I grew up in rural Washington, or what we as kids woefully referred to as “the middle of nowhere”. My parents owned 12 acres of woods that was bordered on two sides by Weyerhaeuser, a logging company so we were surrounded by forest land crisscrossed with logging roads and bald patches. As a young boy without any kids my age to play with, my best friends became animals, particularly dogs. We had the full range of animals on our property including horses, cows, chickens, goats, and pigs, and while always had a minimum of 4 dogs, one dog stands out to this day. His name was Jackson, (named by my brother after some sports figure) and he was a Rottweiler. As far as Rottweilers go, he was big, but gentle. He had almost died from Parvo Virus as a young pup. My Dad had nursed him back to health and now he never missed a meal. With our other dogs usually being labs, Border Collies or German Shepherds, he was the only Rottweiler. He was irreplaceable, and he knew it.
One of my favorite things to do as a young boy was to gather my slingshot or bb gun and venture into the woods with my trusty dogs by my side. Miller’s Pond was an old abandoned mill several miles down a dirt path unreachable by cars, and it was our usual destination. Even without me or my Dad accompanying them, my dogs would regularly make the trek to the pond on their own while we were at school or work. It was a nice and peaceful destination. On this spring day, I was too busy throwing sticks into the pond for my dogs to retrieve and didn’t notice we were being watched. Woods like this weren’t devoid of life. To the contrary, many animals enjoyed a comfortable existence in the lush forest spaces that weren’t currently being clear-cut for logging, including porcupine, deer, bear, coyote, and bobcat. While I had seen all these animals in the wild near our house before, today we had a different visitor. Without making a sound, without alerting my dogs who were too caught up playing in the water to notice, a cougar had crept up to the far end of the pond. He stood there without moving a muscle, but still looked very regal and confident, like a thinking statue. I could tell he was contemplating what to do next, he realized I had noticed him. My dogs noticed him now too. Everything that happened then was a blur. The dogs that were in the water rushed to my side, barking excitedly, with an excitement and urgency I hadn’t heard from them before as if they immediately recognized the danger. They regularly ventured into these woods on their own, so they may have encounter a cougar before, possibly even this same one. For my part this was a new experience, and while I knew what to do when I saw a bear, coyote, bobcat or any of the more common wild animals in the area, cougar encounters were very rare. I’m not sure which I had with me that day, but neither a slingshot or BB gun would have helped against this massive creature. So, I ran. There is no eloquent way to describe it, I just ran. I remember looking back slightly and seeing the cougar leap into action. When I had noticed him, he had been about 30 meters away, across the pond. Within seconds he was halfway around the pond. He moved so fast, especially compared to my lazy farm dogs. Fortunately, one of my dogs wasn’t a typical lazy farm dog. Jackson, the Rottweiler, leapt into action and collided with the cougar. The resulting clash was a vicious, biting whirlwind with deep growls and sharp yelps from both sides. There was no way this was going to end well. Even though the cougar was almost twice the size of my Rottweiler and much more agile, my companion didn’t show any fear. He steadfastly held his ground while I made my retreat with my other three dogs at my heels. Somehow, I knew that if the cougar killed Jackson, it would soon come for me and there would be nothing my other dogs could do about it. They were docile puppies compared to Jackson. I eventually reached home safely with three of my dogs. I never saw the cougar again. I never saw Jackson again either. Two days later, I came home from school and found all three of my dogs on our porch with their heads down. They had come back from their daily trek to Miller’s Pond with something to show me. It was Jackson’s leg.