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The Year of the Night Animals

In the spring of 2004, Wily was an old dog, at 12 slightly overweight. All her life, she had enjoyed chasing the many small animals who ventured into our back yard at night.

When Wily was a young dog, when darkness fell, she begged to go outside. We resisted. We knew that if we let her out, she would sail off into the darkness and roar unseen across the back fence line, driving out whatever silent foraging intruders had climbed or tunneled in. It wasn’t always easy to retrieve her, and more than once, Craig had to go crashing through the bushes barefoot and cursing to haul her back in the house so we could all go to sleep.

Too many times she flung herself at the back door in a panic, dripping and sneezing with skunk juice that kept us up half the night mixing potions of vinegar, peroxide and dish soap. The whole house would stink for days. After these episodes, we'd keep her inside at night for a while.

Below: Nightfall from the deck. The avenue is the wide path that bounds the south fenceline. Nightfall from the deckThe animals come under the fence and down from the trees at night in search of figs, pears, peaches, water from the pond and tomatoes from the garden. Who can blame them?

But I always knew she was longing to get back out there, to set things right in the yard. In the bedroom, in the dark, I'd feel her watching me as I tried to go to sleep, and when I opened my eyes, by the light of the moon I'd see her looking out the French doors.

Eventually I'd give in, and then we'd hear her roaring down the avenue again in fresh pursuit.

As Wily grew a little more mature, she learned to carry a toy instead of barking (because barking got her called inside). With deep growls rumbling from her chest, she shook stuffed squirrels at the masked visitors who watched from the tops of the live oaks.

At five or six, she reached a new level of sophistication: she had talking toys. When she burst out on the deck gripping a stuffed fox firmly in her teeth, he would say in a French accent to a silent audience, “I am Siméon fox. Would you like a café au lait?”

As she mellowed, we let her sleep outside more and more, trusting that she wouldn’t go off chasing skunks in the yard. To her, it was a fine privilege of her old age to take her thick, cream-colored coat out into the crisp night air and nap with a cold nose under the stars. In the small hours of the morning I'd get up, open the door, and let her in to curl up contentedly on the warm rug beside the bed.

Meanwhile, as Wily withdrew to the deck, the night animals crept closer, until one night in the spring of her twelfth year, they seized the upper hand.

Continue: Night Animals


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The Resident The Year of the

The Year of the Night Animals
Night Animals
Night Animals by Day
Murder in the Bamboo Forest
Possum’s Tale
Death of a Possum
Remains of an Owl
Dark Adventures
Close to Home
The Resident
The Last Tomato
The Resident Revealed
Squirrel Business
Snakes and Frogs
Garter Snake
Mystery Bird
Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Hawk vs. Dove
Raccoon in the Garden
Midsummer Nights
Animals We Live With
Not Animals