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Senior Correspondent

She spies movement nearby and waits patiently, silently until the right moment. Then, pouncing with athletic accuracy, she captures the hapless prey tightly between her paws.

Not quite ready to enjoy the evening’s catch, she sits calmly with a prideful smile. Her prey, detecting a looser grip, escapes and takes off, only to be caught, once again. This play is enacted several more times, until finally, when it’s clear there will be no more attempted break outs, she bites off the head of her snack.

Is this the latest edition of “Wild Animal Kingdom?” No. It’s my eight-pound Chihuahua and one very unlucky grasshopper.

The “hunt” took place recently on our patio, in full view of dinner guests. We all began watching with amusement when Dixie, the hunter, caught the unsuspecting insect in her tiny grip. Humor quickly turned to fascination, then horror, when it became obvious that there would not be a happy ending for the bug.

I admit, my husband and I were a little embarrassed—and somewhat disgusted—by the predatory antics of our beloved dog. Instead of Lassie by our side, we apparently had a Velociraptor! Dixie has the face of an angel, but the heart of a hunter. 

It’s not the first time we’ve faced nature up close and personal within the confines of our home. Our previous dog, Callie, would proudly deposit box turtles at our backdoor, chewed and scuffed around the edges, but otherwise safe within their portable shells.

Over the years, geckos, mice, bats and other creatures have ventured indoors, some with better outcomes than others. 

Perhaps the scariest of these encounters was when a two-foot rat snake unintentionally commuted from our home to the carwash. Imagine my surprise when, as I pulled up to the entrance, the attendant said: “Lady, you have a really big snake on your car!” 

I leaped out of the vehicle to see what he was talking about, and there it lay, coiled as if ready to strike. 

It looked so threatening, and its appearance so disconcerting, that I tipped the attendant for corralling it into a garbage can and rapidly drove off—no car wash that day. I had survived my own horror movie!

Later, after talking with a local snake expert, it was determined that my reptilian hitchhiker likely had first found shelter in our garage, and then in my car engine, after weeks of rain in our area flooded its habitat. 

Dixie’s lapse into a predatory state reminds me that all creatures, human or otherwise, contain a beast within. The hunter may not emerge often, but we are all capable of defending our territory, and pursuing an intruder, even if it’s just a bug. 

As summer winds down and grasshoppers vanish, Dixie will have to find other prey. Crickets are beginning to enter our garage, and when one does appear, my husband and I will leap into beast mode, doing whatever we can to get it back outdoors. 

After all, we have to protect it from Dixie.

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