WARNING: Some readers may find this article distressing.
I wrote a poem of the same name, some years ago, after watching a cat stalk and kill a bird in my communal back garden.
A normally placid animal, an animal I'd petted and come to know had actually gone and killed a bird, then taking it to a quiet area and doing what animals do.
I know that this is the way with animals.
Recently, however, I have witnessed another domestic pet do a similar thing.
I want to share the story and ask a few questions.
We have been domesticating wild animals for thousands of years.
There are now hundreds if not thousands of breeds of cats and dogs all over the world.
All with their own traits, but have any of them really lost their wild streak? Cats kill birds and mice all of the time, my cat recently bought a vole in from...
somewhere!!! The worst thing is when they are still alive and when released run for their life.
We have found dead fledglings in the garden, got at by cats.
Our dog has killed a pigeon - how she got it I don't know, but she did, and she killed it.
Does this mean that she will do it again? Give her half a chance and I am sure she will.
My wife has recently introduced guinea pigs to our home.
Beautiful little creatures, who are quite vocal, very furry and very cute.
The dog - if you've read my other articles and poems - you will know was also introduced to the home by my wife.
The guinea pigs came afterward.
Just yesterday, my wife came into the house totally distraught, throwing the dog at me by the collar and then running out of the room in tears.
The dog had managed to open the guinea pig hutch and take one of the creatures from its cage - whether it had died from fright, or from being mauled, I don't know but unfortunately it was dead.
My wife, and our children were beside themselves with grief, and understandably so.
We had become attached and very much in love with our new furry little friends.
Understandable then that my wife was so furious at the dog - couldn't even look at her.
I do see her point - we had ensured the hutch was safe for the animal, we have shown the dog that it is wrong to stand in front of the cage and taunt the guinea pigs - she is a BIG dog.
We felt we had done everything we could to avoid this happening.
If this is so then why did we blame ourselves for this incident? We had had an incident earlier in the day, where the door of the hutch was open, and the dog had her head in.
My wife was out and I thought my wife had not done it up properly after feeding, and that the little things had escaped.
We found them though safe and well under a piece of newspaper, cowering from the dog.
Relieved everything was alright, we sighed and carried on with our day.
It now seems that the door did not quite lock properly and had therefore been easy for the dog to open, although not that easy.
The dog had realised that there was a way into the cage and persevered until she had gotten in.
It WAS therefore our fault that this horrible sad incident had happened.
We had not ensured enough that the cage was safe for our animals.
Can we therefore blame our dog, for using her natural instinct to "hunt" and kill other animals? I don't think we can, I think that despite our domestication of animals (all animals) they all retain their natural wild instincts to hunt and kill.
If we just look at cats and dogs.
When cats play, they use their claws, as they would in the wild.
This can result in tears from children who have been scratched or scared by a cat playing.
This happens when dogs play too, but when dogs play they use their mouths - therefore a child who is injured by a dog is injured very badly and the dog is destroyed.
Again not the fault of the dog, more the fault of the parents for not ensuring the child is aware of their dog's naturally wild mind.
Dogs chase cats - its natural - cats are fascinated by smaller creatures, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice etc and given the chance will use their "hunt" and kill instinct to "play" with the smaller animals.
So what do we do with our dog? She has now killed a bird and a family pet.
Do we have her destroyed? Is she likely to do it again? If so, should we get her rehomed? Immediately after the incident my wife and children wanted to rehome our dog, but personally I think that was a knee jerk reaction.
Is Bella likely to kill again, given the chance, I'd say she would - not because she is a killer dog, or because she is viscious (you have never met a more amiable and friendly animal) but because she is a dog, a natural hunter an ex wild beast retaining her wild traits.
I think rehoming is an option, just to save on the stress to our smaller animals and us all should this happen again, but rehoming would mean that we had failed our dog.
We took her on as a family pet, to care for no matter what for he rest of her life - by rehoming her we have failed to do this and therefore failed our dog, so can we then call our selves true animal lovers? Bella looks to us for leadership, guidance, she trusts us to be kind to her and to look after her - to rehome her would give her feelings of resentment and abandonment, and I would not want to do that to anything or anybody, it would be a crying shame.
I guess we just need to learn the lessons of this incident.
We have a dead family pet, because of our own poor judgement, our under estimation of animal instincts and our dogs natural primitive urges.
In future we shall be more cautious when buying cages for animals, ensuring that they are totally dog proof.
We shall be more vigilant when the dog is left alone in our garden, ensuring we check on her regularly to be sure that she is not reverting to her primitive behaviours.
We shall make it a point to bring her interaction with smaller pets into her training, in order to accustomise her to living with other animals.
Although you can never take the primitive urges out of her, we can maybe keep them in the back of her mind so that she does not use them so readily.
If you are going to keep small animals in a household with cats and dogs, then make sure they are kept in a manner that keeps them safe from the natural predators in your home.
That way you can enjoy them all without the distress of losing one to the other, because given the chance the predators will always happily display the cruelty of the animal kingdom.