Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Very Long Night

Last night we went to bed just before 11:30pm. Everyone had settled down - both of us and all three dogs - when that changed. Skookie and Cruzer - our two younger dogs - started barking in the general direction of the street. Odd, but maybe a deer walking around.

Then I noted the flashlights - obviously flashlight beams not car headlights - down on the road. And deer don't carry flashlights, so I got up and looked out the door. I saw two guys (this is from 200+ feet away, in the dark, heavily covered with redwood trees, so no real details were visible) walking the road, like they were looking for something. I watched for a couple of minutes and they seemed to be stuck in front of our house. Clearly on the road, but not walking in either direction along the road. So I let out the dogs. Much barking ensued, but the interlopers did not move on.

I put on a bathrobe, grabbed a flashlight, and stepped out onto my deck. I shined the light down at them and called out, asking if they were "OK down there".

They responded that they were fine, and something along the lines of "don't worry, we're locals".

Really? Somehow that did not engender calm on my side of things. Strangers on the street at 11:30pm, in the woods? Not a normal thing in my 20+ years of living here.

So I called the dogs and went back inside to ponder my options, and watched for several more minutes. The guys eventually started down the hillside on the opposite side of the street, towards a couple of old cabins down there. (I know the property owner... they don't live there, visitors aren't common, and certainly not at that time of night.) They walked down the hill and wandered around the cabins for several minutes. Did I mention it was 11:30pm on a Wednesday night, in the woods, and they clearly weren't the owners of the property, who would have called out to me right away on learning I was awake?

What should I do?

Call the sheriff? Well, yes, but...

  • The response time to my area is forever, probably more than an hour. Even if I called right away these guys would be long gone before the sheriff arrived.  If the sheriff arrived at all.
  • Last time I called about something vaguely like this - someone shooting repeatedly on the same property - I was asked if I "heard screaming or saw blood". I answered "no" but that I could still hear shots being fired, lots of them. And I was unsurprised when the sheriff's office dispatched exactly no one to the scene. Ever. (In the end I think it was someone target shooting, in the woods, in what amounts to a residential neighborhood. Yes, we have big lots up here - you cannot see most of the nearby houses - but still, a very dumb thing to do.)

So what did I do? I got dressed, grabbed my flashlight and cell phone, leashed up the dogs, and went for a walk.

I got to the place where the guys went down the hill and shined my flashlight down at them and waited, up on the road where my wife could hear whatever transpired. I could clearly see their lights down there, moving around the woods.

In a few minutes the guys realized they were being watched and started climbing up the hill towards me. There were actually four of them I then learned, as they spread out a bit on the path. My threat-o-meter went up another notch. just how stupid am I to be down here?

They get to the road and a rather tense conversation ensues. I ask who they are and what they are doing. They tell me they "shot a deer" earlier, are tracking it, and the "last blood" is down the hill.

Well now, isn't that interesting? Suddenly I have a whole new set of worries. Shot? With what? When? In this neighborhood? Are any of you carrying a gun now? Should I be running for my life? Should I just call 911 standing right here? What the *&^% do you think you're doing? But I remained calm - at least on the outside - and said none of that. And I was glad to have two largish dogs on leash with me, one of whom was picking up on how tense the conversation was and growled, as if to make a point.

Instead of panicking, I ask if they own the property - knowing they don't, but wanting to drive the point home. One responds, saying they don't, but that he grew up on a neighboring lot.

I say something like, "Look, it's 11:30 on a weeknight and you guys wandering around here is keeping my dogs - and me - awake." They apologize and say they were just trying to find the deer. Apparently they didn't think about the neighbors. Some agreement is come to - silently... I'm fuzzy on the conversation at this point - and they start walking up the street. I wait until they get out of the way and then go the other way, towards my driveway, with the dogs.

Nothing else exciting happens. I get home just fine, get the dogs off leash, and tell my wife what transpired. The guys have clearly left... the flashlights are gone and you definitely need them down there to avoid tripping and hurting yourself.

It's about 12:45pm. Now we can all get some sleep, right? Alas no.

I get back in bed, but am now too wired and hot to sleep. Not going to happen. So I get out my kindle and start reading.  Anne conks out (good!) and the dogs settle, sort of.

Sometime later - not sure how long... I thought it was about 1am, but I'd clearly been reading for more than 15 minutes - Cruzer throws up. I leapt up in an attempt to get him outside before disaster struck, but was too late. I sent him out anyway and got started cleaning the mess up. That woke Anne up, sadly.

Cruzer actually tried to avoid a problem and managed to throw up in the sliding door track, missing the carpet entirely. Fantastic. But it takes several minutes to clean it out of there, and find more out on the deck and get that cleaned up too. Whee.

Get back in bed, really awake again. Read some more. Cruzer doesn't want to settle, and comes over to my side of the bed, begging for attention, or something. Odd behavior for him, but if he isn't feeling well, it might be explicable. (And remember, I'm not exactly at my best at this point either.)

