This past weekend, I helped plant strawberries at work. This is so I feel no guilt when I eat five million strawberries later this year. I can point to the strawberry and be all I PLANTED IT and then stuff it in my face.
I brought Celeste, because she is a certified Farm Dog. She really would be the perfect companion on any (VEGETABLE) farm. She respects big farm equipment, loves running appropriately behind the mule (of the non-equine variety), and can distract herself by rolling in the grass.
While I helped plant, Celeste busied herself. She fancies herself a grand huntress, but in her five years of existence, she has only caught one animal (a baby mole). I figured that was a good track record for the little bits in the field.
Celeste is now a bona fide gopher huntress. I am not hiring her out, because I told her killing gophers is rude. She responded with a firm, goofy "BUT I EATS THEM!" If she could truly talk, it would be in caps.
She caught and ate four gophers. Yes, I let her eat them. I balked at her rolling in them, though, but she ignored me.
This is a dog who thinks babies are to be coddled. She adores human beings fiercely. Celeste is what I would describe as respectful and mostly polite. Around humans, she is submissive (grin!) and believes we can do no wrong.
Out in that field, though, she expressed her canine instincts. There was nothing grotesque or barbaric about it. She did not play with the gophers or prolong their deaths. Each was dispatched quickly and efficiently. That she did not need to hunt to survive could not dampen whatever primal urge she had to pounce and kill.
I am not glorifying her, I am recognizing her. The creature who digs in the dirt, rolls in poop, samples dead things, and at night, curls up next to Mina on the bed. In those moments out in the pasture, she reminds me of the divide between us. She may be a long-since domesticated wild canid, but nothing can tether or chain or collar her desire to express what are, to her, innate behaviors.
No, I will not encourage her to chase other animals. I have no right to do so - Celeste does not need to hunt to survive, so when I can, I will call her to me and walk the other way. But I offer no harsh judgment on her behavior. There is nothing malicious or unkind about it. While I do believe dogs are capable of mean-spirited acts and a canine version of compassion or kindness, what Celeste is showed me is far less complex. It's just her, channeling centuries of evolution unhindered by human domestication.