Just before bedtime I or, usually, my husband takes our dogs outside for one last opportunity to take care of business. This is not an activity that enables us to be passive, we can't just open up a door and send them out. First of all in most of the places we have lived, and we have lived in a number of places in our 25 years of marriage, most places have not had a fenced in yard. So we've had to leash 'em up and take them out. Or attach them to the tether we constructed and send them out. Even then, though we go out with them. My husband usually has a smoke while out with the dogs. He is one of those few people who still smokes. I kind of like that about him even though I am not a smoker. True, I don't let him smoke in the house, I haven't actually seen him smoke in 22 years, since I was pregnant with our daughter. But I know he has one when he takes the dogs out for their late night duty.
For a few years we did live in a house with a fenced in backyard. But those were also the years we lived in Arizona, up in the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains, where wildlife was still abundant. There we had to worry about javelina, coyotes, and bobcat. Granted the javelina could not get through the fence, and being stocky, hog-like creatures they can't jump over the fence either. The coyotes on the other hand probably could jump the fence but were usually well fed on easier prey, like the millions of rabbits that lived in the arroyo with them. The bobcats, on the other hand, were plentiful and fully capable of hopping the fence, drinking from the pool, and having a pet for dinner. Before we let the dogs out in that yard we turned on all the outdoor lights and usually went out first to scan the wall and bushes. Thankfully there were no encounters between dog and bobcat, although we were often sure that their presence was near by.
Now that we are back in the Midwest we have less fear of dangerous encounters in the night. But still, we don't have a fence around the yard. So out we go with the dogs. (Have I mentioned we have three, and sometimes when dog sitting for our daughter, four dogs?). Last night was no exception, at least not at first. It seemed to me, as I brushed my teeth, that my husband was finished and back in the house rather quickly. And just as I had that thought he came upstairs to the bathroom with a flashlight in hand. He said, "Look at this!" and popping open the window he shone the light into the huge tree outside. A few minutes of scanning the tree soon produced the vision of his concern - a raccoon.
In the tree that creature looked sweet - all black-eyed and slow moving, staring back at us in the glaring light as if to say, "really, we can all live together...see how peaceful I am." But my husband is certain otherwise. He heard the raccoon hiss as it scampered up the tree. He knows the danger of their sharp teeth and claws, should there ever be a close encounter between dog and raccoon.
We decided that our only option is to go the local hardware store and pick up some "coyote urine" detractors and put them around the backyard, with the hope that it will scare off the raccoon. I said, "gee too bad we didn't just bring back some rocks and sand from the old neighborhood...." Didn't have to pay for it there...
Anyway. For the time being we'll be taking the dogs out in the front yard, on a leash, with a flashlight in hand and a whistle. And a prayer that we have no close encounters in the night.