Ray has lived with us for 18 months now and his morning walks with me very often include a park which is just down the road. He has explored every inch of that park so many times now that rarely does he surprise me, but recently he certainly did.
On this particular day, it was a little on the cool side (Fall was here after all), but we had the pleasure of glorious blue skies and sunshine. Watching him during a walk is always a delight now because not only does he invariably carry his tail very high, but he has a very light gait such that his feet hardly seem to touch the ground. On this day he really did seem to be such a happy soul.
As we entered the park, both Ray and I started to follow his nose (actually, Ray was following his nose while I tagged along!) which checked out the baseball diamond perimeter fencing, a seat, a couple of garbage bins, the concrete bases of various floodlights and a seemingly infinite variety of scent trails. Suddenly he stopped, raised his head and focused on the edge of the park some distance away. That particular edge consisted of chain link fencing separating the park from an apartment building, some low growing shrubs, ground cover, weeds in general and a few trees. As uninspiring as that was to me, to Ray it clearly warranted investigating as he started to pull in that direction and very soon we were standing near the fence and under a tree. I was looking around for a clue as to why we were there as typically a rabbit would be darting under a fence, or a squirrel scampering up a tree, or perhaps a cat just sitting somewhere near with a serious attitude, but none of these were to be seen. I looked down at Ray, ready to go through our “What’s up buddy?” routine, when all became clear. He was checking out acorns in the grass! Seemingly every one of them!
I can only guess that they looked quite edible; perhaps reminded him of some treats we give him; triggered memories of his past life, or perhaps the scent was just simply attractive to him. He would check out the really well formed ones which were presumably recent wind falls, but he would also investigate old and broken ones. We were surrounded by brown acorns, green acorns and variations between those colours, and Ray was not going to let any of them get away without him sniffing each one. Ray wears a muzzle when out in public (a story for another time) which makes it rather awkward, but not impossible, to take something into his mouth for evaluation however, in this case he just kept moving the acorns around while constantly sniffing. He could have been simply playing with them? Maybe he felt a need to reorganize them? Both of those scenarios were unlikely given his personality but all he did for quite some time was absorb whatever scents he was picking up and move the acorns around in the process.
I wondered just how much of a problem it could be if he did actually eat one but that did not seem to be likely so I just watched. Then I heard the sound of hard shell on teeth! I looked down and was just about to try “Drop it”, “Leave it”, “Give” together with anything else that I could think of in such a situation when an acorn, glistening with moisture, dropped to the ground just beneath his muzzle. I heaved a sigh of relief and was ready to move on now that he had determined that they were not particularly tasty but no, Ray was going to continue checking out the other acorns which he did in great detail. We were in the acorn patch for at least 10 to 15 minutes!
Why did this behaviour surprise me, after all he was with us last Fall and must have come across acorns then? The only conclusion I can reach is that this time last year he had completed a treatment program for a serious health issue and was probably still feeling a little “out of sorts.” There was also a possibility that we were exercising a greater degree of control over where he went because of his health but, regardless of the reason, in the Fall of 2014 Ray seemed to have discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) acorns!