Early this morning a waning gibbous moon faintly illuminated the landscape as I drove down winding rural roads. I had a near encounter with an atypical raccoon. It appeared in the middle of the road right after I had rounded a curve, looking at the approaching truck impassively. I braked suddenly and the animal disappeared under the truck. I backed up, hoping I wouldn’t see an agonized animal dying before me, bleeding and gaping at me as its innards spilled out. I peered over the truck’s hood; the ‘coon peered back at me, seemingly uninjured.
I carefully steered around the raccoon, which oddly enough didn’t attempt to flee into the darkness.
At the end of the road I delivered a Sunday paper at a friend’s farm, the newspaper bulging with shiny ads printed on flimsy glazed paper. On the way back up the lane I almost hit the same raccoon, which was still lingering in the road. It looked up at me with a dull expression as I attempted to ease by it. I stopped and rolled down the truck window. What was wrong with this animal? I could have easily gotten out of the truck and picked it up. But it might have been rabid… I imagined the crazed beast leaping up with diseased energy and fastening its teeth in my throat as it uttered a demented squeal. I rolled the window back up and drove on.
Thinking about this encounter I rounded yet another curve. I saw a group of mid-sized animals in the road before me. The smallest one was pale and its four companions were jet-black with contrasting ruddy mouths and tongues. What now?
I slowed down and saw that I had come across a pack of dogs out on an early-morning prowl. They looked up at me and I gazed down at them. They made no effort to run away, so I slowly followed them down the road. I got out my camera and managed to get some blurred shots before the dogs took off through the woods which bordered the road. The pack’s leader seemed to be a beagle, while the others were perhaps some hound mix, all-black dogs which probably came from the same litter. I’ve seen this before; I think roaming rural dog packs recruit a sharp-nosed beagle as a scout, a useful division of labor.
Here are the photos, rather blurred due to the long exposures and the motions of both the truck and dogs, but better than none at all. I was leaning out of the window as I drove:
I wonder how much territory such a pack of farm dogs covers in a night of hunting. Do they eat carrion, or perhaps prey on weak, young, or diseased animals? I wonder if they came across the ‘coon I nearly hit. Perhaps the dogs are all rabid now!