It is story time. The gardens are growing and all is well on the homestead. I promised in Feeling Sappy, that I’d share the story of the time I had to protect some malamutes from a pack of wild dogs. This story really shaped who I am now. Funny, I don’t know why. I think mostly because it is so freaking hilarious and, to my current friends and co-workers, it is surprising that the person in the story is the same person they know now.

I will spare no details, so don’t judge me.

>fade to memory sequence< (and if you’re like me, you’re picturing Wayne and Garth go into dream sequence, “doodle do, doodle do, doodle do”)

In 1993, I married Paul Bunyon. I didn’t realize I was truly marrying Paul Bunyon, but I think he stepped out of the story books and proposed.

Paul (seriously, not his real name, but close your eyes and picture the story book from your childhood, that was him) and I made friends with a couple who built a beautiful post and beam home in the Mt. Snow area of  Vermont. They decided they’d pack up and travel the country. Good for them! That sounded cool. They had a husky and 2 Alaskan Malamutes and were going to take the husky with them and asked us to watch their home and their dogs. Uh, sure. I mean, what’s a couple of dogs when I’m renting the tiniest-ass apartment above the garage of a doctor’s office and have the option to live, for the same rent money/month, in a 3-bedroom home with a wood stove, a normal sized-oven and a kitchen counter longer than 3 feet? SURE! TAKE OFF to the great white North or wherever the hell you’re going.  Bye bye!

You know, it’s funny, I can’t remember the dogs’ names. One was named after a town in Alaska, I think. Whatever, not important.  There are, however, several VERY important pieces of the story that you need to know in order for me to bring it all together.

1.  The bathrobe. My mother-in-law had given me a very nice Victoria’s Secret terry bathrobe the prior Christmas. It was lime green and was one of those long ones that just about touched the ground. You know those matchsticks that are really long? Like, a foot long? Well, I had been wearing the bathrobe when I lit one of those matches to light a candle. The match head flew off and, still flaming, landed on the bathrobe and set it on fire. Terry is very flammable, it turns out. I am very calm in an emergency and was able to get the fire out without much fuss. (Basically, in full freak-out mode, I was jumping up and down while patting the fire out, all while screaming, ‘MY BOOB! FIRE! FIRE! MY BOOB! Now you know where the match landed.)  Unsure what the jumping was about, but I got the fire out without getting hurt. Unfortunately, the bathrobe didn’t fare so well.  A big hole was burned into it, effectively releasing my right breast into the world. Great.

2. The boots. Paul was a lumberjack. (No joke). He had 2 pairs of boots that he wore on alternating days. While wearing one, the other would be in the hallway, drying (the inside…drying, meaning, they got sweaty every other day, ewww!) These boots were tall boots and I guess, now, I’d call them mucks. Back then, I called them shit-kickers.

3. The wild dogs. This was the Winter of 1995. The entire town was up in arms about a pack of wild dogs that had killed a child just up the road a few years prior. (Please note, “Just up the road” in Vermont terms is a few miles away.)

3-Year-Old Boy in Vermont Is Killed by Wolf-Dog Hybrid

Published: December 12, 1993 (link to full article here)

  • MONTPELIER, VT, Dec. 11— A wolf-dog hybrid mauled a 3-year-old boy to death on Friday after the youngster wandered away from his day-care center in Townsend, the police said.

Said wolf-dog-murderer was put down and so was her entire litter. There was a junk yard up the road from the house we were sitting and the guy basically had a whole bunch of dogs tied up to whatever wouldn’t move. The theory was that one of them got away a few years earlier and got busy with wolves in the wild, creating the pack that was running around, of which this female was one. So, the town stayed on high alert. (Ok, I have to tell this small story within the bigger story. One time, I had been speaking to my sister on the cordless phone, and mentioned I had a problem with my car, needed some part or another among other sister-sister talk. I hung up the phone and within a few minutes, it rang. “Hello, may I speak to your husband?” (Seriously, he said that. Well, feathers ruffled, I got pissy.) “Who is calling please?” I asked in my sickiest-sweetest voice. “Please put him on the phone.” (Are you kidding? F U buddy.) “May I ask what this is regarding?” Him: “I own the junkyard up the road and heard you talking on my scanner. I want to tell your husband I may have the parts you need for your car.” YES! That actually happened. There is so many things wrong with that, I really don’t know where to start. a) He was listening on the scanner to my phone call! How many other phone calls did he hear? Jerk. b) He asked for my husband when I, CLEARLY, was the one talking about the car part. Asshole. c) He had our phone number. Creep. d) He decided to CALL IT and try to SELL US SOMETHING FROM HIS FREEKING JUNKYARD!  Scumbagloser. What did I do, you ask? I, shocked, gave the phone to Paul and proceeded to yell in the background about how pissed I was and this guy was an asshole and I can’t believe he LISTENED TO MY PHONE CALL and had the freeking nerve to call about what he heard and ASK FOR MY HUSBAND! Oh my GOD! I am still dumbfounded! No, we didn’t buy the part from him.) Back to the town on high alert. Let me explain to you what that means. Every truck-owning, gun-toting, hunter-with-an-orange hat redneck AND HIS BROTHER were itchin’ to get them some ah that killer-wolf-dog pack. (Best written-Vermont-accent I can come up with.) The town even had a Dog Constable -a person elected by the town selectman to respond to calls about loose dogs and was authorized, should said Constable deem necessary, to humanely put down any unlicensed dogs or wolf-hybrids. (Yes, I lived here.)

