Several weeks ago I was sitting near Lydia’s bed when she first opened her eyes. She smiled up at me, and I brushed some wispy strands of hair out of her face.
“I had nightmares about wolves,” she said quietly through her smile. “You were eaten by wolves.”
I watched her stretch her arms and yawn. “I’m sorry you have dreams like that.”
She just shrugged her shoulders, as if she accepted the fact that this is a regular part of her life now. That she will have recurring dreams where she and her family are being attacked by wolves, every few weeks, for the rest of her life. It has always been that way, and it shall always be.
I have tried to pinpoint the moment where wolves became her most fearsome enemy, but it was something she was apparently born with. She has always been terrified by the very thought of wolves. As a family, we all know to avoid mentioning them. Wolves show up in a movie? -Distract Lydia till they are gone. Reading The Hobbit and come to the part about Wargs? -Skip that page and describe them as fuzzy horses. It is second nature to protect her mind from the terrifying image wolves.
So, it was rather unfortunate the other day when she was attacked by a pack of wolves in our front yard.
I was struggling to mow my backyard, wrestling a coughing lawn mower bogged down with weeds, and wading through a lake of green grass clippings, when suddenly I was struck with a fatherly premonition. Something was wrong. I shut the engine off on the mower and removed my ear protection. The neighborhood was quiet. The neighbor’s sprinkler spit a regular beat. Some kids whooped down the street. A car passed.
I turned and walked around the edge of the house and started towards the front yard. Andrea and the children had been working there earlier. They had run a hose all the way out to the tree in the corner of our yard, near the street, and Lydia was knelt down in her pink and green sleeveless dress spraying water onto the base of the tree from a blue wand. My eyes scanned quickly past her, to the street and the houses beyond. That’s when I saw them. Two of them. Moving at a full sprint. Their tongues hanging loosely from the salivating mouths. They shot through the sun soaked grass like two black missiles winding an indirect route for the little girl watering the twig of a tree in a large empty field.
I had just enough time to start to shout her name and take half a step forward before she saw them herself. Two of the largest saint Bernards I have ever seen in my life. Their massive bodies flopping up and down as they arched over our neighbor’s driveway in a single bound. Large as a bear. They could have jumped onto the roof of my house without effort. They could have busted through my living room wall and swallowed my couch. Instead, they were charging headlong towards my daughter.
I saw the little girl, in slow motion, as she looked up, registered the horror that was approaching, and immediately began to spasm and shriek in terror. For a moment she aimed the garden hose in their direction, as if she were hoping it could suddenly turn into a gun, but she quickly realized that her pitiful weapon would be of no assistance against an enemy of such overwhelming size. She dropped the wand, turned suddenly, and scrambled on all fours across the slippery wet grass.
“Lydia!” I yelled, rushing to jump the short fence that divides our yard. “Lydia, they are just goofy dogs! They are not mean! They aren’t going to hurt you!”
She heard none of this, continuing in the direction of her mother who I assume was on the other side of the house planting flowers in boxes.
“Lydia! Come here.” I was on the other side of the fence now, but I was also third in the race to get to my daughter, a very small third place behind two large hairy rhinoceroses. They laughed back and forth at each other as if this was the greatest game they had ever played.
As they quickly closed the distance, Lydia fell to her knees and covered her head with her knobby arms, but not even a second later the first dog plowed into her sending her tumbling onto the grass in a screaming pile. The two creatures bounded into each other, and onto each other, and in a circle around their prize.
Lydia was not about to be swallowed whole that easily. She got back to her hands and knees and bolted out from a break in the circle. It was several seconds before the two giant balls of floppy hair noticed the girl was gone and resumed their pursuit.
I heard more screaming and glancing over my shoulder I realized that I was not the last member of the parade. Flowing into my yard were no less than five young girls in frilly white summer dresses, behind them were two women, and a shirtless man. They were all chasing after the beasts yelling incoherent messages to both the animals and each other.
Oblivious to all of this, dizzy with terror, Lydia stumbled into her mother as she rounded the corner of the house. The little girl quickly rushed to the opposite side of her mom and shoved her in the direction of the dogs, then she kept running, no doubt hoping that the hell hounds would be appeased by the modest sacrifice of her mother and would leave her in peace.
The laughing dogs continued to pound massive paw prints into my freshly cut lawn. Their tongues watering the trees on the other side of my house as they launched their goofy saliva in every direction. Their owners jumped at them, and missed as the two crouched and dodged and dove into the ditch.
I missed much of the action after this point, because I was still headed for Lydia, who was now on our front porch jumping up and down and shrieking in fear. I scooped her into my arms and carried her into the house. Trying to calm her down and keep from laughing.
It was several minutes later when we both finally caught our breath enough and found the nerve to peek slowly up through the front window again. The circus was far from over. Half the neighborhood had now joined into the chase, and the excitement seemed to only reinvigorate the pair of hounds who were now actively trying to tear down another neighbor’s fence to release even more of their comrades into the wild. Several times it looked as if the game was moments from ending, and then a rambunctious saint bernard would come crashing through the twenty man human wall and laugh its way out into the street, towards another house on our block.
I do not know if they ever caught them. Perhaps they are still out there somewhere, dancing across the hillside like a couple of shaggy haired Clydesdales. They lurched out of eye sight with the still growing mob chasing after them.
“Wow!” I turned to my daughter and beamed. “That was pretty exciting. You want to go help chase after them?”
She just furrowed her eyebrows at me and slugged me in the arm.