I went for a moonlight walk around the neighborhood and had a real sense of what it is like to be a prey animal.
Our neighborhood loop is one mile, and my friend and I walked it twice, as both of us were still up at 2:00 a.m. and figured it was healthier to walk and talk than to eat or open a bottle of wine. The moon is full tonight, and so clear and bright that you need moonglasses.
We talked quietly the whole way, sharing fears and encouragement about various life changes we are both facing. We walked through a stippled landscape of silver and onyx, where every shrub and mailbox and tree and truck took on an entirely different aspect. Metal glinted, shadows shifted and flowed like spilled ink, tree branches looked like so many dark claws reaching toward us.
We heard the sounds of an animal running toward us and whipped our heads around to stare at a house set back from the road. Its tall fence was lost in a tangle of vegetation, and we could not see if it had an opening or a gate, but we could hear something with paws getting closer. The sound stopped before our imaginations got too wild and it was most likely a Labrador-sized dog crossing its yard. But we both shut up and succumbed to the instinct to freeze, stare, and decide whether to run or fight. I spread my feet and gathered my energy in toward myself, preparing for a firm “No! Go home!” in case a canine did shoot out into the road at us.
My dog was completely unconcerned, no hackles, no growling, not even looking in the direction of the noise, and even with that confidence, it still took us a moment to get our heart rates back to normal.
Further along the road was a lumpy shape of darkness that my mind could not resolve. It looked something like a tarp, wrinkled and mounded up, or maybe like a wheelbarrow’s worth of manure dumped in the road, or a zombie digging itself patiently out of its grave. I kept an eye on it and we walked on the far side of the street to get past it and I still don’t know what it was.
A small winged thing darted overhead. I was too slow to see it; I caught just its moving shadow out of the corner of my eye. Something larger rustled quietly nearby when we started our second loop, possibly one of the deer that have been hanging out in the big garden next door to the goat house. Or maybe one of the goats.
We saw no sign of the usual dogs, and none barked at us. No cars passed us and no feral cats hissed at us from the ditch. We made it home without stepping in anything disgusting, without injury, without incident, but with a stark reminder of what it is like to have one’s sixth sense tuned into clues that our brains simply cannot process.
How courageous our partners are to trust us to bring them safely through to the other side.