We stood there staring at it. Tufts of gray fur and tiny rodent hands sticking up out of the scattered leaves and dying grass. It had been slowly decomposing in our backyard for weeks, maybe months.
We both looked at our psychotic Australian Shepherd charging at helpless trees with maniacal eyes and giant, toothy grin. Suddenly we understood why Nico had been smelling so rotten lately. She’d been perfuming herself with her most recent kill.
At that moment she was frolicking through the yard, searching the power lines above for more sky rats and barking at the top of her lungs. She looked so sweet an innocent, completely incapable of such murderous intentions.
But we knew it had to be her.
Last year we watched in horror as she brutally attacked a rat that had found its way into the chicken coop. She shook it to and fro as if it was another plaything from her toy basket. We had been disposing of rats for weeks, so while this kill was a great help to our cause, we couldn’t believe our little baby was such a bloodthirsty killer.
Nico has such animosity for wild animals. Any creature that dares to step foot, or even fly over her property is destined to meet her wrath. Squirrels are the ultimate enemy, but cats, rodents, and even tiny sparrows get scared off just as frequently.
It’s confusing that Nico can be so blatantly hateful toward every living creature in our neighborhood, but show nothing but adoration toward our chickens.
There is no rationality to it. It would make sense for a dog that chases and attacks animals to dislike them all equally. But not Nico. Nico is discriminatory in her disdain for fellow furries. Her little dog brain understands that sparrows are evil and chickens are gods. She’ll bolt past a few hens and leap over a few more in her maniacal quest to rid the planet of tiny birds, with absolutely zero regard for the big birds sharing the yard with her.
Nico hasn’t always been fond of the patio raptors. When we brought our first batch of chicks home, she was as confused and curious about them as we were. I don’t believe she’d ever seen a bird up close before, and their unpredictability and tiny cheeps made her wary. She was obviously jealous of the attention the little cuties were getting from her human friends, and she spent a lot of time pouting and whining in the corner.
After we properly introduced her to the chicks and told her all about how wonderful they were, she became quite affectionate toward them. She frequently worried and fretted over them, much like a giant furry momma hen.
We kept the chicks in a brooder in our bathroom. After a few weeks they discovered flying, though they only managed to figure out how to go one way: out of the brooder. They would land on the tile floor, realize they were suddenly very lost and separated from their family, and run around frantically cheeping at the top of their lungs for someone to come save them from doom.
Nico was always the first ‘someone’ to arrive on the scene. The distressed babies made her nervous and she would rush through the house looking for us so we could help her little friends. She did this each and every time they got out, even in the middle of the night, often waking me from a deep sleep to chase baby chickens around the base of a toilet at 3am. As you can imagine, we quickly put a top on the brooder.
Besides “helping” to care for them, she’s also been present for the hatching of all of our chicks. She can hear them moving around in their eggs with those amazing canine ears long before we can, and goes running to check the incubator every time a sound comes out. She watches their long struggle into life through the incubator window, and patiently waits for them to dry off so she can meet her new friends.
She spends a lot of time with the helpless little babies, protecting them from the curious cat every time he dares to come close to their domain.
When the birds are finally allowed to free range in the yard, she’s right there beside them, keeping predators out of the yard, and alerting us if one of the little stinkers gets over the fence into foreign territory. She’s present from the time of their birth to the time of their death, as much a part of their lives as we are. She’s their devoted hero, their vigilant babysitter, their adoring friend.