Skoshi, The Chicken Dog
©Ken Harris 2006
We moved from Southern California to Northern California around 1962 and settled onto a five-acre piece of property north of Auburn in Placer County. The property was fenced and cross-fenced, had a year-round creek flowing across the foot of it, and we had built a 3-bedroom home on it. We had plenty of room for our dogs, cats, horses. We even had a cow. And chickens. And with our chickens, we had hawks, bobcats, raccoons, and other chicken eaters.
Skoshi was one of the family dogs. Skoshi (Japanese for “itsy bitsy”) had been born in Japan and adopted as a pup by a military family who didn’t recognize the significance of a pup with feet the size of saucers. The feet don’t shrink to fit the pup. By the time they got back to the States, Skoshi was too big to be cute and too stupid to be useful. They put him up for adoption, and we came along.
Skoshi was industrial strength stupid and his only gift lay in charming the females. They loved him. When a neighbor’s bitch came into heat, Skoshi scored unless they took the precaution of locking their bitch in the bedroom with them at night. In very little time he had Skoshi pups all over our new neighborhood.
He particularly picked on one family, the Kiebers. When a bitch came in heat, she broadcast the news o’er hill and dale and soon a score or more of gentleman dogs came calling. A massive dog fight invariably ensued and soon, out from under the crush of bodies, Skoshi and the bitch would emerge and go behind the barn, leaving the other dogs to fight until they forgot why. Naturally, the Kieber children had lots of Skoshi pups to play with for a few weeks. But they always went down to a nearby supermarket parking lot with a cardboard box of pups and sold them for a dollar a dog. Dollar-a-Dog Days were a regular commercial event in our neighborhood.
We once asked the Kiebers why they didn’t shoot Skoshi with their air rifle when he came round. It might discourage him.
“Oh, we couldn’t do that,” Mrs. Kieber answered.
“Why not? He’s got long hair. It wouldn’t hurt him.”
“We’ve tried. But every time he hears us cock the rifle he disappears. He’s fast!”
At the same time, among our chickens we had an Araucana, a chicken with goofy looking feathers who lays green eggs. She hatched out a dozen chicks or so, but lost every one of them to our black and white cat, Rope Racer. Every evening the hen settled herself over her chicks for the night and later Rope Racer went out, gently lift up the hen, and ate one chick.
The hen lost all her chicks and we concluded that she was stupid, even by bird standards. But she figured things out and the next time she hatched a clutch of chicks, she sent Rope Racer up to the top of a tall oak where he stayed for a couple of days. She pecked the dogs on their noses. She kept the ponies at bay. But her most signal success was when she put me on the washing machine.
She had her chicks in the garage and I happened to walk between them and her. She immediately attacked me with beak, wings and feet. She didn’t care who bought the chicken food, I was not getting near her chicks. I leaped onto the washing machine because that was one of only three options. The other two were hurt her or let her destroy my leg. Forget the woman scorned: an aroused chicken ranks right up there with Hell’s Famous Furies.
And it came to pass that one evening we locked Skoshi up in the chicken pen. The raccoons had been raiding and we thought he might scare them off. Skoshi was deeply insulted. He wondered what he could have done to merit this humiliation. Outrage oozed from every pore. But that night the raccoon struck and Skoshi repelled him. Suddenly he knew what his place in life was. He was created to defend chickens. He’d had an epiphany. This makes me insanely jealous, because I’ve lived 74 years and never had an epiphany.
From then on, we never lost a chick or chicken. When the Araucana or any other hen hatched a clutch of chicks, Skoshi stuck to them like a boyhood prank to a preacher. One of my fondest memories is the sight of Skoshi following the Araucana and her chicks. He was crawling on his belly and keeping always within a few feet of the hen. He had three chicks on his front legs and one on his nose. He was content; he had a purpose in life (besides impregnating every bitch in the county).