This Time the Groundhog Fought Back

I have three dogs:

  • Lilah is a Border Collie mix. 
  • Jasper is a hound of uncertain heritage. (Maybe part catahoula?)
  • Tucker is a full-bore, out-and-out terrier.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that two-thirds of my dogs love to chase wildlife.

The problem is, sometimes the chase is successful. Well, successful for the dogs. Not so much for said wildlife.

I’ve tried all kinds of things to reduce the chances of success.

  • Many times each day, I march outside and sing and clap before I let the dogs free run in our backyard. (True story; but no human witnesses, thank goodness.)
  • During stupid baby season (otherwise known as late spring I keep the dogs on leashes and walk them to our fenced-in-pool area.
  • I consistently drill my dogs on the commands “Leave it!” and Drop it!” To me, they’re as important as “Come!” and “Stay!”
  • I don’t play tug with my dogs.
  • I practice “Drop It!” when my dogs play tug with each other, and reward them significantly when they obey.

The last few items on the list are because the only thing worse than having one of my dogs (it’s nearly always the terrier) brings me a dead something that they’ve caught, is when two of them get into an ownership discussion over the something before it is dead. (Re-read the last two bullets above if you’re unsure why that’s a Very Bad Thing.)

Let’s just say there are some things I’ve witnessed that I can never get out of my head. The stuff of animal-lover nightmares.

Which all leads to this past Monday. 

It was Rosh Hashanah. My husband and I had come back from services at our synagogue. It was just the two of us this year; the kids were elsewhere and the my mom didn’t feel like traveling or even going out to dinner in the incessant rain we’d had all day.

After lunch, Brian went out to refill our birdfeeders, while I was on the phone with my mom, wishing her a happy new year.

Right after he came back in, I took the dogs outside, taking just enough time to grab my new umbrella. Normally, I just wear a raincoat, but I had just bought this fancy shmancy, high-tech, inverted, wind-resistant, rainbow-colored on the inside with a special C-shaped handle that makes it easier to hang onto while holding other things umbrella—and I wanted to test it out.

More important, I thought that Brian’s presence in the yard, clanging and banging the cans where we keep the bird food as he added seed to our dozen-plus feeders, was enough of a disturbance to chase away errant fauna. Thus, I wouldn’t need to perform my Leave This Area At Once Peformance to Benefit Wildlife.

Apparently, it wasn’t.

There were three dogs out with me, and when, from across the lawn, I saw a fourth tail go zooming by behind the pool fence, I knew something bad was about to go down.

Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one who saw—or maybe smelled—the uninvited visitor. Three canines and a human were now converging on an ill-fated creature, everyone running at top speed.

Also unfortunately, I—in my rain boots, temple-appropriate dress, and still holding my swell umbrella—am not as fast as dogs in hot pursuit.

I did not get there first.

As I ran, I heard a howl of pain. I recognized it as Jasper, which meant that whatever creature the dogs encountered, it was not giving in without a fight.

Slipping and sliding, I rounded the corner of the fence in time to see Jasper and Tucker—and a groundhog in mortal danger. 

Flashbacks. Howls. Screams. Not just the dogs. Or the groundhog. But me as well.

Wielding the umbrella and yelling “Drop it!” and “Leave it!” at the top of my lungs, I tried to separate dog from groundhog. (First rule of wildlife encounter—and dogs hell-bent on getting wildlife—Do Not Use Your Bare Hands.) Tucker let go of the groundhog, but Jasper held on. Then, Jasper dropped the poor animal and Tucker went at it again. The poor thing was terrified, hurt, and screaming amidst a tangle of teeth and legs and howling and yelling.

For a brief moment, both dogs released their hold, and I grabbed Tucker and Jasper by their collars. That’s when Lilah thought she’d get in the action. (One reason I tell people that three dogs is way harder than two: you only have two hands.) Thank goodness she’s a more cautious pup, and realized that the groundhog was still alive enough to fight back, and after a few barks, lunges and snaps, she had made it clear to the intruder that it would be in its best interest to vacate the premises forthwith.

By then Brian had heard the commotion, and had come running; he grabbed the boys’ collars and began dragging them into the house.

I grabbed Lilah and followed.

I looked back to see the groundhog lying on the ground, dazed, bleeding, and still breathing, but probably very hurt. Lilah had done her duty and was not interested in further interaction, so I let go of her for a moment and lay my umbrella over the wounded creature. I figured this would hide it from my three frenzied hunters, and maybe prevent the animal’s movement from triggering another round of attacks. I felt bad leaving it (the groundhog, not the umbrella), but I remembered Jasper’s howl of pain, and I had to see to my dogs first.

