Missed the beginning? Read part one.
It was about a month after first finding the rabbit that things seemed to start escalating. I was in the backyard with the dogs for their 9:30am outing in late July. The morning was unusually cool for that time of year. I was looking at my tomato plants and wondering if they were going to bear much fruit. The summer had been cooler than normal and my plants had not grown very much compared to previous years. I was torn from my thoughts by the sound of Baby Bear, one of the Schipperke mixes, growling at Baron in a far more aggressive manner than I had ever heard from her. The two dogs had butted heads on occasion, but Baby had never before sounded so menacing. Baron was pushing his luck to get at something that Baby had claimed as her own. I ran across the yard quickly to break up the fight before it could get started. My motion coming at them distracted Baby long enough for Baron to snatch away what she was trying to keep from him. I continued after him to discover what it was they had been fighting about. Baby watched confused as to where her prize had gone. She was never very sharp, that dog.
When I caught up with Baron I was shocked to find him chewing on a piece of spine consisting of about five vertebrae approximately seven inches long. Based on its size, I guessed it was from a larger animal. Perhaps a small deer or a dog. After an intense effort I managed to shoo him away and confiscated his macabre treat. Perplexed and not just a bit concerned I placed it on a rail of the deck to keep the dogs from getting it again. I then ushered my pets back indoors.
At lunch that day I mentioned to Alex what had been found in the backyard that morning. We both joked about the killer in the backyard again, but I could see the concern I felt mirrored in her eyes. I think we were both starting to realize in that moment that there might really be something going on. I told her I would take the piece of spine to a veterinarian to see if they could identify it. I figured this would put us both at ease. I thought a vet would take one look at it and say it was from a deer or something.
I went out to the deck after lunch to fetch the evidence to take to the veterinarian, but it was gone. Despite searching all around the rail where I had left it I was unable to locate it. At first I thought perhaps a bird had taken it. I quickly discounted this. There were no birds in our area large enough to take part of a spinal column of that size. At that moment I heard a branch snap just past the trees at the edge of my yard. A reflexive shudder went through me. I moved carefully to my right to peer around the shrubs that separated my neighbor’s property from mine not sure what I would see. It was just my neighbor raking some debris from a planter. Relieved, I sighed and walked back into the house. I was seriously beginning to fear what might be out there in my back yard.
Later that night at dinner, Alex asked what the vet had to say about the dogs’ prize. Offhandedly I told her the piece was gone when I went to retrieve it. I tried to make light of the disappearance by mentioning a stray dog or a bird had probably taken it before I could. I was unsure if I had succeeded in convincing her. I certainly hoped I had. I didn’t want her to be afraid in her own home.
It was just a couple of days after the spine incident. Again during the dogs’ 9:30am outing I saw something just five feet from the deck that caused me to pause in wonder. Due to some rain I had not yet cut the grass in the back yard that week so it was longer than normal. But just off the deck there was a large oval area of lawn that had been flattened as if something had lain upon it during the previous evening. It covered a space approximately five feet by eight feet. Whatever had made the depression in the lawn had been large. I struggled to rationalize what could have been there overnight. Was it a bear? Or maybe a small pack of wolves? Both of these thoughts I dismissed as soon as they sprang to mind. That would be silly. How could my wife or myself, or the rest of the town for that matter, miss something like a pack of wolves or a large bear? Neither of the two animals were known to travel this far south. A deer would be too small…
I was stirred from my rumination by the sound of Baby snorting loudly and rolling about in the depression in the grass. My other two dogs sniffed at the edge of the oval and then moved away, glancing at the space warily, hackles slightly raised. This reaction from the other two dogs unnerved me greatly and caused me to yell at Baby to get out of the depression. As I stepped toward her I detected a dank odor and saw that the grass had a faint, oily sheen to it. Disgusted, I rousted Baby from the yard and back into the house where she received a thorough scrubbing in the tub after I retrieved my other dogs. Thankfully, the residue from the depression seemed to wash off easily enough, but she still carried a very slight copy of its scent. Because of the smell, she was not allowed in our bedroom afterward. I still miss that little dog.
Check back next week for the conclusion of A Strange Occurrence…