4. The gun. Ok, here’s where it gets interesting. I had a gun. I don’t remember the real information about the gun, I just remember this (and I think it is incorrect, but who gives a crap, this is what I remember and it is my story.) I had a 32 caliber semi-automatic Ruger target rifle with silver engraving and a 10-bullet clip. How did said gun get into my possession? I got it for Christmas. Yes. It was under the tree. I am serious. You see, Paul was a hunter. I knew this about him when we dated, when I said, “Yes” and when we got married after 4 years of being together. (Did I mention I started an animal rights group in college? Perhaps now is the time to remind you he is my EX-husband. We just had nothing in common, like, oh, he was a hunter and I started an animal rights group. Like that.) So, there we were, unwrapping gifts under the tree at my in-laws and there was a long box under the tree with no name on it. It was purposely saved to be the last present. Paul slid it toward me while his mother backed up with the camera ready to catch my reaction of joy. Other family members, also in the know, had big grins on their faces, knowing this was my big present from Paul. All I could think of when I opened the box was, “What the fuck?” I must have had that look on my face because he quickly explained, “I thought we could shoot targets together, you know, give us something in common.” (Good response because if he even considered me going hunting with him, I would have shoved that thing so far up…) This wasn’t the first time I held a gun, I had shot skeet with my Uncle when I was around 12 and was a crack shot back then. I still was, apparently. We went outside to sight the gun in (that’s the lingo for making sure it shot straight) and I hit the target every time. I didn’t like the gun though. Actually, I hated it. What was he thinking, giving me a gun? I am a cute, peace-loving girl who STARTED AN ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUP IN COLLEGE, thank you very much.

Ok, there are all the pieces. Here’s what happened.

The malamutes were in large kennels outside. They had their dog houses, each in a separate pen that had a chain link fence with a latched gate.  This fence was about 6 feet high. The pens were surrounded by an outer perimeter chain link fence that was about 8 feet high, with about three feet separating the inner gate from the outer perimeter fence. This way, you could walk into the big gate, shut it behind you, walk up to each of the smaller pens, unlatch it’s gate, let the dog out into the bigger pen while you, cleaned their houses, gave them fresh water, etc. and they weren’t out roaming the neighborhood.

One early Winter morning, I’m not sure, probably in March because it was cold, but more muddy than snowy, Paul had already left for work. I woke up to what can only be described as a, “Ruckus.” Howling, growling and the sound of a a thousand freight trains rumbling down a track. I looked out the upstairs window to see a whole bunch of dogs jumping up against the chain link fence that made up the outer perimeter of the dog pens. Meanwhile, the malamutes were in their inner pens, also jumping up against the fencing. ALL of them were barking like mad and, basically, making, well, a ruckus.

So, being the rugged Vermonter that I was (my toes had not seen the pampering that is a professional pedicure until I moved out here!), I decided to take care of it. I grabbed the closest thing to a coat – the mint green Victoria’s Secret bathrobe with the burned out boob. (Yes, it was close by, which means, yes, I had still been wearing it despite the flaw in coverage. Shut up. It was warm – well – except my right boob, but everything else was warm so shut up.) I ran to the gun closet (I told you he was a hunter), unlocked it (proper gun safety!), grabbed the 32 caliber semi-automatic Ruger with silver engraving and a 10-bullet clip. While running down the stairs, I put the clip in to the gun.

All this took just moments, meanwhile the frenzy outside was mounting. Ooh, that sounded so beginning-of-a-thriller-novel suspensful. Perhaps I’ll use thriller-novel-language to add some excitement.

Our heroine found herself about to bound outside without so much as a slipper on her feet. She spotted Hunter’s boots in the hallway and, making a quick decision, stepped into them. They were large on her, they came to her knees, her bare toes squishing in yesterday’s sweat, the heavy boots still not dried from her husband’s previous day’s toil in the forest. She took a few steps towards the door and realized the boots were a mistake, she could barely lift her feet to walk. Committed to the task at hand, she headed out the hardwood front door, quietly closing it, and the screen door, behind her, careful not to alert the intruders of her presence.

Raising her weapon (32 caliber semi-automatic Ruger with silver engraving and a 10-bullet clip) as she crept, she slowly made her way down the 2 stone steps and into the dirt driveway. The viscious wolves hadn’t caught her scent…yet. The seconds passed like hours as she inched toward the danger, gun held high, boob out in the cold. Frothy spit sprayed from the mouths of the enemy, hitting the air like angry sparks as they growled and barked at their trapped prey.

