Oliver looked like half the dog he use to be. He had lost a lot of weight. He slept restlessly because he knew the coyotes were nearby. What did they want? Pull on the chain until exhaustion set in. Once again that night the owl hooted in the tree above him. It sounded like a death knell in the quiet woods.
It was a day of reckoning. The coyotes had found Oliver. There were two of them, a male and a female. Both were thin from lack of food. They had been hunting for days for something to eat. They saw in Oliver a chance for a good meal. They had dealt with dogs before and knew they could be dangerous, but this one looked weak and tired with not much fight in him. Should they try for a kill? They lay in the forest, waiting patiently for their chance. Oliver knew they were there, but he could not see them. His heart raced. He could not go to sleep, but waited for the attack.
Oliver knew the coyotes meant him harm. For the first time in his life he felt real fear. The coyotes drew nearer and nearer, crawling stealthily toward him. Closer and closer they came. Oliver stood up on his three good legs and pulled on the chain. He didn’t know it, but the chain was rusty and had been weakened as he pulled against it. He lunged and lunged. The coyotes stepped back With all the strength he could muster he growled a warning growl. As fierce a growl as he had ever growled. Oliver had never growled in his life. He showed his sharp teeth. His eyes glittered. He was not going down without a fight. The coyotes were patient. They could wait. Night fell. A strange stillness fell over the forest.
It was them or him. Oliver knew by instinct that he was in for the fight of his life. Oliver was not a fighter. He was a sweet, patient and loving dog. But today called for a new Oliver. A warrior dog. His very life depended on it. The coyotes came in for the kill, circling him, snapping their sharp, little teeth. Growling growls Oliver had never heard before.
Two against one. Oliver lunged at them snarling and snapping his teeth. He grabbed one of the coyotes by the nape of its neck, shook it hard and threw it from him. It got shakily back on its feet and slunk off into the forest. The other coyote, the female, followed its mate. They knew they had met a dangerous dog. They would have to find a less aggressive prey for their next meal. Oliver didn’t know it, but he had saved his life that night.
Oliver lay down with his head on his paws watching the coyotes leave. Would they be back? He didn’t know, but he did know he hadn’t much fight left in him. He was so tired, scared and hungry. And the thirst. It could not get worse. Or could it? The night came and the owl hooted. This time Oliver welcomed the company.
Oliver was so tired and hungry. He just lay all day. He could do nothing else. It was a beautiful Winter’s day. Was he going to die all alone in the forest? Would his buddies get a new dog to replace him?
High above in the clear, blue sky turkey vultures were circling.
One stretched its wings wide, sailing on the wind, catching the updrafts as it searched below for carrion. It’s beady eyes looked back and forth over the landscape for a dead animal to eat. Suddenly, it spied something next to a tree below. Lower and lower it floated toward the ground until it reached a treetop. It landed on a tree limb directly above Oliver. It sat there staring for a long time at the seemingly dead animal below it. Believing it had a meal ahead, it flew to the ground and moved closer.
Suddenly, the animal came to life. Oliver awoke and saw the big bird next to him and he rose tremulously on his three legs. The leg in the trap just hung limply and useless. The vulture looked at him with interest. Oliver found his voice and let out a series of barks that startled the bird and sent it flying back up into the branches to safety. This obviously was not a dead animal and not his next meal. Flapping his wings, he flew away up into the air with the other vultures still searching and searching for another dead animal.
Oliver sighed and lay back down wondering if this horror would ever end.
Oliver awoke strangely rested and with a new sense of courage he had never felt before. He had thwarted the coyotes’ attack. He had chased a big bird away. He felt like he could do anything. Now he must get free. He knew his buddies were waiting for him. He just knew it. He wanted to see them so badly.
He rose on his three good legs, the fourth dangling uselessly, held fast by the wicked trap. He began to pull and pull. He pulled all morning, stopping only for little rests. He panted, but there was no moisture left in his mouth. If he did not get water soon, he would surely die. One more time, he gave a mighty pull and suddenly, freedom! The chain around the tree had finally broken. But Oliver could not walk. He would have to crawl. So, he did.
Oliver had crawled all night. It was slow moving through the forest. Crawl, try to walk a bit, then crawl again. He didn’t know whether he was headed home, but he kept moving. He crawled all day. He came upon a creek where he got the first drink of water he had had in days. Oliver drank the cool, fresh water and felt invigorated. It tasted so good. Best water he had ever drunk. He lay there enjoying the Winter sun upon his back, but he knew he must keep moving and find safety because the forest is a dangerous place for a wounded animal. He crawled some more until he saw a road. He knew humans traveled these roads. His buddies traveled them all the time. He crawled as close as he could to it and collapsed. He lay there quietly waiting.
A woman was driving on this particular road that day, singing along with some music on her car radio. Enjoying the perfect Winter day. Then she saw what appeared to be a large animal laying beside the road. Was it a deer. Deer were hit by cars quite often in this part of the country and were seen alongside the roads regularly. She slowed her car and looked down at the animal. It was a dog! An emaciated, dirty, dog with a badly matted coat and there was a trap on one of its legs. She got out of her car. Was it breathing? She walked slowly toward Oliver and he lifted his head weakly. Yes! It was alive and she began to cry at the condition of the poor dog. She called 911 and they contacted animal control who came and they tried getting the trap off Oliver’s leg, but it was so strong they were unable to get it off him. They had to find his owners. Oliver had ID on him and they quickly found his buddies on the big hill.
When his buddies saw Oliver they were so glad to see him, but were shocked at his condition. Mama buddy called Papa buddy who took Oliver to the veterinarian where Oliver’s leg had to be amputated. The vet was very unhappy about this because she had seen other animals in her office who had been caught in traps. Just a few days before Oliver, she had had to remove the toes of a Great Horned Owl who had been caught in a trap.
In a few days, Oliver was back home with his family. Laying on his warm bed with food in his stomach, he could almost forget the ordeal he had gone through, but not quite because some things startled him now that never startled him before. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is possible even with a dog. He still had to learn to walk.
And he did.
Trapping is one of the cruelest ways of hunting animals. Even at that, the trapper is supposed to check his traps every few days. This particular trapper had not checked his traps for at least fourteen days and probably longer, leaving a poor, defenseless dog to suffer for days and lose a leg. Stop all trapping.