Just ask Alice, she'll tell you.....never chase a white rabbit because you just might disappear down a rabbit hole and then no telling where you'll end up. Never was this truism brought home to me like it was this morning.
The day began like all the others here on Almosta Ranch, with Mel and I headed out to the barn early to beat the heat and get all the critters fed before breakfast. However today was about to prove unlike any of our others.
As always, when we opened the door to leave, Booker and Tater-Tot charged out the door ahead of us. Booker always wants to be first to his favorite poop spot and Tater was intent as always on reaching the barn ahead of us and checking on all her rabbit and chicken buddies. She goes to each cage and takes inventory to assure herself they had all made it through the night.
Now, being the old codgers that we are, both Mel and I tarried a bit inside the house after letting the barn dogs out. Finally after about ten or fifteen minutes, we too made our way out the door and headed to the barn.
Mel went ahead of me and stopped to turn on the water so we could fill up all the troughs. She was already into the barn when I cleared the porch and caught sight of Booker standing in the road and looking both ways. I thought this was passing strange because neither dog EVER went past the gate and into the road but I figured it was just weird Booker being his weird self and I called him back into the yard. I assumed that Tater was in the barn with Mel.
I guess I was half-way through feeding the grown chickens when it dawned on me that Tater was nowhere to be seen. I asked Mel, who was busy with the water hose, filling all the water containers, if she had seen Tater. Her answer shocked me...she hadn't seen Tater either.
Strange, but not unheard of. She often scampers around the pasture checking on the free range chickens who might be foraging for bugs.
"Hey honey," I called to Mel. "Did you notice that the white rabbit isn't in the chicken coop today?"
"Yes," she said. "I noticed that right off and there is a hole near the wire. I think he has borrowed out of the pen."
A slight pause here to explain that...Yes, we have a white rabbit that lives with some of the chickens in a chicken coop. He loves it in there and enjoys interacting with the hens.
I shrugged, unfortunate for the rabbit. You see, in spite of what you might have heard from PETA, a domesticated rabbit that gets loose and into the forest has a life expectancy of probably two days at most and a WHITE rabbit loose in the green of the Missouri Summer forest has even worse odds of living since he stands out like a sore thumb to all the predators in the area such as the fox, coon, bobcat, coyote, wolf, hawk, eagle and owl....just to name a few.
I paused then for a moment and put on my "Sherlock Holmes Deduction Helmet" and gave the situation some thought. What we seemed to have was one dog that NEVER strayed from home and one white rabbit, both of whom were missing. Now as much as I hated to think about it, Tater could have fallen prey to either a large hawk or an Eagle, both known to take little dogs for a lunch treat.
The dang dog could have noticed the missing rabbit and was now hot on his trail...out in the middle of nowhere!
So Mel and I loaded into the truck and began the tedious job of driving up and down the dirt road in front of our house, stopping at short intervals to call to Tater. After about a half hour we had to admit defeat and return home empty handed.
"I guess we just have to face the fact that she may never make it back....if she's alive at all." I told Mel who agreed.
Parking the truck, Mel got out and walked down to Billy's pasture for one last look around. She walked about half-way across the pasture while I stood at the gate. She stopped and listened....
"Did you hear that?" She yelled to me. I heard nothing.
"Come over here and listen. It sounds Like it's coming from across the fence."
I left the gate and started toward Mel, but she had begun to walk as fast as she could toward the back fence and she began to Call Tater by name.
Sure enough, as I looked past Mel and in the direction she was headed, I saw Tater-Tot standing by our fence and whining. Our neighbor to the North have a couple of old trailers, one of which is right next to our pasture and Tater had come from under the trailer.
I ran up to the fence and she reared up on her hind legs allowing me to grab her by the scruff of the neck and lift her over. Our Tater was back home and safe!
"That's what happened", I told Mel. "She tried to follow the scent of that dang white rabbit and ended up over here."
"You think the rabbit is under the trailer?" Mel said.
"No, or Tater would have been barking at him. I think she probably lost his scent about there, probably because that is where the rabbit became something's dinner. She couldn't figure out how to get back and she heard us calling so she just sit here whining, which is what you heard."
Mel stroked the little dog's head. "Well young lady, you are grounded from Barn duty for a week. Now let me get you home, I think I have some doggy treats that'll make you feel better."
With that, Mel carried Tater to the house. I followed....shaking my head. Never a dull moment around Almosta Ranch.
Booker the OFFICAL barn dog of Almosta Ranch.
Tater-Tot when she was in training....caring for baby pigs...