“Shoo!” she said, her voice squeaking a bit as she trembled in fear (and cold, her right boob was hanging out of the bathrobe after all!) Her foe did not turn away from the center of their attention. “SHOO!” This time, with more confidence and volume, however, her voice was drowned by the piercing, angry growls and barks of the enemy wolves as they continued to try to jump over the fence and strike down the caged pets.

Raising her 32 caliber semi-automatic Ruger with silver engraving and a 10-bullet clip, she knew she couldn’t kill a living creature intentionally (she did start an animal rights group in college), so she quickly decided upon a course of action. She intended to scare them away. The gun WAS loud, after all. It surely would send them running and she could go back to living peacefully.

“SHOO!” one more time for good measure, but it went unnoticed. Shuffling closer (the boots were so heavy, she could barely pick her feet up, add that to the floor-length bathrobe, shuffling was all that was possible), she rounded in an arc and came up on the side of the wolf pack. What our heroine didn’t realize was that she had been putting more and more distance between herself and the front door of the house with every step she took. She had been shuffling TOWARD danger. 32 caliber semi-automatic Ruger with silver engraving and a 10-bullet clip raised, she brought the pack into her sight. It was from this vantage point that she counted, “One, two, three…seven.” There were seven frenzied and venomous wolf-dogs, descended from a line that was not afraid of humans, and apparently thirsty for their blood, just feet away.

She turned off the safety, strategically pointed the gun and moved her finger ever so slightly, to fire the trusty rifle. Instead of shooting one of the wolves, in a split decision, she chose to shoot the driveway, spraying dirt and rocks up at the pack. It had the desired effect. Sort of. The great gray and brown beasts stopped their fence assault and, surprised, turned to see the source of the onslaught.

There was our heroine, standing alone with her gun, at least 15 feet from the door, and safety, wearing nothing but a mint green bathrobe, right boob hanging out of the black-charred hole in the garment, and a pair of shit-kicker boots. The creature in the back of the pack, now that they turned around, was in the front and quickly sized up his new foe. The hair on both of their necks raised in tension. Hunted and hunter. It only took a mili-second for her to realize he meant to come after her. Her eyes shifted toward the house and then back to the pack of wolves. Now! She ran toward the house as if her life depended upon it, because, it did. The wolves, sensing new, tastier prey dressed in a delightful shade of lime green, all moved as one, leaping into action to chase our terrified (seriously freaked out is more like it!) heroine, trying to capture her in gnashed teeth before she made it inside.

‘Chucka, chucka, chucka’ was the sound of the shit-kicker boots as her small feet attempted to lift and move them as quickly as possible toward safety. She was still carrying the 32 caliber semi-automatic Ruger with silver engraving and a 10-bullet clip, boob flapping outside the robe as she ran, screaming like a three-year-old.

Wolves nipped at her heels, so close! Her golden-blonde hair whipped in the wind, the early morning sun gleamed off the polished silver on the side of her weapon. She “chucka, chucka, chucka’d” up the two steps and, still screaming, pulled open the screen door just wide enough to slip inside. Safety! Her relief lasted only moments as the pack of hungry wolves jumped against the screen door, trying to rip it to shreds and bring her life to an end.

She shut the heavy wood door, locking it for good measure, putting strong, heavy oak between her and certain death.  Chucka, chucka to the (damned!) cordless phone and called the number for the Dog Constable that was posted on the wall. The town dispatch service answered the call. Idenfying herself and noting her address, our brave heroine decribed the situation clearly and calmly. “A PACK OF WILD DOGS IS SLAMMING UP AGAINST THE HOUSE!”

(OK, enough harlequin romance stuff.)

I was smart enough to go upstairs and put on jeans, a bra, a sweater and a pair of my own boots in preparation for the Dog Constable to arrive. From the upstairs phone, I called my office and left a message on the machine. “Hi, it’s Jenn. I’m going to be late. There’s a pack of wild dogs in between the house and the car. I’m trapped. I’ll be in when I can.”  (Seriously, that was the message.)

In the time it took me to pee (well, I had just been chased by a goddamn pack of wolves, if that doesn’t scare the piss out of you, I don’t know what will), change clothes and make that call, a lot had been happening outside.

Every truck-owning, gun-toting, hunter-with-an-orange hat redneck AND HIS BROTHER had heard the dispatch on their scanners and, guns blazing, had pulled into the driveway. (It seems that every one of them was a volunteer fireman because I think each and every truck had at woody light on the top. For those of you who don’t know what a, “woody light” is, the concept is simple. The driver gets a woody every time he gets to turn the light on.) There must have been over 10 trucks (not one was Paul’s, he didn’t have a scanner in the forest) and no wolves. The scanner-listening, woody-light-lovin’,  truck-owning, gun-toting, hunters-with-orange hat rednecks AND THEIR BROTHERS had probably scared them off.

So, that is the story. I got to work an hour late, mostly because I had to recall the story a few times, (at that time, I did not share the part about my boobless bathrobe) and the driveway had to clear out of all the trucks. Paul got home that night and had already heard, from just about everyone, that his wife had been up early that morning, deciding she’d take on the pack of wolf-dogs herself with her Christmas present gun.

He gave me a shotgun for the following birthday and I started planning the divorce shortly thereafter.