Autism: Dogs, Birds, and Squirrels, Oh My!

05 Oct


I read the news, and I was certain to remember. After all, though I know there are cougars in the area, and though I think about that fact most times when I am out, it isn’t often that one is seen.

But that day, I read the post on Facebook. A cougar was spotted beside one of the nature trails not too far from my house. The warning, since cougars can travel a large distance in a day, was for the whole area. The people had been walking on the trail near our closest beach. The cougar was on a different path, following along above the. Scary!

We have black bears. I saw one in town behind a daycare a few years ago (when I was picking up my ‘daughter’.) My neighbour has frequently seen them along the property line in between our houses (mainly due of the plum and apple trees we have growing there.) I know they are around. I think of them often. Yet, I am not really that concerned most of the time.

There are coyotes that live close (after all, the nature trail a block up the street is called coyote park for good reason.) We have raccoons, wolves, moose, possibly even grizzly bears up in the more forested areas (not that ours isn’t.) We see deer frequently. The eagles and osprey are an issue for pets. And there are cougars (or mountain lions as they are sometimes called.)

They are here. I know people who have had their pets taken by them. Yet most of the time, walking on the nature trails, I am not concerned. Not too much.

But the warning came up, and I took it seriously. It was out in the daytime (not shy.) Following a family (not too scared.) Beside a nature trail close to home. I told my husband and my son, “we might want to avoid the trails for the next little bit.” That was the warning. Be careful. And I am. I am a cautious person by nature.

Until I have too much else to think of, that is. I was downtown, wanting to go to the fair, but overwhelmed by all I had already done that morning, and missing my dog so much it hurt. I had the van, and could have driven home – but that would mean going back out again to pick my husband up (and at a time when I needed to be making supper.) I was panicking.

So I turned the van away from the fair, dropped it off with my husband, and just before I left his work to walk home along the trail, he said, “watch for bears!” Cougars! Oh no, I thought. “It should be pretty safe now,” I said questioningly to him, “right?” He didn’t think it would be an issue. So I took a deep breath, prayed for safety, and started walking.

It was pretty empty when I started out, and I was walking along, watching everything, when a large black animal came towards me around a corner. My heart started thumping, and I turned away. “Check,” I told myself (at least see if it is following you.) It was a dog. Just a large dog. The owner was right there, only I couldn’t see him before he came around the bend.

I walked past trying to look confident (which I was anything but) and carried on. A loud rustling came through the tall grass on the lakeside. “A cougar is going to pounce me,” I thought as pictures of Simba in The Lion King learning to pounce went through my head. “Please Lord, take care of my dog and son,” I thought. But it wasn’t a cougar, of course. It was only a little bird.

The trail got pretty busy at that point, and while I struggled with ‘people’ I felt a bit more protected from sudden cougar attacks (after all, it might choose to eat one of them instead!) About halfway through (a 4km trail) it was kind of muddy. No one else was going in that direction, as the only people who would go through – like me – happened to live on the other side.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement on my right hand side. Now, to be honest, the grouse usually scare me when they are near. You don’t see, or hear them, when all of a sudden they burst out in flight (scared by the person walking by, when we wouldn’t have noticed them otherwise.) This time, however, she just stood there – and her presence, with my mind per-occupied with cougars and bears, was enough to set my heart racing until my mind had the time to label – “Grouse. Just a grouse.”

Not too long later, there was movement in the tree above me. “Does it hurt when the cougar tears out your throat,” I wondered, before I heard the chattering. “Is there enough time to feel pain before it kills you?” But it was just a squirrel.

I tell you, I have never, in all the time we have lived here, been so happy to reach the steep hill at the end of the trail. Seven houses (up a high hill) later, I was home. Thankfully, wonderfully home.



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