8 July

Today I Lost It With Zinnia And Bud

by Jon Katz

I was angrier at Bud and Zinnia today than I have ever been with a dog, and I came close to whacking both of them with a walking stick.

The dogs were outside and I was writing when I heard this loud aroused and persistent barking, a kind I’ve never heard before from either of these dogs. It sounded like they were attacking some kind of animal in the yard.

I grabbed a thin walking stick and rushed out to the back door, I saw Maria running out of her studio and heard her shouting at the dogs in a voice I never heard her use before.

She got out there just ahead of me and what we saw was the Bud and Zinnia had cornered the white hen, who was lying still and Bud was lunging at her throat.

The scene was chaotic, and frankly, horrifying.

Zinnia was barking furiously, she was clearly in a state and neither dog responded to Maria, who was shouting at them to get off the hen.

The white hen suddenly started running, which only cranked the dogs up more.

They weren’t listening to her. I came out roaring like a bear and waving my stick in the air, charging at both, shouting as loud as I could for them to get off of the hen.

I was furious. We don’t kill things here, and they know how we feel about chasing the hens. I charged the dogs and they left the chicken on the ground – she was still again – and Maria scooped her up, and I was so angry I scared myself, dropped the stick, and told the dogs in a quiet voice to lie down.

They all did, even Fate who had nothing to do with any of this. I don’t think they had ever seen me that angry.

Bud and Zinnia knew I was angry, and they sat absolutely still while we carried the hen into her roots. I thought she was dead from fright and shock, but she had just been playing dead.

We put her in the roost, brought her food and water. A half-hour letter, she was awake, no longer panting for breath and pecking at the food. By sunset, she was walking around.

I took Bud and Zinnia and put them in their crates, they were rattled by my anger, and I wanted to cool off. I think Bud was the attacker, Zinnia just excited and cheering him on.

The sight of the hen made me kind of crazy and that is no way to be around dogs, they will just get crazier. I lectured them both: “we don’t do that here.”

But the sight of them pounding on the poor hen really got to me. I am often reminded that dogs are all killing machines, and it is wise to never forget that.

Tonight, Zinnia is lying snoring at my feet again, Bud is snoring outside my door. The hen is asleep in her roost, all is back to normal. For now.

I think they got the message when I took them out later, the hen was moving by the pasture gate and neither one would even look at her.

I’m glad I didn’t poke or whack anybody, that’s as close as I ever came to clobbering a dog with a stick to save a chicken (or for anything else.)


  1. It sure is a tough one. Chicken chasing is the o e tho go that gets me really ticked too. And I’ve hollered at my girls too for doing it. They think it’s a marvellous game and of course the poor chickens are utterly terrified. Grrrr.

    1. It worked out though, it was tough to see..they could have killed the chicken in a flash, but you’re right, they were just having fun..

  2. In a critical situation with out of control dogs, you have to act fast. it doesn’t hurt them at all to experience your and Maria’s very rare anger when they’ve violated not just house rules but life rules. Ya’ll didn’t hit/beat them, just intervened and let them know your profound disapproval, which hurts them more than anything, put them in their “rooms” to calm down, think over their misdeeds. Glad the white hen is okay – I hope they’ll now leave her be.

  3. Disappointed that you would have hit them with a stick. They are dogs and follow their instincts. Not very happy with you today.

    1. That’s too bad, Joan… I ‘m sorry to tell you that I am not seeking your approval for my decisions…I have instincts too, and I don’t recall seeing you in my back yard while all this happened. I call it a social media jury. My instincts caused me too stand idly by while they are mauled by dogs while I praised them gently or gave them a treat. I guess we will both have to try to deal with the fact that we are not happy with each other.

      1. Absolutely Jon…. you do what has to be done at that moment. Dogs in a group ( even 2) will kill animals they have known for years. They are hunters deep in their genes and nature.

      2. You showed great restraint, I love my chickens and our dogs have all been trained that they are off limits, however, IF I ever see one of my dogs chasing my chickens and I have my stick in my hand, I will protect my chickens and if that means clobbering the dog, then so be it..I am not into hitting my dogs, but everything and everyone on my little farm is off limits, no cat chasing, no chicken chasing..they can chase squirrels if they like, squirrels climb trees, my dogs don’t, so they have a fighting chance, my chickens do not climb trees as far as I am aware, neither do they run as fast as dog, nor can they hurt the dogs as much as the other way around, even my roosters are gentle..so lucky Bud and Zinnia..your rath was far less than mine would have been.