While reading - first session and second - we have low, loud overflights by (I think) two helicopters and at least one large jet. And when I say low I mean low. Disturbingly so, for the Santa Cruz Mountains in the middle of the night. And rare for our part of the world.

Finally I turn off the kindle and try to get some sleep. It's maybe 2 or 2:30... I'm honestly not sure. And I did sleep, a little, in fits, but not much.

The alarm is going to go off at 7am, so I am not going to get anything like a full night's sleep. Even worse, though, is the canine alarm, which went off at 5:45am. (I think. Can you say "groggy"?)

Both Skookie and Cruzer wanted out. That is very unusual. True, Skookie will always change sides of a door, but she waits until the alarm goes off before making her desires known. And Cruzer is an idiot and sleeps until thrown out or walked, so to have him squeaking at the door is odd. I got up and let them out. No barking. Fine. I went back to bed, waiting for Cruzer to start squeaking that he wanted back in.

But he didn't do that, and I actually dozed a bit more, only getting back up at 6:15am to figure out what had happened to him, since this is definitely not normal behavior. I look out the door and there he is, eating weeds in the dog run. OK... his stomach was bugging him a few hours before, so maybe that's what he needs. But he doesn't ask to come back in. Fine. Leave them out there and go back to bed, hoping for another 45 minutes of slumber.

Ten minutes later Skookie barks at something - probably a deer, but who knows - and I have to get back up and bring them both in before they wake Anne up (again). I managed to accomplish that, and got back in bed, yet again. This night is starting to feel like an exercise program. I wish I was making this up.

The alarm goes off at 7am, as usual. I listen to the news for a while, and then get up to feed dogs and make coffee. On the way to get the dog food I discover that Cruzer has thrown up again sometime in the night, this time down in the laundry room. And his behavior shows me that he is worried about being punished for it, which is something we would never do, but maybe his previous owners did. No way to know. I clean it up. No harm done, but I am keeping an even closer eye on him now.

The dogs follow me upstairs as usual and all go to their food bowls, so I think everything is fine, but as I get started making coffee, Cruzer turns up in the kitchen, long before he usually does. Odd.

I go look at his bowl. It is essentially untouched. He's not eating. This - combined with the other odd behavior and midnight vomiting - has me concerned.

I finish making coffee and get my morning banana. This is something Cruzer lives for: his morning bit of banana. (Honestly.) And he looks at me in something like the usual, expectant way, so I pull a bit off and toss it to him, just as I always do. And it bounces off the top of his head and lands on the floor. He doesn't even turn towards it... just looks at me. This is very wrong.

OK... now what? Anne finishes up her morning stuff, and we start the usual dog walk ritual. This is required every morning. It's not far - Leah, the 14 year old, isn't going far - but it's something, and we have to do it, regardless of anything else going on. It's important. And it's still just as important this morning too, so we head out to the garage to leash up.

And in the process I register just the tiniest little hiccup in Cruzer's stride as he goes down a stair. A back foot is held up just a bit longer than usual. But I am sleepy and unsure and out of it. We walk.

As we start down the driveway I wonder: we're getting some patching done on our driveway, and there is some fresh asphalt down there. Is it possible Cruzer got some of that on his feet last night when we walked down to confront the guys, then licked it off his feet and made himself sick that way? Seems possible. So we decide to change course and not walk on anything with new asphalt on it. Easy to do, and we encounter lots of new smells.

We get down towards the road and there are two guys walking on it. At 8am. Last night's meeting was in the dark, by flashlight, and way too late, but maybe these are two of the guys that were there. So I ask.

Yes, it's them. And they really are sorry about waking us up.

A brief conversation follows - with my wife there - and we learn that they'd shot the deer with an arrow - not a gun, good! - and were still trying to find it. And as much as I hate to say it, they look like hipsters. One has a big, full beard, and at least one had big, thick, dark, plastic rimmed glasses. Hipster hunters, I think. Really. Or so it appeared. (Google it. Turns out to be a real thing.) We said goodbye and kept walking the dogs back towards the house while they kept trying to figure out where their deer had gone.

As we get towards the house I realize that Cruzer is actually limping. Barely, but his right, back leg is definitely not right. We stop, I take Leah's leash from Anne, while she looks at Cruzer's foot. And between two of his pads she found an entire, small, pine cone. Buried so deeply he couldn't get it out himself. That had to hurt.  He probably picked it up in the middle of the night, walking along the road.

And he probably spent all night in pain, possibly trying to dig that thing out from time to time, and the worry (he worries a lot, believe me) made him sick. That's at least as likely as the asphalt theory. And he ate his breakfast when reminded it was there by me drizzling a bit of oil over it to make it more attractive.  Bah.  Poor dog.

As expected, the hipster hunters have wandered off again. I have no idea where their deer went, and apparently they don't either. I hope it isn't suffering.

There ends the story so far. Cruzer and I are getting by on very little sleep. (I, thankfully, have coffee.)

But it is going to be a very long day.

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