The morning sun shone. Hope cooed a happy coo. Death loomed.
Half-asleep, I cradled Hope. She batted a toy. I sipped coffee and absent-mindedly opened the back door for Lulu. In about 1 1/2 seconds, my mind raced from domestic sloth to primal fear:
Boy, Lulu seems awfully peppy. Look at that tail wag and wag. She's a good doggie. Ha, ha. She runs funny. Hey, she's darting after a squirrel. It's nice she has interests. Go get 'em Lulu! Wow, that squirrel is slow. This is gonna be close. Uh oh. Too close. What's the matter with that squirrel? Must warn squirrel. How do you warn a squirrel? Form words with lips. Yell something.
RUUUUUUUUUUUUN SQUIRREL, RUN!
It was supposed to sound alarming. Instead, I sounded like Jenny from "Forrest Gump."
Too late. Dead squirrel in the backyard. Baby in my arms. Dog acquiring crazed look, batting squirrel carcass and biting the tail in a manner I hoped was more Lennie from "Of Mice and Men" than stone-cold Cujo.
It was Lulu's second known kill. The first came last summer. Rabbits had descended on our neighborhood that spring, soon after we learned Mo was pregnant. They were everywhere.
"This is a good omen," I mused. "Rabbits are a sign of fertility. Everything's going to be OK."
The morning before of one of our nail-biting ultrasounds and echocardiograms, Lulu got one. It was twitching. She was lurking above it, giddy and proud. Mo screamed. I spun.
"There's no such things as signs. But, um, if there were, this would be a good one. Everyone knows rabbits are bad luck."
For the next few days, it's tough to view her the same. Rationally, you know it's instinct at work and dogs have struck an evolutionary bargain to be our best pals. But holding a 7 1/2-lb. girl, watching a 100-lb. beast lick her muzzle while lurching over squirrel guts, fears mount:
When Lulu licks Hope's head is she softening her up? Maybe when the dog jumps onto the fence and barks at the kidney-failure dog next door who wears a sweater, she's not saying "Say, neighbor what's going on?" Perhaps we should rethink our fun game of pointing at our cats and yelling "Sic 'em, Lulu!"
We're waiting for Lulu to become fiercely protective of Hope. So far, it's mild curiosity and low-grade jealousy. We try to further the bond. Hope pets Lulu, who doesn't seem to mind. We lavish attention, encourage them to interact, but worry that Lulu will step on Hope. We say things like "Lulu, this is Hope. Protect her." If she understood English, it would be that easy.
Mo insisted I wash out Lulu's mouth and paws before she returned inside. The killer didn't appreciate the indignity, but was curled up near Hope's bassinette 15 minutes later.