I spent time researching cougars for my last book, The Lost. Much of the story takes place in the Cascade Mountains where cougar and all sorts of other wildlife reside. I watched videos of cougar attacks, listened to their sounds, and learned about the habits of these animals.
Honestly, the critters are magnificent. From their sleek fur to the guttural growl, cougars are impressive creations, but I don’t need to see one face-to-face to have a good sense of what they’re capable of.
A couple weeks back, my husband and I were walking the dogs at the end of the farm. Here the fields turn to shady forest. Our two dogs are used to the varied scents of raccoons, deer, and squirrels. That night our black lab, Canyon, jumped along the hedge of blackberry bushes, his nose up in the air. Something new was in there. Something he hadn’t smelled before.
The chase was on. Canyon led Harper, our other dog, down a narrow deer path and out of our sight. They barked and howled while we contemplated what could possibly be hiding in the brush.
Then we heard it. The growl. The throaty, deep, unmistakable warning of a cougar.
Almost instantly, Canyon’s barks turned to cries.
At that moment, I couldn’t think of anything scarier than the growl of a cougar and the cry of a dog. But the absolute silence that followed was much worse. I mean, complete silence that seemed to stretch on for minutes. Images of badly mauled dogs flashed in my mind.
I grabbed a nearby t-post, pathetic protection, but all I had.
Finally, both dogs exited the dense brush. There was a bit of blood, but not much. Canyon had taken a swipe across the nose. We all walked home, grateful that our adventure ended without tragedy.
Canyon and Harper two years ago
The event may have been too much for our cougar. We haven’t seen or heard anything from her since, and that just fine.
Our experience was exciting, but it’s nothing compared to the run-in my characters Jenna, Ireland, and Vicky have while lost in the Cascades.
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