Inside the house, we kept the three dogs barricaded in our laundry room, while I did a quick triage. There was blood on Jasper’s leg, which I wiped with a cloth—no cut. Running my hands quickly over everyone, I didn’t see any major damage. There was no limping. Nothing looked broken.

Time to see to the hog. But by the time I got back outside with an empty Chewy box and a pair of gloves, it was gone. No bloody trail. I have no idea where the creature ran to. There was nothing more I could do.

Back inside, I noticed Lilah and Tucker were chittering. And that’s when I saw a small chunk missing from Tucker’s lip, and a huge rip inside Jasper’s ear.

So much for a quiet and reflective start to the Jewish new year.

Where did it all end up?

Lilah was unscathed. She just needed a rabies booster, which is state law when a pet (or human) is bitten by or has a close encounter with an unvaccinated animal.

In addition to the chipped lip, Tucker had a small laceration in his cheek. He got a rabies booster as well.

As for Jasper? His pinna (the technical term for an animal’s ear flap) had a rather large gash. Off to Animerge, our local emergency vet clinic, where they told me he needed to be anesthetized to fix his injury. I left him there under their care, and was told they’d call me when the surgery was done, and would let me know when I could pick him up.

Later that night, when I came to collect my hurt hound, and was handing over my debit card to pay for the damage done to my dog, the vet tech warned me that Jasper’s head was bandaged. “Like a babushka,” she said. In addition to the pinna tear, some cartilage was broken, and had required some fixing.

She described what he looked like, so I could prepare myself. They had flipped his ear over, she told me, and swathed his noggin with gauze and medical wrap. “We used purple and I put hearts on it to make it look less scary,” she said.

With one ear sticking out, my dog looked like a canine Steven Van Zandt. (For those who don’t know, or aren’t from New Jersey, he’s a musician and actor most known for playing in the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen and also as the character Silvio Dante in the HBO program The Sopranos.)

I drove my very sad, very wobbly and very ridiculous-looking dog home, where we both spent a somewhat sleepless night, as I lay on the couch with him and comforted him through the drugs and the pain.

Do I think any of my dogs learned a lesson about staying away from groundhogs?


But I learned that my wildlife-scaring performances are required.

And that umbrellas are good for more than keeping one’s head dry.

Jasper, the morning after.

Jasper, the morning after.


Comforting my hurt doggo.

Comforting my hurt doggo.


My dog looks like Steven Van Zandt, does he not?

My dog looks like Steven Van Zandt, does he not?


Later the next morning, Jasper felt a little better. With one ear up, he looks like he's got his turn signal on, and is about to make a left.

Later the next morning, Jasper felt a little better. With one ear up, he looks like he’s got his turn signal on, and is about to make a left.

Do your pets ever do things you wish they wouldn’t?

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10 Comments on "This Time the Groundhog Fought Back"

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  1. Well, you broke in the New Year! I hope the rest of the year is a lot sweeter!

  2. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    jasper….we iz sorree….we noe it waz scaree for ewe N de crew N mom & de phil wanna bee…..we iz glad phil getted a way N glad ewe all for de most part iz good two…hope de cone comez off soon~~~~~ ♥♥♥ st francis’ blessings two ewe ♥♥♥

  3. What an adventure ! We wish Jasper a good recovery. Purrs

  4. Jasper and company….seriously – those things bite back.

    glad everyone is OK (for the most part) anyhow

  5. OMD! That must have been terrifying for everyone involved. I hope Jasper is feeling better. My boys never learn their lessons either!

  6. Poor Jasper! We sure hope he recovers soon.

  7. Poor guy! I’m not sure if that refers to the groundhog or your boys … maybe a bit of both. I’ve had that problem with Bear and spiders. When he was younger, I’d find three-legged spiders. I will never forget this one day when I followed one of the three-leggeds into the bathroom and I was about to attempt an intervention to take the poor guy outside when my shoulder hit the roll of toilet paper and it fell off the roller and landed on the spider. I’m thinking it just wasn’t that spider’s day. I still feel guilty about it!

  8. Sandy Weinstein says:

    poor baby, i hope that Jasper recovers soon, i did not know groundhogs would fight back so much. thank goodness i have never seen any in my yard. i guess he was lucky there was not more damage.

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