07/03/2013 05:47 pm ET Updated Sep 02, 2013

Earle 6; Chipmunks 0


About this time last year, I wrote about adopting a black Labrador named Earle. So many people responded to the column I had to shut down comments after two (2). Given the avalanche of interest, an update is long overdue.

My dog is a damn cat.

I'm not prone to outbursts of such profanity, but I believe those kindly Lab rescue people duped me. To the naive eye, Earle looks like the most handsome specimen of black Labrador that ever trotted off Noah's Ark. But don't be fooled like I was last year.

Earle is a damn cat.

OK, I'll stop cursing, but I've been misled. Here are the facts.

I have a back yard.

I have an electric dog fence.

I don't know how to use the electric dog fence.

Earle roams my yard, which doesn't have a fence -- electric, wind-powered or otherwise.

I have chipmunks.

Many chipmunks.

Earle kills them.

According to one of my lazier Google searches, the American dog community has long since opined on why dogs track the standard eastern Chipmunk or "chippies," as they're called when not dangling lifelessly from the jaws of Canis lupis. The collective explanation for these attacks goes something like this:

Dogs are natural born hunters. Chipmunks are natural born prey. A furry appetizer darts by -- maybe smirking as it does -- and what are dogs supposed to do? Instinct demands action. Instinct demands the dog wipe that smirk right off that chipmunk's mouth.

I get that. Me, I'm a card-carrying member of instinct. Whenever I hear the words, "Did you call about the septic tank?" I instinctively recoil and lie.

But here's what doesn't make sense in the doggie-eat-chippie scenario. Your average dog shouldn't be fast enough to catch a chipmunk, which, while not the Mensa of mammals, certainly is a speedy varmint. Chipmunk hunting is more a cat's speed.

Except for Earle.

The second a chipmunk leaves his burrow to visit a co-ed burrow, Earle pounces. He's got the fastest first move to the hoop since James Worthy (if one reader gets that reference to the former Tar Heel and L.A. Laker great, I will retire a mildly happy writer.) Once pinned to the soft earth, the chipmunk has two choices: play dead or play alive. Both options lack hope.

Earle releases the chipmunk. It flees. Earle pounces again. Then using what experts call his "mouth," Earle chomps-then-releases the chipmunk, which is no longer smirking or moving.

At this point in nature's ballet, I get the shovel and hurl. Six chipmunks have been dispatched so far. Each time, Earle looks forlorn as he watches the crude burial ritual. Each time, my yard is diminished. Here, the box turtle, fox, deer, hawk and bat live in peace -- why not the chippie?

Because I have a killer cat of a dog who plays Whac-A-Mole in my unfenced back yard.

There have been other issues.

Like when my mother-in-law visited last fall and made some sudden move and Earle bit her in an area usually reserved for sitting. Feelings and flanks were hurt. A subsequent inquiry, complete with witness testimony, failed to establish blame in the incident.

I chose not to publicly take sides.

Call it instinct.