Late this morning, as I sat on the deck reading a newspaper, Emma began to bark insistently. At first I thought it might be the UPS man coming down the road. But she kept it up and I could see there was no one on the road. I looked over the deck to where she stood, only about five feet away and right away saw the problem. A large bull snake was in the front dog pen, coiled up against a tree truck and ready to fight my noisy Shorthair.
This is itself was strange, as usually Em will just dive right in, oblivious to bites, and terminate a snake with extreme prejudice. But this time she was standing off and barking. I didn't want her to kill it, so I started down the steps to close the pen gate so she couldn't get at it. Just as I expected she would as soon as she saw me coming she lunged at the visitor to grab him. I had already figured out some time ago that she is far more ruthless with snakes if I am close by. Her protective instinct is flattering but a little too destructive for my taste. This time I managed to call her off and made her keep her distance while I swung the gate closed. She continued to bark but obeyed when I called her inside.
Jack was there the whole time, standing shoulder to shoulder with her but not barking or lunging at the snake. He was very interested in Mr Slithers, but wasn't making any moves toward it. I like this aspect of Jack's personality: He is by no means timid, but rather he is careful and thoughtful about interlopers and "strange things," without the instinct to dive straight in that has made Emma such a consummate murderer of reptiles and assorted other critters. Jack watches, circles, ponders, and as likely as not comes to get me. "Come see what I found!"
When I went back outside, the snake was gone. This is not the first time I have seen him on the place, so I'm hoping that maybe Em is mellowing in her old age.
For those who might not know... A bull snake (Pituophis melanoleucus sayi) is a non-poisonous snake that is a great exterminator of rodents. For that reason alone I like to have them around, but in general am not a snake fan at all.