Our dog should do something about him, but she’s getting old. Big Sophie’s muzzle is frosted white and her eyes are getting bad. Her legs are stiff and her old hips hurt, so she studiously ignores the fact that we have in interloper in our midst. But there was a time, when she was younger, that she would have torn him limb from limb.
A few years back we had one messing around the goose house. Now, I know all of you have seen the cute videos of raccoons getting into mild mischief in somebody’s kitchen, but I assure you, raccoons are dangerous.
One night I got home after dark and headed for the goat barn to feed the animals. Ordinarily I’d get a flashlight for this job. You see, in barns and feed rooms where corn is kept, there are usually small interlopers that come and help themselves to the leavings. If you’ve ever had a mouse run across your hand at the bottom of a bag of cracked corn, you’ll know that avoidance is the best policy. So flashlights come in handy. But the batteries on mine were long dead and I hadn’t gotten to the store to replace them.
So, before I went into the goat barn I sent Big Sophie into the dark, in front of me. Popping the hasp on the lock, I opened the door to the feed room. In the back I heard something scuttling — something much bigger than a mouse. I stepped back and sent Big Sophie in after it.
“Get ‘em Sophie.” I growled.
She leapt into the dark feed room. That’s when the frenzy began.
There was a series of crashes and a trashcan got knocked over. Sophie was barking like mad, leaping and snapping, trying to jump high enough to reach the interloper. Then there was a tearing sound as the creature burst through the screened window. Sophie, unable to follow through the high window, came bursting back out the door. The chase continued up onto the lumber pile with the creature trying to scramble to safety and Sophie scrambling up behind.
At this point, the creature made a break for it, hitting the ground running toward the woods. The moon was bright and I could see it silhouetted against the ground. Much bigger than a cat. Sophie caught it before it reached the fence. Before it reached the woods. That’s when the awful fight began. It sounded like a small dog, growling and snapping. My first instinct was to try and get Sophie off of it. But I realized I was helpless to do a thing and stood there in the dark, wringing my hands. The fight seemed to go on forever.
I called Pop on my cell. He said it sounded like a raccoon and told me to stay clear until he could get there. So I did, listening to the animal fighting for its life — listening to Sophie yelp when it tore into her face. But she didn’t let go.
The fight lasted for about three minutes more as they rolled around the pasture, from one side to another. Finally, it got quiet. I called Sophie’s name, but she didn’t come. The geese were silent in their pen. All I could do was wait.
Finally, Pop drove up and shined his truck lights down the long hill, toward the far-side fence. I could see Big Sophie lying on the ground. She was wagging her tail weakly. I called her.
“Sophie. Come on.”
Sophie didn’t move. She was still on guard. Next to her was a dark lump in the grass. It wasn’t moving at all.
Pop carried a flashlight in one hand and a pistol in the other. We approached cautiously. His flashlight beam swept across the scene. Sophie’s eyes glowed green in the beam. Finally I could see what the animal was — a 30-pound raccoon. Pop cautioned me to not get close, in case it was still alive. A little closer in and we saw that it was not going to get up again. Big Sophie had ripped it open, stern to stem. She paid the price too — her face was covered with blood, torn by the raccoon’s sharp teeth and claws.
A few years ago, I lost five chickens in one night to a raccoon. The silly birds were sleeping next to the fence and the raccoon slipped its little dexterous hand through the chicken wire and pulled the heads off the birds one by one, leaving the bodies headless on the inside of the fence. Pop told me that the raccoon could have killed the geese as well, and that Sophie had probably saved them.
We checked out Sophie’s wounds. They were superficial and Pop told me that I could wait until the bright light of morning to clean them up. I asked him if we should try and get Sophie up to the house, away from the dead creature.
“No,” he said. “Leave her here. She earned it.”
And Sophie lay there all night long, guarding still.
Gentry, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.