My husband and laugh and sigh whenever we see Emma stomping around the backyard, or staring intently at the hose (which is one of the best lizard hiding spots in the backyard, btw). As funny as her attempts are, however, it pains me whenever I see her actually catch something. The other week Emma swatted a pretty blue dragonfly to the floor and then stepped on it. Crunch. I may have gasped in shock. I was taken back because I didn’t expect her to get it, but I managed to push her away and pick it up, but one of its wings was crushed and it couldn’t fly. Despite it being just a bug, it made me want to cry. Funny, I didn’t have that feeling the other night when Emma helped me vanquish a cockroach in the bathroom.
Okay, so my precious little pup is a domesticated animal awash in thousands of years of dulled instinctual reflexes to STOMP STOMP, KILL KILL. That’s why cats kill small things and leave the half-eaten bodies in their owner’s shoes, right? Despite it being evolutionarily acceptable, I’m not a big fan of watching Emma murder things – unless it’s a big hairy roach, that is. So next time I see her go after a cute little lizard, I’ll just have to say to myself: “She can’t help it, that’s the predator side of her coming out.” And then I’ll grab a toy or a meaty bone and try to lure her back inside the house, where she can serenely nap and get tummy love without having to worry about protecting her people from evil, tricksy lizards and dragonflies.