Sleeping next to five dogs does have its benefits. It also has its interesting, uncommon moments of intensity.
For instance, early this morning – around four – I woke up to Buck the Beagle sitting up at the foot of the bed. Usually, almost every night, he is asleep by my head or curled up by my left side.
To see him sitting up, alert, and making strange, whining and growling noises put me on edge – it woke me up in a state of immediacy… for what? I did not know. But something was going on. And I had to be awake for it.
After getting out of bed, and turning on the living room light, I went for my Smith & Wesson .357. Buck stayed in front of me, panting and on edge, we walked through the living room, and moved to the kitchen.
I turned the lights on.
An exhausted refrigerator motor was running and humming. The sink was dripping. A stack of mail sat on our long dining table. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, yet Buck stayed in front of me, panting in that panicked way dogs pant when nervous. Saliva dripped off the tip of his tongue.
I switched on another light, leading down the hall, ending at the side door of our cabin.
Buck growled in a low and violent and threatening challenge to something I could not see, nor had any inclination of.
I cocked the .357. I moved closer and closer to the door.
What was I going to say when I opened the door?
Was I about to shoot someone?
How would explain the situation to the police? A lawyer? A judge?
With all the courage I could muster, I turned the knob, pushed the door – more like threw the door – violently open, aimed the pistol…
nothing was standing in front of me.
No bad men. No monster. Nothing to shoot to save me or my family.
Then I looked down.
There was a teenage raccoon looking at me. A ridiculous, young raccoon, with bright, black eyes, innocently looking up at me. I didn’t even point the revolver at him.
“Shit,” I said.
The little thing didn’t move. Just stared at me.
“What the Hell, man?”
He did not respond. He just looked at me with that expression of surprise. Just as surprised as I was. Nothing happened. We just looked at each other.
I turned around, shut the door, walked down the hall, turned the lights off, and headed back upstairs to my bed.
The next morning, I told my wife about the encounter.
“Oh my God! I’m going to make a bed for him. What should we call him? I need to put some food out, too.”
I could not believe what I was hearing.
And that’s what has happened. There is now a WELCOME mat on the side porch for any – and I do mean any – nocturnal creature roaming around the North Carolina mountains at night.
Tara has named him Oliver. As in Oliver Twist, the classic abandoned child of literature.
(I approve of the name, at least
I just hope the dogs don’t get him.