It’s Good to be Lucky


We’re told that a good goal is one that is achievable. My dog had a single goal, and he achieved it at a fairly young age.

Lucky was an excitable yellow and white mutt who may have had some Collie in his heritage, particularly in his nose. His snout was about five or six inches long, which gave him a much more impressive jaw than that of our sour old miniature poodle.

I used to play “jaws” with him. He’d lie on his back, for reasons he never explained, and his upper lip would hang slightly to reveal his front teeth. The objective of jaws was to tap his teeth and pull my finger away before he bit it off. I always won, and his mouth would snap shut with a clapping noise that delighted me. Not a very good game perhaps, but it entertained us well enough.

His favorite game though was “git ‘im”. This was played during the brief period that we lived on the “less good” end of the street. Our back yard was fenced, and the door to it was in an odd room that only seemed to exist to join the garage to the house. There was a large tree about 20 feet straight out from the back door, just near the picket fence. The most crucial element of the game was “‘im”, the squirrel. I think of it as the same squirrel, waiting for the door to open to try its luck for one more day.

Certainly the sameness of the game play bordered on ritual. Lucky would fidget at the door; I would rev him up, asking “Ready? Ready?”; when I deemed him to be at maximum throttle, I’d fling open the door and urge “Git ‘im”; and within a few seconds he’d be barking and dancing at the base of the tree as the squirrel raced upward to safety. This was a good game that left Lucky well satisfied, and occasionally muddy.

Well satisfied, but not completely satisfied. Lucky lived for one objective: to fill his mouth with squirrel. If he could close his teeth on that squirrel just once, he could die fulfilled. Maybe on the spot.

It came to pass, one fine afternoon when he was about three years old, that Lucky met his goal. Everything began as usual, following established procedure. I wound him up, opened the door, and snarled “Get ‘im!” Lucky tore outside, shredding the turf between the house and the tree. The squirrel shat itself (presumably) and wound its way up the trunk… and then improbability teamed up with inevitability, and Lucky got, well, lucky.

The squirrel slipped. It slipped and fell — directly into Lucky’s mouth.

This is a dog that chewed shoes with the feet still in them. He shook his toys until their hypothetical necks were broken in all of the breakable places. The life expectancy of the squirrel was now a span of time that approached 0 seconds but did not reach it. To be honest, I was shocked. As were the squirrel and, surprisingly, the dog.

None of us moved. For a few protracted seconds, potentials worked out which would triumph.

The squirrel was first to react. Realizing that the jaws of death had not yet closed, it carefully slipped to the ground. It looked up at Lucky, still frozen in confusion, then bolted up the tree again.

With events returned to a familiar course, Lucky came alive. He barked and danced around the tree, tearing up the sod; then he trotted off contentedly to do his business.

He never had a better day.

Would Lucky have been happier if he’d killed the squirrel? Maybe. Certainly not the next day, or the day after that, continuing until a new squirrel moved in to the yard. His goal was simple: catch the squirrel.

End of story, it was a good goal.

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