  4. Hello The dogs are guilty (why) Did you see how it started . Maybe the chicken was to blame I’ve been around some tough ones. This is alot like what is going on in the world now ( peaceful protests are all well and good) But when the wolf’s get the sheep all stirred up bad things could happen. I understand you got mad at them because you have elevated them to live by your standards. But they cant always.

    1. I’m not into judging chicken behavior, and it doesn’t matter if they started it or not, whatever that means, I don’t want the dogs killing the chickens, period, and it’s my job to train them not to do it. I’ve done it before and will do it again. I should think a true chicken advocate like yourself would want them to not be mauled and killed by dogs.

      1. Hello What (I) think it means is understanding what went on. Why do you think they wanted to hurt the chicken. Was it fear, anger, or jealousy or just dogs doing Wrong. Maybe they are not happy or dont feel love. I dont believe that to be true from reading the love and caring in your stories.

        1. Curtis, I’m sorry, but I am not a chicken or dog shrink, and cannot intuit their hidden motives. Dogs chase chickens, usually with much of a clear reason or motive.

          The dogs have often chased one or the other of the hens, without any provocation at all. IT’s what dogs do, dogs are hunting animals, not furbabies or human children. Our chickens are fat and happy with a protected heated roost and gourmet snacks and meals several times a day (courtesy of Maria mostly). My wish for you is that you have as good a life as they do. I do not love the chickens, but I do feed them a half cup of mealworms every single day, just to make them happy. I appreciate your advocacy of chickens.

  5. It’s hard to be self controlled when faced with a situation like that Jon. I have a big 95# doberman (rescued at age 3), we have in the house birds (1 free flys and loves to cuddle with the dog) and 2 cats. Sadie has been taught since the beginning that the home is a “NO KILL ZONE”…she is “usually” compliant but rarely i will see her start to mouth the bird…and i react…usually over react. It’s her nature as a prey animal to react when sudden movement occurs…and dam if i don’t yell every single time…i totally “get it” and it feels awful when i “lose” my self control…but usually those episodes are rare and few & far between, but i have to be vigilant. We live on a farm and oh boy…god help those rabbits and chipmunks…Sadie is older now (11) and can’t chase as well….gotta love critters, they keep us on our toes!!!

    1. Thanks Sorrel, I don’t like losing control, and I didn’t, but I have no regrets about sending them a strong message..we’ll see..

  6. At first, I felt alarm when reading about you becoming so angry and and grabbing the walking stick, but I quickly relaxed knowing what I do about your character and how you strive and I believe achieve being one of the “good men” we need more of these days and I just knew reason would prevail and you would not act out of your momentary anger and strike your beloved dogs. And I am delighted everyone came through this without harm – especially the hen which I never knew they played dead when necessary! Proves once again that while it is harder, it is better for us to call upon our higher selves and use discernment and logic and not simply react or over-react to situations that arise.

  7. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I smile every time you go down this well traveled path. I am sorry Jon, you just can’t seem to train people to mind their own business. You have been trying to for years. The only person with the issue is you (until you shame people for their comments). I don’t know how much this truly bothers you, but I hope you can find some peace.

    1. Hey Lisa, I’m smiling, I have found peace, I am quite used to it, and I am determined to keep the conversation going because it’s important…it doesn’t bother me or surprise me anymore, but I feel a need to keep fighting for boundaries in the new world..makes me feel good, not crazy…you never know..

  8. I must confess to having hit one of my dogs that was after my chickens. This was years ago before I learned how to properly train a dog. I felt awful about it later and I did some hard thinking about how to prevent it in the future through proper training. This particular dog was pretty hard-headed and I don’t think it did her psyche any damage, but losing it with her wasn’t good behavior on my part. I never did it again and I think I came to be a better person.

  9. i guess i am the outlier but i laughed uproariously,,,,thank u,, for your humanity, your good dogs , and the vivid description!
    ps, i needed a good laugh, thx!

  10. Jon!
    The funniest aspect of this one is the comment, ” Maybe they felt jealousy and what did the chicken do to possibly provoke the dogs”. I literally laughed out loud!

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