I heard Laev barking outside. This wasn't a normal bark of "Hey, I hear something," or "Hey, squirrel, come back down here!" -- there was a defensive note to it.
As this was the day after my parents' horses were stolen just a half-mile away, I took my phone and went to investigate.
I found Laev circling a spot on the ground and immediately recognized that she'd encountered a snake, probably basking for a last bit of solar energy before going to hibernation. It was now coiled upon itself and was striking at her as she darted at it. This explained the frantic note in her barking; she's not used to prey that fights back!
We don't have a real risk of venomous snakes in our area, so Laev wasn't in much danger, but I like our snakes and I don't want them harmed, either. I walked up to the deadlocked pair and frowned. I knew Laev wouldn't want to turn her back on what she clearly considered a threat, so a recall wasn't likely to happen -- plus, if she turned away and was bitten, it wouldn't do my recall cue much good, either! I decided to simply walk up and take her collar. But Laev could circle the snake much faster than I could....
It's terrible that I have to admit that I needed a moment to realize I could simply cue the dog to stay where she was. /facepalm/
I called "down!" as Laev ran around the snake, and she responded beautifully, dropping instantly a couple of feet back. The snake froze as well, and I stepped up and knelt beside Laev, taking her collar for safety. I didn't want to immediately take her from the snake, which I knew she would interpret as a punishment for her quick down, so my plan was to praise her, stroke her quietly, and then lead her away when she had come down from her fevered high. It was a good plan.
Laev, however, was pretty sure that she was going to be rewarded for her instant down with a chance at the snake. After all, when I call her into position from the bad guy, she often gets to go for him, right? So she remained pretty keyed, tense in her sphinx down and thrashing her long tail fiercely. When it became apparent after a moment that I was not releasing her to the snake, she began displacing energy a bit, sniffing at the ground and glancing from side to side.
She glanced to the left and saw a long black shape whip through the tall grass. SNAKE! She tensed and started to lunge--
Oh. That's just my own tail.
Laev gave me an embarrassed look -- "did you see me almost do that?" -- and then relaxed. After a moment, I stood and she walked nicely with me away from the unmoved snake. We had a good laugh about it later.
* For those who don't understand the title reference, click here. No, I can't explain it either. Such is the internet.
** Yes! The stolen horses were recovered. Thanks again to all who helped spread the word; I credit social networking and the power of the internet for their return.