The other morning about 9:00, my doorbell rang. On the front step stood one of my friends, along with her dog. Both of them looked shaken. She asked, “Can we come in? There’s a mountain lion right up there in the middle of the road.”
She had parked her car at the main street about half a mile away in order to walk her dog in our neighborhood. It’s a quiet, pleasant place for walking, an area of meandering dead-end streets, with widely-spaced houses interspersed with clusters of trees and brushy gullies. Even though it’s inside the city limits, the place has an edge-of-town feel to it. We regularly see deer and wild turkeys.
We’ve also assumed for some time now that mountain lions occasionally stroll through. But those mountain lions were hypothetical. This one was real. There’s a big difference.
Admittedly, my first reaction to her news was a flicker of disappointment. I go for walks in this neighborhood all the time. How come I’ve never gotten to see a mountain lion? That response was soon overshadowed by unease. What was a full-grown mountain lion doing out and about in the middle of a bright, sunny morning?
This cat had been standing in the street maybe 100 yards from the end of our driveway. It was watching several turkeys in a nearby yard, no doubt contemplating a late breakfast. When my friend waved her arms and shouted, the lion moved off to the edge of the road and sat down in the grass. The dog, meanwhile—an arthritic, 15-year-old dog—was barking and straining at the leash, trying to pull free so she could take off and chase the big kitty. My friend wisely decided instead to detour into my driveway.
We called the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. By the time a couple of guys got to the house about 15 minutes later, the lion had gone on its way, but at least its presence was duly and officially noted.
Now, on my daily walks, I keep feeling uneasy prickles between my shoulder blades. I can’t help wondering if I’m being eyed by a 150-pound cat who is trying to decide whether I look like breakfast or should be saved for lunch. I certainly don’t want to give up walking. It’s a form of meditation for me as well as exercise. Still, knowing there’s a critter out there who might see me as its next entrée tends to detract from the meditative process.
Maybe the answer is to get a dog. True, there aren’t many dogs big enough or tough enough to take on a mountain lion. That doesn’t really matter. The dog wouldn’t have to be big, or fierce, or brave. It would just have to be slow. I wouldn’t have to worry about outrunning a mountain lion, after all, as long as I knew I could outrun the dog.