last update 3/2/2015
A Coon, Dog & Water
A True story by Pete Hanson ©
It was just another ordinary Autumn afternoon. My neighbors 12" beagle 'Dixie' was out doing her bugling so I thought to let my Yotie, a 47lb./ 10 year old shepherd/coyote mix(?) out to run tag team on a bunnie hunt. We have to let dogs be dogs, right?
As customary, some 15-30 minutes had passed so I went outside to listen and see how the duo was doing. My ears immediately honed in on the frantic barking of Yotie that told me she likely had a critter cornered down in the cedar swamp behind my home that lines a crooked creek. Fresh memories from a couple of weeks prior of a porcupine encounter with my other dog , a yellow Lab/Husky mix - 'Shi' (pronounced "shy") immediately surfaced. That sent me on a mission of urgency to prevent another prickly scenario and expensive vet bill.
I rushed to get my cowboy gun, a 30-30 Winchester for backup. Fumbling to get the shells out of the box, I got 2 shells in the rifle and stuck another 2 in my pocket for that "just in case" situation. I ran out the door and down in to the cedar swamp all the while Yotie's intense barking ringing out. As I had just entered the wood line I heard the loud hiss that told me we were now dealing with a raccoon. The sense of urgency exploded and mind now was kicked into high gear realizing the barking and hissing was coming from the other side of the cedars that lined the creek. As I approached closer, Yotie's barking was getting more and more intense along with the hissing of the coon. A battle was indeed at hand. I'd seen a Twilight Zone entitled "the Hunt" decades earlier about a coon climbing atop the head a dog and drowning it. This scene was something I definitely did not want to have my furry friend experience . All the while, Dixie the beagle was bugling her happy little heart out in pursuit of a bunnie and oblivious to the face-off occurring just a couple dozen yards away.
Making it through the cedars I approached the swamp transition that turns from the cedars into small Tamaracks lining the swamp grass that borders the creek. Still not seeing Yotie I fired off a shot in hopes she would spook and run for home as she is afraid of gun shots. This had no effect and actually the barking and hissing became more intense. Concern rapidly began to turn to panic knowing a bad situation was indeed at hand and my stumbling atop the sporadic high points of the swamp grass didn't help the situation either.
Finally making it out of the Tamaracks and into mucky swamp grass I began falling with every other step trying to walk atop the small grassy islands, all the while the face-off was quickly escalating in to a full fledged battle. They were out of critter insults and threats to one another and it was time for fist-a-cuffs. When I got about 15 feet from the creek-line and heard a splash. Immediately I heard the panic yipe's of Yotie that quickly became underwater gurgling yipe's. "YIPE!" blub blub blub "Yi-..." blub blub blub was all I heard. Though I still could not see what was happening I knew full well my buddies life was at a crossroads. Trying to keep a focused mind and thwarting building panic, I fell to my bellie atop the grassy mounds and hastily did the army bellie crawl to the battle scene, all the while the yipe's and splashing grew less frequent as well as the gurgling. Time was of the essence.
Getting within 5 feet of the scene and I now saw the coon was atop Yotie's head keeping her from needed air. I racked the gun only to see the last round eject into the swamp water. Though a second was just passing it was like a slow motion movie watching that live shell eject from the gun. "You've got to be kidding!!!" my mind screamed as I watched the bullet tumble end over end in to the swamp water..
Fumbling in my pocket for a backup shell, Yotie had been able to gain a bit of footing in the muck that allowed her to get her nose just out of the water. At this moment the coon was laying outstretched and flat out atop the water gripping Yotie's nose with it's strong jaws. Thinking back I could see the coon was trying to use it's soaked body weight to try to get Yotie's head back under water. The coons haunches were facing me, his head turned to the right and jaws still clamped to Yotie's nose. I dropped the barrel tip on it's back haunches just above the tail and pulled the trigger releasing the explosion of the bullet. Again that slow motion movie played and millions of thoughts and emotions played out a mere second. "...the coon is still on her nose!... did I blow Yoties eardrums out?... was her body under the coon? ... did I shoot my Yotie??? "
The coon & Yotie were frozen in time and me too. The jaws of the coon slowly released her nose and began slowly sinking into the water and Yotie now knowing she was free, tiredly turned and got up out of the creek atop the grass islands, did the doggie shake and made her way back through the cedar swamp while I stayed there for a moment just kneeling in the grassy muck.
Still freaked by the event, I slowly made my way through the muck and back in to the cedar swamp taking conscious care to keep my head and emotions in check along with my heart rate and blood pressure. I was able to laugh to myself hearing the beagle still bugling nearby and recollected hearing the bugle all through the event. The beagle was only concerned about chasing that bunnie. A one track mind no doubt. That'll keep that dog safe from any coon / water encounters.
Finally making back to the house I saw Yotie doing the snake-slide thing sliding her face in the lawn, either trying to get the scent of the coon off her face or maybe the swamp mud. I dunno but she acted rather normal which was a calming sight to behold. My furry friend sliding her face on the ground along with those happy puppy grunt sounds was more like what I wanted to see. A sense of normalcy...
Inspecting her face, it appeared that her black little nose got the worst of the bites which really faired pretty well in spite of what I witnessed. A couple days later I did retrieve the coon and with the help of my Vet, turned it in to the Health Dept for rabies testing which eventually turned into more good news. Testing results - Negative. One less thing to worry about.
After reading up on coon, dog and water encounters I am even more thank full. The coon transitions from a furry cute looking critter to a full blown animal of venom with skillful battle moves to defend itself. Stories of eye witness accounts tell of large coon swimming out in a pond to a submersed floating log and actually waited for the canine pursuer to come in range. It then grabbed the dog by the ears with its hands and forced it's head under water. Other stories tell of the coon scratching the dogs eyes while atop it's head all the while the dog fighting from drowning. They sure know how to use the water to their advantage and I know my Yotie is one very very lucky mutley. Did she learn? I sure hope so but I also realize that this may instill a more vicious encounter from remembering the pain and horror from this event. I can only cross my fingers she'll have more respect rather than a vengeful hatred for the coon critters.
As I write, a couple days have now passed and she is back to her old self. Wagging her stumpy little tail and playing with her companion Shi. Her nose is healing well and it's apparent that she is right back to living the dogs life. She's got to do the antibiotic thing for another week and a half. My baby almost bought her last ticket and the sight and sounds of that horrific event play in my minds eye and ear even as I type this story line out.
Moral of the story? Be observant and learn to listen. Distinguish the difference between the random barking from the 'I hear or smell something' woof to the ' I see you and you are a threat' frantic barking. They naturally want to protect their human family as well as their territory. Be it a Chihuahua or Pyrenese Mountain Dog, this is the nature of the canine. Don't automatically respond with a yell of "quiet!" or "enough!". Learn to listen to your dog to hear what it is saying.. It is doing it's job for you after all. Cherish the bond and their unconditional devotion & desire to please and protect you.
Shi & Yotie hanging out
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