Aspen's Morning Chase
by Rita Chavez
Behind our house is a large 3 acre grass field that connects to our backyard, as well
as that of 6 of my neighbors. It is a haven for kids to fly their kites (another story!),
and also a haven for bugs, toads, mice, rabbits and sundry other critters, like swallows.
These tiny, swift birds seem to congregate around this field, bomber squad style, in the
early mornings, just as the sun touches the horizon with a bright, eager pink hue. With
our humidity, a foggy mist usually covers the field in the mornings, and tiny flying
insects hover and flutter above the wispy tendrils as they begin their day. This is the
main attraction for the swallows. They skim and dive like so many F-16 fighter jets,
amazingly agile in the air, and just inches above the ground. They are tiny, black,
speeding spectres that gobble up insects by the pounds.
Enter me and Aspen. I take her out back to go potty and let her off
leash. She sees the birds while squatting to do business, her ears perked, nose twitching.
She is definately interested, but can't seem to focus on a single bird, they are so fast.
A swallow darts close to our yard, and she's off in high pursuit, like a heat seeking
missile after her target.
At first I just stand there in amazement, thinking the birds would surely disappear with
the intrusion of a dog in their midst. But no, they stay and care not that they are being
eagerly chased by a speeding red dog. Aspen's ears are flat back, her tail held level for
balance with her ground eating stride, she does indeed resemble one of her greyhound
ancestors now. I hear high pitched chirps from the swallows, and when she swings by the
yard where I'm watching, hot on the tail of a swallow, I can hear her vigorous breathing
and grunting to keep pace with the bird she is chasing. Another swallow cuts in between
them and she stops midstride to change birds, cutting off in a different direction. The
swallows continue their insect hunt without being bothered by my chasing dog. She has
stopped in the middle of the field, tongue hanging out one side, froth on her muzzle and
chest. The birds dart in and around her, and she tries to focus on each one as they come
close before dashing off with the chosen one on another chase around the field.
It is then, that I realized that my puppy is no longer a real puppy. She runs differently
now; smoother, swifter, surer, than she did as a baby just a few short months ago. Yes, my
girl is growing up right under my nose, and part of me is sad to see it. The other part of
me, the one that writes this story for you all, is the part that rejoices in how strong
and sure she is of her ability to chase down a really fast bird. The swallows will stick
around for a few weeks, then disappear again until next year - same time - same field. To
Aspen, they may not be a game bird, but the birds sure are game for it!