My mother and I were once trapped inside the neighbor’s house by an angry police dog. We had been asked to feed their lizard while they were out of town, and somehow in the process, their Policeman father’s frothing mad German Shepard escaped his kennel and forced us into the house. We watched through the windows as it paced around the perimeter barking like mad at any sign of us. We huddled in a hallway and tried to think of a escape plan. But there was no escape plan.
We were squirrels in a tree. Earlier this same summer I had watched our own family dog wait at the base of a cottonwood all afternoon until a squirrel lost its footing and fell to the ground in front of him. Without hesitation he grabbed the fragile boned creature in his jaws and torn his body in half with his teeth. It was one of the most shocking things I had ever seen. We had a very good dog. He was sweet-natured and slept in our living room. This neighbor dog had been raised for a darker purpose. To attack and subdue enemies. It was a weapon. It had one master and he was no where in sight.
We waited for close to an hour before finally peaking out the kitchen window to see if the path was clear to the road. The driveway was a 200 foot long passage through the trees. We could see the faint shimmer of pavement on the far end where we would have to reach before we could even hope for someone to hear us screaming, or find our torn up bodies. We eyed the distance with a renewed sense of dread. And then we saw the diligent shadow of our guard pass through the trees again. He was still out there. He would never give up.
So, my mother started formulating a plan. We dug through the freezer and found an old piece of moose meat, and placed it in the sink to thaw. Once it was thawed, we went to a porch on the far end of the house and got the dog’s attention. He snarled and jumped at us, painting the underside of the porch with spit. His jaws snapping like wicked bear traps, and his eyes mad. He was completely animal at this point. I knew, he would die before he let us get away. He had trained his whole life for this moment.
We tossed a piece of the meat into the woods. But he didn’t even seem to notice. So, my mom leaned over the edge and dangled the meat dangerously close to the monster’s nose and finally got his attention. Once again she tossed the hunk of meat into the forest. This time he went for it. We knew we only had seconds to react. He would not be distracted for long. We sprinted back into the house, collapsing down the stairs, and without hesitation burst out the front door into the driveway.
“Don’t stop running!” My mom yelled behind me. “Just don’t stop running! Go to the road and don’t stop running!”
The path was clear in front of me. I pumped my young legs with all the strength I had, sprinting faster and faster towards safety. Listening for my mother as she struggled to keep up behind me.
Halfway to the road I heard another sound behind me. The dog. I glanced over my shoulder and saw as the dark shape, kicking up stones in its wake, flung himself around the side of the house and started towards us like a flaming arrow. He moved in a blur. There was no possible way we could escape him.
“Go!” she yelled, one last time. And then that’s when my mother stopped running. The dog headed toward her like a missile, and she turned to face it. I stumbled, and froze in terror as I watched the next few seconds unfold.
My mother stood, still as a statue in the center of the driveway, and with a deep breath she grew to about 3 times her height. The dog smiled with sharp teeth and galloped towards her with black out of focus eyes. Her arm flew up in front of her. Her hand and outstretched palm held up. And she screamed.
And for a moment time stopped. The dog froze in mid air, saliva hanging from the ends of his black lips. My mother’s dark hair still curling from her sudden rotation. The sun breaking through the trees cutting the path into jagged triangles. My mother and I were held tightly in these black jaws.
My mother’s scream finally reached my ears. “NO!” Her voice sent a shockwave through the earth. Trees bowed over and shook loose leaves. Dust flew up from the ground and I shielded my face. It was as if a bomb had just gone off in front of me. When I looked again, my mother was still standing in the middle of the trail, arm still raised. Several yards in front of her a massive German Shepherd sat huddled on the ground with a startled look on his face.
“Go Home!” my mother commanded with a flick of her finger. When he didn’t comply immediately she took a sudden step towards him and repeated even louder, “GO HOME!”
The dog flinched and then turned around and ran back towards the house. My mother waited until he was around the corner before slowly turning back towards me and the road. When she saw me her eyes changed again. “I said, keep running!”
This time I didn’t stop until I was in my own room again with the door closed behind me.
Do not be deceived by the beauty of mothers. By the quiet interest in quilting and color arrangements. By the insistence on tying your scarf tighter around your neck. By the sappy messages left in your lunch box next to the apple sauce and the crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Don’t mistake the leer they give your girlfriends when they think you aren’t looking, or the way they pour your father tea in the evening without him even asking. There is nothing on Earth more powerful and nothing more fundamental to our survival on the planet than a Mother.