I was planning to go on my annual rant about the chuck wagon races at the Calgary Stampede (four dead horses this year), but I am having what could only be described as a truly lousy weekend, and need cheering up. Enter my four legged best friend Chorizo to carry the day – and my mood – back to sunnier skies. Kind of.

This past Thursday afternoon, Chorizo and I headed out our front door to take a walk down to the river where there’s a nice little mini-bay for me to throw the stick for him in the water (Chorizo is obsessed with swimming, among other things as you are about to learn).  We didn’t get far. Chorizo noticed something under my Subaru, which was parked on the street, and made a beeline. Out from under the car I caught a good look at a rather surprising species for this part of the world: a marmot or groundhog.

For you doubting Thomases, no it was not a squirrel. It was low slung, bulky and had a much weedier tail than a squirrel. It was also fairly slow moving, which may have indicated it was either disoriented at finding itself in the city or perhaps unwell. It made a few loud chirps before shuffling off underneath my other vehicle, my beloved, elderly VW Westfalia. Chirp chirp, bark bark, and now it had retreated into the undercarriage of the front end, where it was completely safe from any harm – including the engine, which is in the rear of the vehicle.

Nonplussed, I stood there for a while, watching Chorizo grab and pull on the van so hard it moved, and wondering what I ought to do. Groundhogs/marmots are not native to this area. I didn’t seriously think this was a lost pet but I did flag down a couple of neighbours as they drove by to ask if they or anyone in the ‘hood kept one as a pet. In the meantime, Chorizo was in full froth – as you can see from the video below.

In the video between the bloodthirsty barks you can hear the unmistakable alarm chirps of the marmot. My horn had not worked in the van for over a year, and I did have to chuckle that the chirps sounded like some strange new car horn.

The wire I refer to in the video had been ripped loose and partially chewed through by the wild-eyed little hound that used to be my dog. I discovered it was in fact a live wire when I went to move it from its dangling position and the contact at the end touched part of the frame and sparked. Apparently the appetite for marmot meat is far stronger than any aversion to mild electric shock to the mouth.

I learned why dachshunds have such long, strong tails. It’s to give you something to grab onto when you want to remove your hound from the burrow (or under-vehicle) where the prey is hiding. Because calling his name (even screaming it) sure didn’t get through to him. I dragged my former gentle pet into the house and  spent a long night interrupted by frequent trips to the front door, where Chorizo was sitting and whining to be let out so that he could resume his attack on the spare tire holder and front axles.

Friday morning, I took Chorizo out (on a leash this time) to let him determine whether the rodent was still aboard. There were no more chirps, which made me suspect it had vacated during the night, but Chorizo was having none of that. He remained convinced it was still there. I called my garage and asked them if I could come and get the wire fixed, and possibly have the marmot removed. I told them I’d bring Chorizo in case the marmot was still in the van. They reluctantly agreed.

Along our ten minute drive to the shop, Chorizo became obsessed with the area around the gas pedal, where I suppose air was passing through where the marmot had left its frightened scent and venting in around my foot.  When we arrived, Gord the shop’s owner took command of the scene. He dropped the spare tire down to see if the marmot was anywhere inside, which it was not. Chorizo helped.

It turns out that the wire Chorizo had yanked loose and frayed was for the horn that didn’t work. Gord suggested that if I had 45 minutes he could replace the horn so that I could once again drive safely (and sometimes angrily), armed with that important piece of communications equipment. I guess I have the marmot to thank for my now-working horn.

I don’t know what happened to the marmot or groundhog (they are pretty much the same species). Chorizo remains certain it’s still in the van. Right now he’s at the front door, barking occasionally and waiting for me to let him run back under the van. I have to turn the sound off when I watch the video because he goes berserk if he hears that chirping come out of my computer speakers. It must have been a hell of a strong scent that animal left behind for Chorizo to be unable to determine that it’s been gone from the van for two days. But not as strong as that of the skunk that was in my yard at 3 this morning. The skunk that I noticed about a minute after letting Chorizo out for a pee and bringing him back in. I do hope my next post in the Chorizo Files doesn’t involve tomato juice.