One night I was sleeping peacefully, dreaming sweet dreams when Farm Dog Jesse – who sleeps on the bed - exploded next to my ear in a snarling, growling, barking frenzy. He does not do this often but when he does it is not good for my blood pressure and my first coherent (unkind) thought is always that I really need to get a new dog. After the initial explosion, Farm Dog Jesse leaps from the bed and races from one end of the house to the other making a God-awful racket and looking for something to kill. Finding no intruders inside, he then assaults the back door. It is a performance worthy of Cujo.
Though I would prefer that he were a little less committed to the role, I really cannot fault him for he is just doing his job of warning me that predators have come to the backyard for some chicken tartar. Indeed, by the time he was trying to chew through the back door I had become aware of an ominous whispering, hissing sort of sound coming from the yard through my open bedroom window. I really did not want to find out what sort of hellish creature was out there and I seriously considered crawling back under the covers. But the dog was doing his job and I must do mine. So I threw on some clothes and grabbed a flashlight.
Now, If Farm Dog Jesse were even half as ferocious as he sounds, I could simply open the back door and let him take care of business. But the truth is he is a twenty-four pound dog who lives in a house, sleeps on a bed and eats food that magically appears in his bowl twice a day. He knows nothing of the World of the Wild and anything lurking in the yard would likely have him for lunch. (He was once bested by a squirrel. But that’s a whole other story…….)
So I went alone out into the dark, moonless night conjuring nightmare images of feathers and blood and chicken bits and pieces all over the yard. But the feeble light from my flashlight revealed no evidence of murder and mayhem. The coop had not been breached and when I shined the light into the little coop window my girls were all there, alive and unharmed although they had been transformed into frozen-in-fright, unblinking, wide-eyed cartoon caricature chickens.
I breathed a sigh of relief but just as I was complementing myself on a job well-done I became aware of soft, trilling, warbling sounds. Coming from above me. (It was a Hitchcock moment if ever there was one). With trepidation I slowly directed the beam of my flashlight up into the branches of the nearby tree and there, staring down at me, were four very large raccoons. Now, raccoons look soft and cuddly and ever so cute with their shiny eyes and Lone Ranger masks but they are actually vicious, voracious creatures who eat anything and fear no one. I grabbed the pole trimmer that was leaning against the tree and waved it at them to show that I too was a powerful force. The nearest raccoon responded by hissing and starting down the tree toward me. I threw the pole trimmer up into the air and ran back into the house
The next morning I felt somewhat guilty at having abandoned my chickens in their time of need but when I went out to check on them everything appeared as it should be. The raccoons were gone, the girls popped out of the coop and went about pecking and scratching the yard as though nothing had happened and Farm Dog Jesse had stopped exploding. All was right with the world and I felt that I had handled the situation well and prevailed over the predators. Until I noticed the corn. What had been a beautiful, nearly-ripe crop of corn was now a carnage of shredded plants and decimated cobs strewn over the ground. There were a few bites taken from some of the cobs but the evidence at the scene suggested that destruction rather than hunger was the primary motivation behind this wanton act of vandalism.
Apparently the raccoons were unhappy about the chicken dinner that was denied them and were out for revenge.