The insistent barking finally roused me from my front yard hand watering (I had headphones on in my defense). I headed toward the backyard wondering who was letting their dog bark on and on. As I went through the gate (standing open...it has issues), I knew then that I was the guilty dog owner and it was Kobe doing the alarm barking. Because that's what I immediately realized it was. Kobe isn't a barker. I started to run then, somewhat worried about what I would find.
He was on the hill (where I still hope to have steps...one of these days) confronting a large furry animal. Large, as in much bigger than either of my cats but not as large as Kobe (thankfully). As I approached, I could see the animal raise up and bare its teeth at Kobe. Kobe was intent on corralling it and, if necessary, ready to use force to do so. I was worried about Kobe, but, as I realized later, he knew what he was doing.
I yelled at him to get away (not that he would) as my other dog, Riley, found her way back to us. The animal managed with or without Kobe's help to get itself about four feet further down the hill. I ran up the hill and turned the water on to get the dogs away (the only thing I could think of). They're really pretty obedient, so I did get them to come inside. I went down and looked at it by myself and I could see it breathing. As I looked at it, it closed its eyes. It was definitely injured, but I didn't think mortally. I just didn't know.
Once before I had called Animal Control to help me with a possum...and they didn't...so, I didn't see the sense in trying that again. I went over to my next door neighbors as I was pretty sure that one of them would know what it was. My thinking was if I knew what it was, then I could plan my next move or know what to expect from it. Thing is, its size told me that it didn't come in through the fence, so I'm guessing it walked in through the gate (something to think about...later).
Being the great neighbors they are, they came over and identified it as a ground hog. I guess I hadn't ever seen one before...I was thinking it looked beaver-like, so was pleased to read that it has a nickname as a land beaver. This one is definitely one of the bigger guys...he's got to be way over 20 lbs. They also told me they felt pretty sure it was now dead (so much for my not thinking it was mortally wounded). As we looked at it, it didn't appear to be breathing and its eyes were open. One of my cats was down there with us, but he (Leo) didn't appear interested at all in the ground hog (I suppose he prefers things that move around...).
I guess we won't know what actually did him in. I have always told Kobe he is my Hovawort because he is very protective of me and his household. Now that the gate pretty much stands open, it is his routine to check the front yard and then he goes around to the back. He seems to like this very much, this ability to get around his territory. I never worry about him going anywhere else. He's really good. My daughter once told me she was playing ball with him and threw it into one of my flower beds (accidentally, I'm sure). Despite repeated attempts to get him to retrieve the ball (he loves fetching his balls), he wouldn't go into the bed. Well, he does have the Dog Exception Rule allowing him in Dog Emergencies (not necessarily what I might define as an emergency) to go in the beds...but, as I said, he's a very good dog. He (and Riley) is a great garden companion, always ready to go outside and accompany me.
As my son pointed out to me when I recently found a small snake skin in one of my leaf piles (thus ending the leaf moving for that day), I do have my own little ecosystem here. Wild animals will have to be a part of it. But, let me just say, that like with the snake(s)...they have to hold up their end of the agreement....meaning, we can co-exist if I don't know you're here. The snake skin was definitely a violation.
Anyway, writing about this morning's out-of-the ordinary experience has calmed me. I hesitate to admit that I actually was a bit sad to realize I had watched the ground hog's last few minutes. There's something disturbing about watching a living thing die, even one you'd rather not have around. My neighbor tells me the buzzards will find him (the ground hog), but even if that is part of nature, I think we'll have to give him a less natural burial.
For those of you (like me) who didn't really know what a big ground hog looks like, here he is (looking peaceful...):