by Naomy Caballero
Gunther loves to take a sunbath every sunny morning. He lays in the backyard rolling his body on the grass like a hot dog. He starts by lying on his belly with both paws under his chin. He stretches and lays on his left side for about ten minutes, gets up, turns, and lays on his right side. Finally he gives one last stretch before he lies on his back to let the sun hit where it usually don’t shine. And that’s right about the time that Sally the squirrel runs across the fence and begins to work on Gunther’s every nerve fiber.
She stands on the highest post, leans in as if she is going to leap on the ground, brings her large fluffy tail over her head and begins to make chuckling sounds to get Gunther’s attention. He quickly springs onto his four legs and bolts towards Sally at full speed—straight onto the fence. He jumps and rocks the fence back and forth with his front paws, scratching, barking, nearly foaming at the mouth, enraged at how this squirrel has interrupted his sunbathing time. Sally rocks back and forth with him, her tail held high, her claws holding a tight grip to the fence while Gunther just loses his mind.
Then Sally runs back to the tree where she meets the rest of her friends. Gunther chases her, only to hit the wired fence with his large head—the tree stands on the other side of the fence. Sally and her friends spread around the tree branches in utter hilarity to see Gunther trying so desperately to shake the tree by shaking the fence. Sally runs back and forth from the tree to the fence post and from the fence post to the tree. Gunther shadows every one of her moves with no success. This goes on and on.
One morning I had mercy on Gunther and went outside to talk to him. He was lying in the warm grass, while Sally perched on the electric pole waiting for me to leave. I sat next to Gunther and explained how I had noticed what Sally had been doing to him. I put my hand on his back and reassured him that the best way to stop this behavior was to ignore her. I made it very clear to him that due to his short legs it would be very difficult for him to ever reach her and that he should just let it go. Gunther sat there looking at me with his huge dilated pupils, letting me know that he understood.
“Just ignore her Gunther,” I said, “and she will go away. You must be strong, Gunther, or else she’ll get to you,” I added, and then left him to continue his bath.
As soon as I got into the house I looked out the kitchen window and there she was again, that darn cruel squirrel Sally by the fence with her jaunty tail waving over her head calling Gunther to attention.
Gunther lay on his belly with his paws under his chin and looked up at her with no reaction. Sally’s scolding grew louder and louder. Gunther remained strong. He turned away from her and went back to his napping under the warm sun. After ten minutes of taunting, Sally gave up and turned away, scratching her head, puzzled by Gunther's reaction. As the days went on, I went outside periodically to remind Gunther that if Sally came around, he should just ignore her and be strong.
A few weeks went by and Sally sat by the electric post just outside the fence pondering, waiting, plotting. Then she showed up with another one of her friends. They both began to taunt Gunther, running up and down the fence making scolding sounds. One would run to the tree while the other ran to the fence post. I could see poor Gunther trying hard to resist, but his little heart just could not take it any more. He stood up looked to see if I was standing by the window, and when our eyes met his said, “Look! Now there are two of them!”
“You are better then that, Gunther,” I reminded him. Gunther is a pit bull mixed with Corgi. Everyone is afraid of Gunther because of his scary large pit bull head, so no one knows what a marshmallow he really is. No one has taken the time to get to know Gunther the way I know him.
The beautiful summer passed and the days of lying in the sun were temporarily over for Gunther. The cold winter days were fast approaching. Sally would occasionally come out and sit by the electric post behind the fence just before the rain came down to look for Gunther; she missed the thrill of taunting him, though Gunther had lost the thrill for chasing her. His soft eyes looked at her from behind the window. He wanted to tell her to hang in there, that he would be out soon.
Then winter was over and spring came! The flowers were blooming, and the sun was beginning to shine again. It had been a long winter for Gunther and I inside, alone. And though Sally had friends, lots of other squirrels who joined her in her quest to bug Gunther, yet she missed him.
