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Another Night Walking The Dog

by bill - 2023-12-02 ( culture / humor / blog / animals ) [html version] rebuild

It was just another night out walking our Boston terrier, Cleo. Or so I thought. I put my boots on instead of the usual sneakers because of the recent rain. I like to keep both pairs tied but loose enough to slip on. Still, I have to wedge them on, using my fingers as a shoehorn. I should probably just buy an actual shoehorn... or a pair of these

I thought about putting on the winter jacket, but it wasn't that cold out. A sweater and windbreaker should suffice. The right boot's laces were a little loose, but I didn't tighten them. We were just walking around the neighborhood. What could go wrong?

Once outside, Cleo spotted a Realtor's sign across the street. It's been showing up every weekend since our neighbor put his house up for sale, though the name doesn't match the one in his yard. Must be another house for sale further down our street. I don't know. Anyway, Cleo has to inspect anything out of place, anything that wasn't there before. When she spots something that looks like it might attack -- an indoor seasonal decoration, usually -- she tells us all about it until we come look. She's a good girl, protecting us from monsters.

We crossed the street and went south down the sidewalk instead of the usual north. There's more stuff that other way: the neighborhood pool, pavilion, playground and, on weekends, food trucks in the parking lot, selling every sort of food there is. This night, though, we went south.

Cleo was looking around more than usual. She smelled something, I guess. We have a lot of wildlife around here: turkeys; deer; rabbits; opossums; squirrels; foxes; turtles; snakes; gophers, moles and voles (I never see them but they make their presence known with their holes); even a trio of otters in the creek one time, though I don't expect to see them again. Pretty sure they were just passing through. Last but not least, we have coyotes. Some claim to have spotted bobcats and -- half an hour south of here -- black bears, but I have never seen anything so exotic anywhere near here.

I am always on the lookout for coyotes, though. A couple of them sneaked up on me and our pug Joey, now deceased, early one morning before I scared them off. They were small, like foxes, but clearly coyotes. Adolescents, probably. A month or two ago, my neighbor caught footage of several coyotes -- one of them "huge," he said -- on the trail cam he'd mounted to one of the trees along the creek behind our houses. They're definitely out there, and he admitted to being heartbroken, suspecting they got his cat, who recently went missing.

My wife and I have talked about installing a trail cam before, though in our case it was to catch neighbor teens under the bridge -- like trolls -- behind our house, smoking things, drinking things, spraying graffiti, and other stupid teenage things. It's not a daily or even weekly occurrence, luckily, but often enough to be annoying. Of course, I would be the one charged with installing that camera but I never did, mainly because teenagers, as stupid as they are, can still recognize a trail cam. They would just destroy it. Besides, given their age, among the things I might capture on video would be considered child porn, and I'm not into that.

That bridge and creek are directly behind our house, but Cleo and I were headed toward the other creek and bridge. "Our" creek is a perennial stream, always has at least some water in it, but this other one runs only after a good rain or two. Cleo likes to put her feet up on the bridges' concrete foundation and look down at the water. She wants to go down there, but I almost never oblige. Yes, we do sometimes, but hardly ever. She didn't bother with that this time since it was dark and she knew there'd be nothing to see. Or, if there was, it would be too scary. She's not a big fan of the dark, wishing I'd turn on the light -- you know, that big one up in the sky during the day -- before one of our night walks.

We continued down the sidewalk, past that occasional creek, toward a copse of trees and bushes left mercifully untouched by the neighborhood developer. It kills me every time I see an area clearcut ahead of a subdivision being built. These developers need to learn their houses will sell for more if they leave as much plant life as possible. But, I digress.

I've seen a lot of rabbits coming and going through these particular bushes, hiding out from coyotes and neighborhood cats. We often hear rustling coming from in there but can tell it's something small like a rabbit or bird. The rustling we heard this time was much larger, and Cleo was now on full alert. Not barking, just staring into it, trying to see, hear and smell as much as possible.

I was regretting not tightening my shoe laces earlier. Any second now, I might have to kick something. We crossed the street and headed back home. If anything came after us, maybe it'd get hit by a car. Awful thought, I know, but when you're in a life or death situation, those are the kind of thoughts you think. I'm sure Cleo was having similar thoughts.

We kept looking over our shoulders as we retreated... briskly. And then I saw it: a very large skunk, so big that I did a double take. Either way, those weren't on my list of critters I see around here. It was coming our way -- slowly, but still coming -- and that old song "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" came to mind. Never heard of it? You're not missing much.

Visions of getting sprayed and having to throw myself and Cleo into a tub full of tomato juice danced in my head. That's what you do, right, soak in tomato juice? How many cans does it take to fill up a bathtub, anyway?

Luckily, the skunk never crossed the road. That same old song was probably playing in its head, too.

Cleo and I made it home safe and sound, no stinkier than usual.

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