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Sunday, September 19, 2010

A bobcat: my symbol of resilience

On Friday, I learned about the panic that strikes when a wildfire ignites nearby. Fortunately, we'd practiced packing for an evacuation about 10 days ago for another fire. However, we had no practice for how it feels when helicopters are buzzing just above your rooftop and the phone is ringing with a computerized voice telling you that you must leave immediately due to an approaching wildfire. Then, your phone starts ringing incessantly with people worried about you or neighbors who need help or want to help you. In the midst of the mayhem, I kept expecting to see fire in the treetops coming toward us, but fortunately, it never happened.

The helicopters were so close because they were filling with water from a pond a stone's throw from our house. The red helicopter is barely visible behind the middle pine tree.
Then, they zoomed toward the flames.
What I didn't expect, but should have, was how agitated the dogs became. Due to my naivete, I made a serious mistake, accidentally allowing R to slip past me and out the door. Because he and I were both so panicked, he wouldn't come to me despite his normally rock solid recall. After a few minutes that are comical only in retrospect, I corralled him. In the future, the dogs will be securely tucked away, with their leashes and seatbelt harnesses on, while we get ready to flee.

In the end, our mandatory evacuation order was rescinded. Comically, we received notification that we could return to our houses via reverse-911 to our houses... where we weren't supposed to be. By this morning, I could smile over that irony.

We were very lucky. The fire "crowned" almost immediately. If there'd been a breeze, it would have blown up like our recent fire. We were also lucky that the Type 1 Hot Shot crews with their air support were already in the area due to our recent fires. Otherwise, the story could be very different today.

Yesterday, we visited finger of a reservoir where dogs can swim. Don't worry, I took K's muzzle off to let her retrieve sticks from the water. I think that we were drawn to water because it is the opposite of fire!
Because one of the things that I fear most is losing our forest to a fire, I saw it through new eyes this morning, again giving thanks, as K and I rode into its depths.
K and I raced into the aspen groves with joy that they're still here!
We climbed up high, to see that a smoke haze still hangs over recent fire sites. But, the brilliant autumn colors almost completely distracted us from that part of the view!
K posed for me, looking quizzical. I wondered what she was pondering. Perhaps she was puzzling over the crazy fire drill of two days earlier and why I'm so completely depleted of energy these days.
I discovered that overnight, we'd had two visitors next to our house. At least one coyote trotted past the house.
And, my symbol of feistiness, the bobcat paid us a visit! I was surprised that he used the same trail as a coyote within about 22 minutes of the coyote. I've read that bobcats avoid coyotes because they can be killed by the canines. However, with the eyes of my wildlife cameras, I've also learned that the wildlife information that I read is not necessarily true.
May he bring all of us good luck and resilient spirits.


  1. I think I would be panic striken if we had to worry about wildfires. Glad to hear everyone is safe. Love the pictures of the coyote and the bobcat, trail cameras are amazing.

  2. OH NO R!

    Not good!

    That is something Khyra would do ;-)

    Once again, we are so glad you are safe -

    AND Khyra says thanks for the 'khytty'

  3. I know what you mean about the chaos and mayhem. It's been similar for us here when we've had to get the dogs to the basement for tornados. It always feels like herding cats, even though we know what we need to take and do. I'm glad that this time was a trial run and that everything turned out okay! Poor R!

    Do you notice that the wildlife around you seems more agitated or mobile with the recent fires in the area? I'd always thought that they would be really sensitive to a danger and change in the environment like that. Yet, they seem to still be trotting past your house!

  4. We can just imagine the panic that must race through your mind and blood as you try to prepare to evacuate. And of course, that must feed down to the dogs too. No big surprise that R panicked. So glad that the whole story had a good ending.

    Hope this is a quieter and more comfortable week in all respects.

  5. Thank goodness everything was at the ready and Mother Nature blessed you with no winds.

    I love your comparison with the Bobcat. I do wish good luck and resilient spirits for all of us.

  6. What a feeling when R wouldn't recall - obviously the dogs could sense your panic and fear. Great photos of the coyote and bobcat - would love to know the cat is close to my property - already know the coyotes are. Your world is almost peak for gold - I'm wondering what mine will be when we return on Wed.

  7. Its very good to hear that your fire has been contained.

    A few years ago, I helped a cousin with the family history she was doing. We found some old letters that spoke of the fear of fire coming across the prairie, what the women could do with a horse and buggy and a bunch of little kids. They were terrified with no phones and no help. Sometimes the man of the house was there, and sometimes gone, they just never knew!

    I am glad you and your mountain family is in good shape!

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  8. Oy. i read this quickly the other day when you posted fast. Don't you just hate the sound of helicopters? i do. it almost always means something scary is going on. I lived near a resevoir in CA. also in the mountains. I lived 8 miles from where the big fires in Santa Cruz mountains were 1 and 2 years ago (in a row). Each year had fire after fire in a row and very close by. I could hear the helicopters overhead all day long. we were not evacuated but had the winds blown a different direction that day, we surely would have been.

    i'm so glad you got R in. i've had that happen to me. no matter how solid the recall is, in a stressful situation, there are no guarantees. One thing I do with either dog who's too stressed to "come in" is use the power of the pack (use the other dog and walk away). may not always work for everyone, but it's always a good last resort for me.

    i'm so glad you guys are ok.

    wags, wiggles & woos from Cheese-n-Chocoland,
    wild dingo

  9. Thank goodness the fire is out and you and the dogs, most of all, are okay. We've learned, unfortunately, that the best lessons are learned in a panic situation, such as the earthquakes we have out here. So much to remember to do in so little time. It's really scary and I totally understand your fears. But you did great and went out and appreciated those beautiful yellows of the forest there!

    Big Hugs xoxoxo
    Sammie and Avalon and Mom

  10. What terror. Glad that you have sufficient perspective to laugh at the irony of the reverse 911 call.
    What agitated the labraduo more - your natural discomfort or their senses telling them that danger was near?

  11. Angus: I think that the Duo's agitation was due to a combination of the thumping of helicopters so close to our house and our frenzy. Everyone would have been much calmer without the helicopters but they put out the fire... so I'm glad that they were here!

  12. Houndstooth: I didn't see much wildlife craziness. I saw only one incident of mildly odd behavior while the helicopters were so close. I'll hopefully be able to show that clip today!

    I think that animals don't necessarily realize that smoke is a warning sign. They smell smoke from campfires, brush burning, fireplaces, etc, all year long so why would they think that it was dangerous this particular time?

  13. So fabulous that your beautiful wilderness was spared from the flames. Whew!

    Drinkin in your scenery and enjoyin your sneaky visitors :)


  14. I'm glad you're safe and sound and that this new fire was quickly contained.

    In your photos, you have not shown a lot of beetle kill, so I would think you are just a tad safer than the areas with all the brown trees.

    Cool to see the bobcat, and even cooler that he wasn't intimidated by the coyote scent!


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