Such is the moment I find myself in this morning.
It is another sun-washed, arid and frigid Rocky Mountain morning. My husband, our three rescue dogs – Sheba, Smudges and Charlie – are out for a pack walk in our mountain valley three thousand feet above the gilded City of Boulder, Colorado. Meandering through the ten acres of creek side trails, we sidestep mud-slush-ice puddles along the way, chattering happily about the cerulean blue sky and the quietness of the late morning. I feel relaxed and content after the long week to be spending some pleasurable time with my well-constructed family of orphans.
Passing through the willows and looking ahead, I see clear trails in the distance. All’s clear, I think, we can let Smudges and Charlie run a bit…
Oh, how I wish I’d turned to my left sooner. No quicker than I’d uttered the release words, I saw them:
Twin moose yearlings.
Smudges, my beloved little 2-year old Shepherd mutt with wits to rival an 8-year old child, locked eyes and tears away before I can register the pair of 800-pound chocolate brown bodies browsing thirty feet away. Charlie, our recent 1-year old Labrador mutt refugee from the streets of Shawnee, Oklahoma, follows suit. Sheba, our seasoned and wiser 12-year old incontinent Shepherd mutt, tucks her head and nestles in between Frank’s legs. The twin moose calves turn towards Smudges and charge – ears back, hooves flying.
S*!, grab Charlie! I scream at my husband. Lunging for his lead dragging behind, he quickly snatches up a barking Charlie.
I dash behind a clump of willows in the excitement. The quietness of the morning evaporates with the explosion of crazed barking piercing the air.
SMUDGES! SMUDGES, DAMMIT SMUDGES, COME!!!
I might has well have been screaming to the gods above to drop down from the sky. Hell-bent on herding the twin moose calves — no matter my eighteen months of treat-training – I stand no chance of her listening in a moment most critical.
Take Charlie home, quickly! I holler to my husband, please – GET SHEBA OUT OF HERE TOO!
Get out of here, this is MY LAND! Smudges continues to bark, dashing, panting, running, chasing, nipping, charging at the moose twins.
Oh, dear God! Smudges! I scream and holler because I think that will be the thing to which she most pays attention. I run to snatch her dragline in vain. Dashing and darting, I am frantic to drag her away from the danger of charging moose twins.
A yearling turns in pursuit. Turning tail, she dashes away – for a short distance – then turns back, barking and bowing.
Oh, dear Jesus, she thinks this is a game!
The yearling continues to charge. Front hoof striking out, he misses her head by inches.
SMUDGES!!! Dammit, Smudges, for the love of God, please COME!!!
Get out of here! This is MY LAND! She continues. The other yearling joins in pursuit.
I dash behind more willows, continuing to scream. We – Smudges and the moose twins and I – are out here alone. Charlie, Sheba and my husband have all safely returned to the enclosure of our home, acres away.
Just then, the moose twins gallop my way, Smudges on their tail.
Oh, dear God.
I dash deeper into the willows. Smudges follows on the tail of the twins.
Then, they stop.
Turning to browse on the willows again, blonde hair stands straight up on the back of chocolatey-brown necks. They are agitated, to say the least.
Smudges circles around, this time to the front – straight into the thicket of the willows.
Smudges! P-L-E-A-S-E SMUDGES….For the love of God….PLEASE COME!!! I sink to my knees in a mud-slush puddle. Behind a clump of willows, where a yearling is now cowkicking at her, hoarse and crying.
Get out of here….This is MY LAND! She continues.
I dash eastward along the trail, dodging the mule kick from the yearling most agitated. His brother browses on a clump of willows nearby. Smudges runs to the other side – eastward – just as I stomp on her trailing lead.
GOTCHYA! Now let’s get the hell out of here! I run – dragging her barking, irate, territorial, screaming, recalcitrant, disobedient self behind – to the safety of the house just acres away.
The moose twins continue to browse in the willows.
Back in the safety of the house, I can see the moose twins in the willows far away. They remain there for the next seven days, lounging in the safety of shelter and rough nourishment of our plentiful willows. Smudges and Charlie walk the other end of the valley on leashes for the duration, stopping for the occasional witness of a breaking branch or whiff in the mountain air, to confirm the presence of their wild “intruders.” I try to explain to them both, the moose live here too, you know, but they both just look up at me, sitting for a liver treat, and wondering when they can again run free…