Lucky and I would stop several times a day while traveling, wherever I’d find an open field, a trail, a river bank. One of my favorites was an almond orchard of 1000s of trees where he saw his first jackrabbit.
In a millisecond pause of sincere surprise, he postured his springy body as if the ideal photograph and launched into a speed-bullet run with a type of happiness only the least self-conscious human could show.
He ran and ran as the rabbit leaped high and twirled almost right-angles, always 50 feet ahead. I don’t know how long. Maybe two or four minutes before Lucky powered down, not disgusted, but a bit forlorn.
I do not yell encouragements as a hunter would during training. He has no intention except to get close, to play, to display, to see what’s what. We enjoy birds and animals we find along the way or I reveal my disinterest.
In several orchards and fields since, he’ll gladly chase a rabbit with nearly the identical enthusiasm, but only for a few seconds, returning to nonchalant exploring and being wise. He grew wise after three or four rabbits, each chased a little less.
Sometimes dogs are lured into a chase. Over centuries, victims gain tricks and a few enjoy the chase. Limber squirrels will willingly tease a dog into a chase. A short twist upward to safety and a squirrel will scream in glee, settling into a self-satisfied taunt of squawks and clicks while it prepares to tease again. A band of gophers are a witty team of revelers in the way they can lure from hole to hole. It’s a grand sight.
A brown seal was more serious. Close to the surf, the seal would raise his head and show eager brown eyes until Lucky grew curious and threw himself over a few waves to meet his new friend. The seal would instantly disappear. Several minutes later as we walked along the beach, the seal appeared close to shore again. Lucky repeated his futile chase. Over a half mile, the seal returned again and again, each drawing Lucky further out to sea before he submerged. Finally, I realized that Lucky was being teased toward exhaustion and drowning, a smart but deadly feral game.