Tonight I was talking on the phone with my mom-in-law (who I affectionately call my mom-in-love), when Jake (our dog) started nosing me ~ his signal that he would like to go outside. Since I was talking on the cordless phone, it wasn’t a problem. I opened the back door, and Jake took off like a shot, practically taking the door of the screened-in porch off its hinges.
“Wow,” I thought. “He must really need to go out!”
I stepped out onto the back deck because, you know, my dog can’t go outside without one of his people with him. Seriously. He’s a big lumbering oaf of a black Lab, and he’s too chicken to go potty by himself.
Jake has this annoying habit of getting to the backyard and deciding that perhaps he’d rather just sniff around and see who has been visiting his territory rather than actually completing the business he went outside to do in the first place. Since we don’t have a fenced-in yard, we live in more of a country setting than a subdivision, we have a field that backs up to the back edge of our property and forest-like copses of trees on either side of our property, said “property” is 3 acres, and there’s an abundance of wildlife as well as residential domesticated animals that are allowed to run around and leave presents in our yard, there are always lots of new smells for Jake to investigate. In fact, when we walk out to get the mail (at least an acre and a half hike from the front door) we always ask Jake if he wants to go check his pee-mail. Get it? His pee-mail? Ha ha.
Anyway, there I was on the phone with my MIL, discussing a rather sad and serious situation (and in that I am being serious, not sarcastic) while Jake was running around ALL OVER the backyard just sniffing away. Then he stopped dead in his tracks and did something I’ve only heard him do a couple of times. He started barking what we call his moose bark.
The very first time he let out this particular bark we were still living in Alaska, it was dark outside, and there was a moose just outside our front window happily munching on a bush. Jake let out a bark that just about scared the pants off of my entire family. Of course, since it was dark outside, we couldn’t see the moose through the front window. And being the geniuses that we are, we opened up the front door to step out and investigate what had our dog so riled up. Brilliant. Thankfully, the moose was so absorbed in her destruction of our bush that she didn’t seem to notice the four human beings who practically walked right into her.
ANYWAY, I was still on the phone, standing on the back deck, when the dog started going haywire. I was trying not to yell in my MIL’s ear while yelling at the dog to be quiet. Then I started to wonder what he was barking at/about. Because it’s his moose bark, which he only does when there are other animals around that he’s afraid of. He doesn’t do that bark when there’s a dog in our yard, but he will when he smells the coyotes who live in the forest beside our house. In the rational part of my brain, I know coyotes are extremely skittish and will run away at the slightest noise. But the not-so-rational part of my brain starts screaming, “Oh no! There’s a coyote in our yard, and he didn’t run away! What if he attacks Jake? Forget that ~ what if he’s rabid and he decides he’d rather bite ME???!”
At that moment, Jake stopped barking and took off around the side of the house. Now, it was dark outside, and even though there are motion sensor activated spotlights on the side of the house, I wasn’t about to step off my deck and go chasing after the stupid dog when there was the chance that a rabid coyote was on the loose!
I moved the phone away from my mouth and started yelling for Jake to come back. Then he started barking again, and I could tell he wasn’t too far away. A very firm, “Jake! Come!” in my deepest commanding voice should have been enough to get his attention and get him to leave off his barking and come back to me. Now remember, I was still on the phone (why I didn’t ask my MIL to hold on for a sec while I recovered my dog I don’t know) ~ at this point I had the phone upside down against my ear, with the microphone as far away from my mouth as I could get it. Because I was yelling. At my dog. While he barked that bark that sends shivers up and down my spine.
From the side of the house I heard a thump and a rustle. Something ~ definitely not my dog because his bark was fading as he ran in the opposite direction, away from me ~ was moving toward me. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a human, because Jake (being the a-mazing guard dog that he is) would have stopped barking and started licking the human, known or unknown.
I stopped yelling for the dog since he obviously wasn’t going to listen. For about two and a half heartbeats there was only silence.
Then IT came around the corner. ( “IT” being the animal that had my 85 pound black Lab doing his bark that signals he’s afraid.) The big, scary ……………. possum.
I busted out laughing as the big scary possum scurried underneath the deck to get away from the dog that was so afraid of him. Obviously the dog wasn’t afraid enough because the possum hadn’t rolled over and played dead. He’d run away from the dog ~ which means Mr. Opossum had absolutely no respect for my dog or his detection abilities.
Of course, the dog was STILL running in the opposite direction, away from the possum and me, woofing his fool head off. Laughing hysterically, I realized I was just frightened by a possum. At that moment my poor mom-in-love probably thought I had lost my mind.
Jake finally did come back. He came dashing around the corner, acting as though he were hot on the trail of that big scary possum. I think by that time the possum had waddled his way from under my deck out to the field or into the trees.
He was probably laughing, too.