Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008

Lulu does battle during snake-out

Along with warm nights to accompany the warm days comes the movement of critters not seen until their cold blood is warmed enough for them to move about.

Usually it’s about  mid-May when I will notice several snakes on or near the road leading to our rural home–a day I call “snake-out.”

Once out, they don’t seem to go away until the cool weather of fall is upon us.

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Now it’s not that I don’t like snakes. Snakes are interesting and serve several good purposes. They also scare the bajebees out of me when I come upon one without expecting it.

Picking up sticks blown down by strong winds last week I was reaching for a spreading adder before it moved ever so slightly like it was warning me to back off. No dogs involved-no casualties.

Then on another day, when I was having work done at my home, I drove out mid-afternoon to check on the progress. Arriving there, I noticed two rather large men, one holding an eight-foot fence rail, nervously watching a patch of grass. Upon further inspection I saw the ears of our dog, Lulu, attacking something in the patch of grass.

“You better get that dog away from that cotton-mouth, it’s tried to bite it eight or nine times,” one of the men said excitedly.

I’ve been in this scenario before with other dogs and knew who was in charge.

“First off, that’s a king snake and I think the dog is holding her own,” I responded as the small feist-type dog that doesn’t stand taller than 14 inches slung the six-foot snake with a fearacity and speed that I couldn’t imagine in such a small dog. It was all a blur as we watched the lightning quick dog carefully choose her time to grab the snake behind the head, shake and sling it before my eyes could focus on what just happened.

I don’t kill king snakes because as long as there is one around you don’t have to worry about other snakes bothering you, such as copperheads and other pit vipers. I’ve paid too many vet bills due to copperhead bites to warrant just letting them be.

Lulu doesn’t know this. This is a female fox terrier that someone abandoned near our home about a year ago. She was expecting puppies at the time. My wife, Rita,  chronicled on these pages our adventures with the puppies, who were all given celebrities’ names. Lulu’s love for us is unconditional and she doesn’t like us paying attention to the other dogs and enjoys protecting us, from critters, strangers, delivery men and visitors that “invade” our space.

Now Lulu’s snake is not to be confused with King Larry, so named because of his eight-foot length. Larry previously visited us on a yearly basis. He would come around baby bird hatching time and although I never saw him eat any baby birds, I knew what he was up to.

And that is an exception. If a snake is going after our baby bluebirds, he’s toast. Or Lulu is summoned to deal with it.

Most have heard the phrase, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

You should also know  when birds of an unlike feather flock together and raise Caine, you can bet that there’s mister no-shoulders slithering nearby.

I can’t teach Lulu the difference between pit-vipers and “good snakes,” (an oxymoron to many), so reptiles, beware. You’re on your own on Pittman Road.