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MY RELUCTANT RETRIEVER
David Morine
September 17, 1990
Percy hated hunting, but he gave squirrels fits
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September 17, 1990

My Reluctant Retriever

Percy hated hunting, but he gave squirrels fits

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All was well until Ruth's 85-year-old grandmother came for a visit. Tillie was deaf, but refused to wear her hearing aid. Otherwise, she was in wonderful shape. On the first night of Tillie's visit, Ruth finally decided to enforce the "no Percy upstairs" rule. The last thing anybody wanted was Percy nuzzling Tillie. That meant Percy was not nuzzling us; we overslept.

When we finally got up I realized I was going to be late for an important meeting. I quickly showered, shaved and got dressed while Ruth made the bed and cleaned up after me. It wouldn't do for Tillie to think she was a lousy housekeeper. Percy was forgotten. I had to get going, and Ruth was trying to coordinate her plans for the day. Percy, totally confused, followed us to the front door. When it opened, he was out like a flash.

The squirrels out front never knew what hit them. They were industrious, but definitely much dumber than the backyard band. These squirrels eked out an honest living by collecting acorns that dropped from the big oak. They had never raided the bird feeder and never participated in the morning routine. They had also never seen Percy all fired up. To them, he was the gentle slob who spent his day lying on the front stoop licking tennis balls—about as threatening as a stone.

Their first reaction was to freeze, which gave Percy a tremendous advantage. When they finally figured out that this charging mass of teeth and golden fur was after them, they broke for the oak. All of them made it, except for one. This little fellow decided to hightail it down the driveway.

Percy never looked more noble than when he pranced back to the house proudly displaying his prize. He had done his job.

He was totally confused when Ruth whacked him on the side of the head. It was the first and only time that Ruth ever struck Percy. "Percy, you bad dog!" she yelled. "Drop that squirrel!" The poor little thing desperately tried to crawl to the big oak, but its hind legs refused to work. Its spine had been snapped.

"I'd better get my gun and put it out of its misery," I said. Tillie came downstairs just as I was loading up. "Going hunting?" she inquired brightly.

Apparently the sight of me, dressed in a suit, loading my shotgun, did not seem strange to Tillie. She was from New Jersey and must have figured that this was what all Virginia gentlemen did each day before they went off to work. What could I say? I didn't have time to explain, plus Tillie wouldn't be able to hear me anyway. "Yes," I said, and ran back out.

I dispatched the squirrel and buried him deep in the woods where I was sure Percy wouldn't find him. Ruth was still lecturing Percy when I came back to the kitchen.

Tillie had settled down with a cup of tea. "Get anything?" she asked cheerily.

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