It’s hot. It’s muggy. Jessie had to go outside to relieve herself and patrol her territory.
I’m sitting at the other end of the yard waiting for her, minding my own business, checking Twitter on my phone. Jessie’s gone down by the porch where the barbecue and hot tub are, just to make sure everything’s secure. She’s a dog, it’s her job.
Suddenly I hear a tussle down there. Bushes rustling, rattling, and shaking, Jessie growling, maybe something banging off the side of the barbecue. I look, but sitting under the patio light and squinting off into the dark I can’t see a thing.
Another round of things being shaken and then here comes Jessie out of the dark, a white ghost, running toward me, her fur in full “puffed” mode. The running part is significant, since she’s really getting on and most days is really fighting to walk with any reliability. To see her running is quite surprising, to say the least.
She tears past me and up the steps, right into the sliding glass door which is still closed. She bounces off, down the steps, stumbles and falls on the patio, then gets back up and starts looking at me, then the door, then the shadows over by the barbecue, then the door, then me…
Remember that look that Gandalf had when he was fighting the Balrog, just before he fell? “Run, you fools!”
I opened the door, let her in, gave her a treat, calmed her down. Then, probably because I’m a guy and definitely because I’m an idiot, I grab a flashlight and go back out to see what’s out there.
As I crossed the yard I could hear something moving in those bushes behind the spa. I stopped about ten feet away and played the flashlight around, but couldn’t see anything.
Every time I would take a step closer, the rustling would start again. When I got about five steps away, it occurred to me that this was the point in the movie where the protagonist (me) gets attacked and eaten by the antagonist (zombie, alien, leopard, killer bunny, and so on). I did not wish to be attacked or eaten, so I backed off. Plus, I had a hunch.
I went back to my seat at the other end of the yard and turned off the porch light, then let my eyes adjust to the dark. I could still hear something moving around back down there. I just sat quietly and waited.
After about ten minutes I could see something moving down there. I snapped on the flashlight and confirmed my hunch.
Mama Raccoon had at least two cubs with her, and they were using the leftover water at the bottom of the spa (from the sprinklers & odd shower we’ve had) to wash their food.
Jessie had been wise. Or terrified, it didn’t matter. I’m guessing that Jessie might have spooked them when they were down in the spa, and Mama couldn’t get back up into the pine trees while carrying the cubs, so she was stuck in the bushes. If Jessie had given in to her canine instincts and barked or attacked, Mama Raccoon would have kicked her ass.
I turned off the flashlight and left them alone to their dinner.
Thank goodness it wasn’t a skunk!