“I think I’m going to throw up.”
It was the first thing I said to my daughter Megan after I arrived on foot back to our driveway. Mona, once again shackled, stopped behind me; her demeanor was one of contrition. Megan put her Jeep in “park” and then commented, “I feel the same way.”
It so happens that our house, situated in a former pasture, is a hot spot for deer. We’ve lived here for 24 years, and it’s pretty obvious to us that it’s on one of their well-traveled corridors. Depending on how readily available natural food sources are, they will wend their way from our neighbors’ woods, cross our private road and either approach to graze close to the house or steer further away and feast on our bordering arborvitae. With fruit trees lining our road, there’s plenty to nourish them in our little neighborhood and few predators to cause them real concern.
It was the last “potty break” for the night when I stepped outside with both dogs. I always keep Bowie’s leash taut, but I allow slack in Mona’s. She’s the “good child”. Before I had even completely closed the door, she shot off the steps, and gaining just enough traction, her body snapped around at the end of the leash. If I had had more than a mili-second to think, I would have released the leash. I didn’t, and her body shot out of her collar; with her own gift of a mili-second, she honed in on the four deer across the road. Given her superb sense of smell and her better-than-human sense of sight, she had precise coordinates. I heard rather than saw her make a beeline for them.
I pursued Mona after having handed a psychotic Bowie off to Megan. Galloping across my lawn, the road, and into Pam’s yard, my rising panic stifled my will to curse the fact that I hadn’t laced up my L.L. Bean perfectly-suitable-for-snow boots. The flapping footwear slowed me slightly, and until I could get Mona in my sights (with the flashlight that Megan had hastily handed me in the Bowie-for-flashlight exchange), I was bound to completely spiral in my thoughts. I had only suspected that the deer were close by, as it was very much in keeping with their visiting hours, and the level of canine excitement suggested that the deer were nearby. Either that, or Pam’s semi-feral cat Louie was lurking. (Highly unlikely that late in the day, however; Louie was his most predatory early morning; I often see him strutting back home with his trophies before I’ve even had my morning coffee.) It really is remarkable how many thoughts can run, end-to-end and piling up on each other, through the mind of someone in full panic mode. The first thought to ambush me was that a coyote had darted out of the woods and grabbed her. By the time my flashlight had found Mona, sitting motionless about 20 feet away from the four calmly staring deer, I had convinced myself that I would find her lifeless body, having been kicked in the head by one of the deer, or — even worse, I think — she’d be nowhere in sight.
When my flashlight picked up the glitter of two little eyes, I was overcome with relief. “I’ve found her!” I yelled back to Megan, who didn’t hear me. She had jumped into her Jeep with Bowie, and was earnestly trying to position the headlights on the space between our house and Pam’s.
With a stern, Sit, Mona!, I approached “the good child” and slid her once more into her collar. Note to self: tighten the collar. Second note to self: resume training for recall and stay.
My panic and subsequent relief had whipped up into a frothy consistency in my stomach, resulting in nausea. Yes, I wanted to throw up.