Bad dog 

A lion and a deer walk into the neighborhood...

There's a dead fawn outside my front door. It's been completely and carefully covered in grass, which means that it is a mountain lion kill, which means that the mountain lion responsible is going to come back to finish eating. I would never have noticed it, except that my dog was sniffing and whining and making an urgent noise that sounds exactly like something Chewbacca would say.

When I called Colorado Parks and Wildlife to report the dead fawn, braced with the sure knowledge that they would come out and remove it, the man told me to let it be—just let the mountain lion enjoy the leftovers.

"Um," I said. "I have young children. I have a dog." I paused and waited for him to change his mind.

Instead, he sighed. "Well, I'm sure you've trained and fenced your dog."

I had. But it is my belief that passion nearly always trumps rules. That is why people fall in love in ways that make no sense, and it is why dogs contort their bodies to scramble out of a well-fortified fence to go roll in dead deer carcasses.

After the first good roll, I told my dog, "I love you, and we're going to get through this together." I lathered her up with dish soap and sprayed her with the hose, all the while hanging on to her collar despite the ripping of tendons in my shoulder socket. I murmured to her, as a dog-whisperer might, about cause and effect. Roll in dead deer, get a bath in cold water. See the connection?

She did not see the connection. She was out 10 minutes later, rolling in dead fawn. Then she showed up at my door, smiling, wagging, oblivious, a fawn leg dangling from her mouth.

So out we went again, back outside to the hose, both of us freezing. Then I felt bad and brought her in, and while she was safely inside, I threw the fawn leg as far as I could into the willows beyond the fence. And then I re-fixed the fence.

These last few nights, the mountain lion has indeed returned to feast. In the morning, I check the progress: more deer gone, scattered in various directions. Hurry it up, I mutter.

My dog has received 12 baths in the last four days. My shoes are permanently wet and yet have simultaneously frozen into a strange and uncomfortable shape resembling prehistoric croissants. I have given my dog baths inside and outside, and I have truly and sincerely done everything I can to keep her in our yard. And yet, the dog's hide is scratched and bloody from wire; one nail is broken and bleeding from digging. She keeps finding new ways out.

Until the 13th bath, which was today, I still loved my dog. I had the door propped open because it was unseasonably warm. The dog was happy about this, because she likes to sit on the threshold of the house. Every nook and cranny in the fence had been attended to, and I felt confident that my sweet-smelling dog would remain sweet-smelling and obedient. But what did I see? The dog sitting in her spot, tail thumping happily, chewing on a rotting remnant of deer.

A noise issued forth from somewhere deep inside me. I startled the dog, which dropped the fawn part and jumped on me to check that I was okay. Unsurprisingly, she smelled like rotten deer flesh; she had bits of fascia in her teeth. And that is when I discovered a very old fact, but one that is new to me: Temporary madness can allow for all kinds of normally impossible feats. I rushed out of the house, hollering. I threw every rotting half-chewed chunk of deer I could find over the ditch and over a fence and into a nearby horse pasture, which is not owned by me. At the end I was speaking what sounded like Chewbaccan, although English words occasionally emerged—something about stupid mountain lion, fawn, nature, dog, universe, I hate you all.

Then I came inside, washed my hands and made myself a nice cup of hot tea.

The dog, freshly bathed, is sleeping now at my feet, head resting on one foot so I cannot get up. It's possible that I still like my dog, now that I've had a breather. That doesn't mean I love her, not yet. I do like the fact that she believes that rules are meant to be acknowledged, and then ignored, and that her tail wags in her sleep.

Laura Pritchett is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She is a writer in Boulder, Colorado; her newest book, Great Colorado Bear Stories, is due out in April.

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