Last summer my husband and I were invited to a neighbor’s house-warming party. That by itself is unremarkable, except that we came home with a puppy. Not an ordinary puppy, mind you, but an Australian cattle dog, the brother of my neighbor’s pup.
I won’t hold you in suspense, but tell you right up front that cattle dogs are bred to herd. They have two speeds, fast and stop, and nothing—absolutely nothing—in between. They run for the pure pleasure of it. This dog circles the house so fast, his feet are out to the side and his rib cage grazes the grass. There is so much lateral force on the lawn it has bunched up in places like a loose carpet.
Now having a dog was my husband’s idea, but having this particular dog was my idea. I like high-spirited creatures, and this dog leaves no doubt. He’s over-the-top excited about all aspects of life . . . all day . . . every day . . . except for one, which I’ll get to in a moment.
I’m a cat person, but the idea of having a companion while I was out beekeeping was appealing to me. I do all my beekeeping alone, so it seemed like a good idea—I would have something to talk to other than bees that never pay attention. And cats? They’re useless.
A few days later, Q2 and I went up to inspect the hives. He kept poking his nose in the hive entrances. I warned him several times that it wasn’t a good idea, especially not on a hot July afternoon, especially not with dog breath. But I didn’t worry. I figured he would get stung a time or two, after which he would know everything he needed to know about bees.
Sure enough, after about six minutes in the apiary, the howling and thrashing began. I didn’t see him flee, but I could see the undergrowth parting in a wave, then the leaves shuttering back into place. In a few more minutes, I trailed after him.
Down at the house I found him chasing his rear in a tight little circle like a cyclone. Round and round he went until he toppled over from dizziness, then he reached around to lick, lick, lick. This went on and on. When I finally wrestled him into choke hold I saw the problem. Right on the side of his penis was a nasty red welt.
With apologies to half the world, I have to say this cracked me up. I tried to remove the stinger, but he wouldn’t let me near. He circled and licked for the better part of two hours. I had to admire the little lady that got him: if you’ve got only one life to give for your colony, you may as well make it count.
Q2 recovered from his misfortune, but a beekeeper’s dog he is not. All I have to do is touch my bee suit on the peg where it hangs, and he slinks away, tail between his legs. So I’m still beekeeping alone while down at the house my dog is snapping at bees in mid-air. He is a gentle creature, but when the bees are about I can hear his jaws clamping down on nothing, trying again and again to teach those fiends a lesson. Still, though, he won’t go near a hive.
He continues to chase individual bees, sometimes launching himself completely off the ground in pursuit or biting aggressively at the clover. Someday he’ll catch one. Then what? Will we finally be done with this nonsense, or will Q2 hatch a new plan for revenge?