As the sunny days began to show up, Gunther began to lie out in the sun again. Sally was excited to see him, and once again the pesky squirrel began her quest. Yet something was different. Gunther was no longer interested. It had been a long, lonely winter and he was beginning to make peace with the fact that no one liked him and he would spend the rest of his days lying in the sun.
But Sally would have none of it. After several attempts to once again gain Gunther’s attention, she decided to call on one of her most fearless friends to try to get as close as possible to Gunther. She began as usual by running across the fence, extending her fluffy tail over her head and waving it like a flag to catch his attention. Then her friend joined her and both squirrels ran up and down, tying to drive the dog out of his mind.
I stood by the window watching the two foolish squirrels desperately trying to get a rise out of Gunther. They had mistaken his soft eyes with meekness. I looked at Gunther and nodded my head and said, “Go for it!”
The words hadn’t escaped my lips when Gunther leapt into action. He raced to the fence with such spirit I thought he was flying. But Gunther’s burst of energy only lasted that one jump start, and then he went back to his usual spot. “We got him!” the squirrels thought. They were so hyped up that they proceeded to run through the fence, up on to the roof and down to the wooden shade, which was old and needed replacement. The wooden strips had become weaker with the rain. Gunther sat looking at them, waiting for the right moment, and just before I turned around to go back to my own world, one of the wooden slats broke under the weight of the squirrels, sending them both flying to the ground on their bellies.
Gunther seized the opportunity and jumped on top them as they hit the ground. He had Sally under his right paw and her friend under his left paw. Both squirrels were fearful and shaking under his mighty breath. He pressed harder and harder with a fierce look in his eyes. Still holding his grip tight, he looked up at me.
“You are better then that, Gunther,” I said. He released Sally and her friend and walked away. The squirrels dashed faster than I had ever seen, and in a blink they were gasping for air as they sat atop of the electric post, counting their toes to make sure all were still there.
Ralph, our nosy next door neighbor, who always stood by his back door window snooping through the blinds, had also been a witness to the event. He owned an eight-year-old poodle that had never been allowed to play with Gunther in the four years that Gunther and I had lived in the house. But the next day there was a knock at the door. It was Ralph and his little neurotic poodle. “Hi,” he said. “My wife asked me to bring by these cookies for you and some treats for your dog.” I thanked him and asked him to come in. He declined, but said he was taking Fluffy for a walk, and could we join him? Gunther’s ears perked up and he came to the front door. Ralph, still a bit hesitant, backed up. “He is a very friendly dog,” I said. “Don’t be fooled by his looks.” Ralph smiled nervously and said, “I know.”
That day Ralph, Fluffy, Gunther and I walked up and down the street. I could feel eyes pouring through white stuffy blinds. Gunther walked proudly with his large head up high and his soft eyes gleaming. After that day the offers to walk Gunther with other dogs continued. Gunther had become accepted into the neighborhood, and being looked on as an outsider was a thing of the past.
Sally still sat at the top of the electric post looking into our back yard, hoping to see Gunther again. Summer was here! And although Gunther and I were now invited to go for walks, we missed our own ways, and started to respectfully decline the invitations, making it an occasional thing. Gunther had met Molly, the red Golden Retriever; Lacy, the blond Golden Retriever; Otis, the large, lanky mutt; Budgie, the little hyper terrier; Goby, the little terrier who had an overbite and a left ear that just wouldn’t stay up; and Buddy, the very serious German Shepherd. But none of his new friends made him feel the way Sally did—alive!
Gunther returned to his same spot in the back yard under the sun. He looked up at Sally who sat sadly on top of the electric post on the other side of the fence. He got up and did something he had never done before—he barked! Gunther was not a barker, but he barked. He barked right at Sally and began to run around in the yard. Sally’s little heart exploded and she began to jump up and down. Gunther bade her come and she leaped on to the side of the fence and began to run up and down. She ran to one side and Gunther followed, she ran to the other side and Gunther followed. They ran up and down for a long time and continued to do so every day, until an unspoken bond had been built. From that day on Gunther and Sally became the best of friends. No longer was she teasing or taunting him, but they played and played every day. Gunther had finally gotten to Sally.