I have a bit of a bizarre squirrel story concerning my 2-year old Kerry Blue, who was perhaps in the spirit of Christmas.
My family has typically owned Airedales, and so naturally my Kerry, Orion, was immediately given the nickname "Squirrel" to separate him from my uncle's much larger and less aggressive Airedale. My uncle's family, by the way, is quite upset at their Airedale, who is very easily dominated by Orion, and they spend a good time on the porch cheering each time the Airedale knocks Orion over or manages to evade him.
But it so happens that Orion, like most terriers, loves to chase and the squirrels are his favourite. They're very fast, have big bushy tails and are always around. Orion spends all his time at the window on guard duty, ears perked and tail erect, on the lookout for squirrels. Whenever one appears in the lotus tree in the backyard, he immediately starts barking and pawing at the door to get out. Once out, he chases the squirrel and the squirrel runs and climbs up the fence and into the ravine and safety.
Although there have been several near-misses, he has never caught a squirrel. Mice, yes. He brings them up from the basement and tosses them around, clearly delighted beyond speech. But as of two weeks ago, he never caught a squirrel.
So I wasn't expecting him to catch the squirrel when I let him out to chase. But for the unfortunate squirrel, as he was climbing the fence only three feet up from Orion, he lost his footing, slipped, fell on Orion's head and bounced onto the ground. Orion immediately took action by picking up the squirrel. He mouthed it for a few seconds and then trotted over to the hole under the fence that some enterprising rabbit had dug and let the squirrel go. The big-tailed rodent immediately vanished through the hole and Orion pranced back to the door with immense dignity and a twinkle in his eye. I know that he knew that squirrel was alive when he picked it up, and I find it absolutely remarkable that he actually went to the squirrel's escape route, where so many of his prey have vanished, and simply let the animal go, completely unharmed.
Maybe he was in the spirit of Christmas, and maybe he feels a certain kinship with the animals, as "Squirrel is his nickname (not only for his small size, but for his cleverness which is irritating beyond measure, it is so embarrassing to be outsmarted by either squirrel or dog) but I personally think it was for more selfish reasons that he let the squirrel go. I think he let the squirrel go because it is just way too much fun to chase them, and you can't chase them when they're dead. Either way, it'll be a while before we stop talking about the compassionate hunter.