Monday, September 9, 2013

Home alone with Bella v. Beau

A few months ago I was reading a post by Mrs. Taleteller over at "Tales and Tails" blog that reminded me of how different life is with different dogs. She was describing her evening home alone while Mr. Taleteller was traveling.

Bella's hu-dad doesn't spend much time away from home overnight, he never has. But occasionally there are nights where Bella and I find ourselves home alone and I am always painfully reminded of how living with a fearful, reactive dog changes one's perspective of the night, darkness and the wild.

We live, as some of you may know, in the suburbs but on a plot of land that is mostly wild and wooded. On the edge of one side of the property is a stream that joins a nearby wetland and tree farm across the street in front of us to the reservoir across the street behind us.

Since the neighborhoods around us have largely cut down the the trees, wildlife likes to make its way from the tree farm and wetland to the reservoir via our yard. This has afforded us some lovely visits by deer and beautiful birds. But some things that stroll through in the darkness are not as gentle nor as pleasant.

In our yard we have seen: deer, rabbits, turkeys, opossums, skunks, beaver, bats, raccoon, weasels and fox. Not to mention other dogs.

And we have confirmed stories of black bear, coyote and bobcat. Most recently there have been reports of moose and mountain lion sightings in towns not far from us. I don't really believe the mountain lion claims though since that has not been confirmed.

And I'm not really afraid of bears either. What we have here are almost exclusively black bears and I've done enough back-packing in bear country to know that, as long as you keep your food away from your tent, black bears aren't going to care much about you one way or the other.

Anyway, my fear is not necessarily about running in to a wild animal and getting attacked. My fear is that Bella, while all bluff and bluster, reacts first and asks questions later. And a bear, even a little black bear, will fight back when threatened. So you silly black dog, could we maybe not do that to ourselves while out walking at night? Thank you.

But back when I had Beau, I used to relish the few times the overnight found us home alone. He would climb up in bed with me, calmly keeping company and whiling the night away. When I took him outside for walks, I knew no one and no thing was going to bother me. He had previously proved his mettle defending me from prowlers and predators. He would defend his territory but not start a fight that wasn't necessary.

And that's what's different now.

Bella is quite a watch dog. She barks and growls and sounds astoundingly ferocious. Be it a burglar, bunny or bear, I have some confidence that anyone thinking about entering our home uninvited would reconsider upon hearing the scared-y dog bark.

But when taking Bella for walks, we have ample evidence that she will indeed start a fight with just about anything from 'possums to falling leaves. And while this is semi-amusing during daylight hours, it is more than a little disconcerting when walking her around the yard. Alone. In dark.

Thankfully we have never run into any beast more dangerous than a neighbor's dog, the occasional skunk and one rather traumatized young opossum on our evening walks together.

But, while long gone are the days when I can comfortably sleep in the house that Beau guards, Bella makes every evening Jan spends away an adventure and there's something to be said for that. We have our "girl's night in" together and are all the more appreciative of the comfort and security that comes with having Jan back home with us when he returns.


Oddly enough, I was writing this post last Friday and Bella's hu-dad decided he wanted to spend an evening with the friendly folks at Framingham hospital on Saturday. He is home again now and apparently fine. To those who knew about that, I swear to you, the idea for this post came months ago and it is only coincidence that it shows up now so soon after Jan's visit to the hospital. But it did seem rather apropos.

Then again, apropos of nothing, I can answer that burning, age-old question "what does the fox say?" I was honestly Googling this several weeks ago because, around 3 a.m. in our neck of the woods, they sound a lot like this.


  1. I understand what you mean so well! Each dog brings a different aura with them that affects your feelings and mood. Morgan's vigilance would be a lot easier to accept if she could ever just turn it off for a little while. And I'm glad Jan is doing okay!

  2. Good job protecting mom. You better start charging admission for those wildlifes!
    Benny & Lily

  3. I'm glad to hear Jan is alright - give him my best! Rod has been traveling a bit more this year and its interesting to see how the dogs are different when he's away. Buster is definitely more vocal - making sure his food person is protected, I think.

  4. The older Mom gets the less trouble she has being home alone. She rather likes it and feels safe with us to protect her.

  5. I relish the times we are home alone. But we do live in a semi-rural area and we have the same wild life as you (no bears or bobcats) so that is always a concern of mine. Our yard is fenced in but that doesn't mean these animals will necessarily stay out. I also have a little pepper blaster that I sleep with under my pillow and can use outside if necessary.

  6. Jan K, Wag N Woof PetsSeptember 10, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    We have heard that fox "alarm cry" at night, and it's a little scary when you don't know what it is. Especially when it sounded like it was circling our house! We have a big fenced in yard and so far it has kept all the wildlife out as well as keeping the dogs in (knock wood). If my hubby isn't home, the dogs like to bark at every noise they hear. It makes me more than a little jumpy! But at least I can feel like three barking dogs would deter any would be burglars.

  7. Glad Jan is ok, hopefully it was a one time deal! This post reminded me of when Max and I were walking IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD and came face to face with an extremely large BUCK (to this day I still swear it was a moose). I froze and I prayed with all my soul that Max would follow my lead. I had no clue what the buck would do but all i saw were antlers! Our evening walks were a lot like yours!

  8. I hope Jan is ok!! And totally have the same feeling with Lucas and Cooper, that fear that they'll fight first... and sort it out later. Because we have tons of wildlife around here, I've actually left the hose hooked up and stretched through the yard. I figure if something starts, I can probably stop it with a spray of the hose. At the least, it makes me feel better, like I have a plan. :)

  9. How odd that you were already writing this post. You have to wonder about things like that. I wanted to say again that I am so happy that Jan is home. As far as the dogs reacting differently, I totally understand what you mean. Leah makes me feel safe, but I do have to worry about her tangling with the animals and what not that might find their way into our yard. No black bears here, but I lived in PA for many years and I agree they are not so scary. In fact, I'd rather run into one of them then a pissed off raccoon! As for Toby and Medi, I doubt either of them wouldn protect me from any real threats, but they do both have a nice deep bark (surprisingly so for the little one) and I hope just hearing all three of them sounding off would make a human predator think twice before trying to enter my home.