This is Marshall's dog, Sir Johann Ratsbane the Emotional. Like a Von won in a war, the Dog Formerly known as Johann received his title after valiant and victorious battle with a rat.
It happened last weekend, as Marshall and I were pulling out the Wandering Jew I so loathed. I'm not quite sure why this plant is called Wandering Jew, but it's purplish and ropey and gross and the name makes it awkward to express how much I dislike it. It spread across the whole front of Marshall's house, where a row of shrubbery usually goes, and it looked like some kind of mutant weed. Marshall is obsessed with buying plants, so it wasn't hard to convince him it needed replacement.
So we're pulling out this Wandering Jew, which is a thick tangle of grossness that also smells bad. (Note to gardeners: You have to get this thing called the "Cobra Head" - which is like an iron fingernail for pulling out weeds. It's amazing.) I get to hacking at the corner of the house and the cement porch when suddenly there's all this scurrying action. I jump back and scream. I know it's a rat because unfortunately the house has some rat problems. I'm not sure about the current location of the rat but I manage to calm down and get back to work, as I am in the swing of satisfying, result-driven manual labor.
The Wandering Jew shrinks and shrinks as we manage to pull out the mass' roots - bulbous structures with dirty tentacles dangling like dead and mysteriously land-borne octopi. And when there is nowhere left to hide, the rat makes its return. It scurries back into its former nest, and according to later accounts, panics. Marshall and I freak out. I'm jumping up and down. We have no idea what to do - seriously, do you catch a rat outside? But then, Johann's nearby! Do dogs kill rats? There's only one way to find out. We start yelling his name and pointing furiously at the rat. Johann looks confused. And then he sees the rat, and it dawns on him: He is a dog. This is his purpose. This is his moment.
He lunges for the rat with his mouth, grabs it, and shakes it. The rat goes flying onto the lawn. Johann chases, grabs again, rat is airborne again. The rat scurries through the fence into the backyard. There's a big plywood board back there, loaded up with lumber we were going to make into a frame for a garden bed. It's actually there to block a hole in the fence where Johann can get out. Johann strongly suspects the rat is underneath. He stands guard, poking his nose under the board, but he can't lift it up.
After the initial excitement with the rat, Marshall and I go back to gardening and let Johann stay distracted. But during a break, I want to see what will happen if I lift up the board. I take the lumber off and let Johann get underneath - the rat goes shooting out. Johann is all action. He catches the rat in his mouth and shakes. The rat squeaks EXACTLY like a squeaky toy from the pet store. And suddenly, pet toys make a lot more sense to me. They're about causing death. Fun.
Johann drops it and the rat's tail goes up, in its death throes. I've called for Marshall to come watch and he looks at his dog like an owner - there is some meaningful dog-master interaction going on. Earlier that day, we were joking that Johann's economical worth to the household was his entertainment value. We spend so much time making fun of the dog - doing silly voices for him, watching him fall down when he gets excited about food and then laughing - it might replace going to a movie, or a show, for example. We might say, "Hey, let's stay in tonight and make fun of Johann."
But that was the day that Johann decided to prove us wrong. It was almost as if he had overheard us, and understood, that we were demeaning his proud heritage. Johann stood proudly over the rat he slayed. He became Sir Johann Ratsbane the Emotional*.
*The Emotional because he cries a lot.