The Appeal of Dead Things

Why do dogs love dead things? It’s like there’s no bigger treat than to roll in a nice decomposing mouse or to snatch up a dead bird. When we walk the dog, we’re on constant high alert for any potential little corpses along the sidewalk. If Javier spots something dead before we do, he’s chomping down on it and trotting off. The only way to make him let go is to hold him upside down. (I have no idea how people with big dogs handle this issue.)

Once in the woods, when he found some big black thing with rib bones sticking out, my scream made him drop it. (That wasn’t a a strategy–the rib bones just really got to me.) But screaming only worked once.

Yesterday we were walking and I noticed his cheeks were a little bulgy. There was definitely something in there. I asked him what was in his mouth, and he looked guilty and opened up. A green apple rolled out. So that was a nice surprise. It made me think that sometimes when he’s trotting along with some hidden prize, it’s not so bad–a peanut butter cracker, a gumball, a tennis ball, a pine cone. Once he found a pack of fig newtons on the sidewalk and carried one for over a mile.  But he’d choose a rotting corpse over a fig newton any day.

When I was growing up we had a Westie who hunted roaches. He’d perch on the edge of the bed at night, staring down with great focus. He looked like the cartoon of Snoopy peering over the roof of his dog house. If he saw a roach–which he often did, unfortunately–he’d lunge and attack, very fiercely. That was one case where I preferred the thing in his mouth to be dead–sometimes he’d drop them on the bed still wiggling.

Yesterday, after the cute little apple episode with Javier? We were a few houses from home when he stopped again. And my guard was down because I thought he’d developed a preference for fruit. Nope, this time it was a small grey mouse. Tail hanging out of his mouth. So I picked him up, held him upside down, the mouse fell out, and probably within minutes I was letting him kiss my face. He’s just so adorable for someone so gross.


  1. Gray on August 22, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    The apartment where I live now rarely has roaches (I have NOT always been so lucky!) but when one does show up every now and then, I let the cats take care of it. If I just turn my back and go to bed, when I wake up in the morning there’ll be one dead roach and two happy cats, & I don’t have to worry about it!

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