It started right after sundown. As soon as the sky faded from dark blue to completely black i began to hear voices. There were at least two people because one voice was talking over the other. I didn’t care what they were arguing about. I cared that they were on my property. The spigots had locks on them. The electric box, the well house, the sheds…everything was locked. However, there remained legit reasons why they could not be allowed to stay on my property. The main one being, they left their trash and paraphernalia where my dogs could eat it. I was really tired of doctoring Cashew’s mouth after she tried to shred aluminum beer cans. It involved pasting raw organic coconut oil over the cuts. It had antibacterial properties but was also edible so she could swallow it without adverse effects. The trespassers viewed my property as a giant trash heap and when they were done with something they just put it down. Imagine collecting your trash for the week to take it to the curb, not from your bin but from combing two acres. Missing something would mean another injury for the dog. Also, they thought nothing of unplugging my heat lamps to charge their cell phones. There was only one outdoor outlet and if i was using it and they wanted to be, they would unplug my things and insert theirs. If i didn’t stay on top of that the fruit trees died. The third reason it was imperative i find them had to do with cigarettes. They often came with cigarettes and lighters and weren’t particularly careful about where they dropped their butts. Nevermind that the dog was constantly trying to eat the nasty chemical laden sticks…i was worried about them setting fire to the grass. Finally, on top of all that, i had a reputation to uphold. Every trespasser i encountered would eventually be hauled back to the facility where they would tell others of their experiences. If it was easy to stay on my property undetected everyone would do it.
By 11 i was mighty frustrated. We had been traipsing around in the darkness on and off for hours looking for the owners of the voices. The problem was that it was dark. I did not have night vision goggles or some fancy heat detecting radar gun that could tell me where bodies lay quietly in the grass, so every time i opened the door and stepped out with a lantern, all the trespassers had to do was avoid the dancing light in the darkness. 2 acres was a large amount of space to rotate through in the dark and i never seemed to get close enough to locate them. I tried going out without the lantern but in the dark the only way i could locate them was by sound and the moment they heard my front door the talking ceased. Finally, i gave up on my own ability to handle the situation. It was Cashew’s turn. I opened the dog run gate and said, “Get em”. Cashew looked at me as if to ask, “Really? I’m free? Even though the extension cords are plugged in and you’re always talking about how i need to listen to you and go from the house to the dog run and nowhere else when the extension cords are plugged in?” I said again, “Go get em.” That was all Cashew needed to hear. She took off in the direction that i had last heard the voices. I followed, trudging through the grass and under branches with the lantern. I had let Sili out as well. She wouldn’t be much use in tracking someone but she would back her sister up if she were to hear Cashew sound the alarm. I listened for Cashew’s bark but heard nothing. When i caught up to her she had her nose to the ground and was zigzagging in the rocky soil, right up to the fence. They had climbed back through. We had lost them once again. I was sure they were somewhere just on the outside of our fence, waiting for me to take the dogs in so they could come back and use the outdoor outlet again. I patted Cashew on the head, “Good girl. Let’s go.” Sili followed us back to the house. They had gone through the fence. There was nothing to do but give em a chance to climb back through and then release the dogs once again. They’d kept me up all night and i had to be awake at 2:30 in the morning to go to work. There was a dark part of me that really hoped they would climb back through. Gloves were off now. The dogs didn’t need night vision goggles and Cashew wouldn’t hesitate second go round.
I actually didn’t hear any more voices for a whole hour. I figured they’d gotten spooked and decided to go elsewhere. I took Cashew out for one last potty break before bed as her bladder was smaller than Sili’s. Through the trees i could see the dim lights of a car. It was parked right on the edge of my property, outside of the fence. I could hear voices. If these were our intruders, Cashew would be glad to help convince them it was a good idea to get in the vehicle and leave. She was peeing. She was also looking at me for an order. When she finished her squat she stood ready. I flicked my hand in the direction of the car, “Get em.” Cashew took off in a silent sprint. She was running low to the ground. I was amazed at how stealth-like she was. Perhaps she wanted to use the element of surprise since they seemed to get away every time they could hear us coming. Suddenly the darkness erupted into noise. I could hear Cashew snarling, growling, and barking near the fence line. Flashlights emerged…two of them. Since when did rehab escapees carry flashlights? Something was wrong. The beams were of identical width and length. SHIT! Cops! There was a hole in the fence right where they would have been standing. They wouldn’t know the dog couldn’t get out. I had to get her back before they felt threatened and found both her and their guns. “Cashew! Come!” She came gliding back to me through the sheet of darkness that was our land. She looked at me with eager eyes, “Did i do good mom? Huh huh? Did i do good?” I held her collar. In the darkness the cops threw on their red and blue flashing lights. Now i could see that there were two cop cars parked in different directions. One was along our fence line. The other was sitting to the side of the main road. “Shit.” Cashew looked at me again, waiting for guidance, waiting for an order. I remembered those flashlight beams searching wildly in the night in frantic motions, trying to locate the source of the noise; trying to locate Cashew. I was really lucky. I was lucky cops in the country were not quite as trigger happy as those in the city, possibly cuz all ranchers were packing and the cops were always outnumbered in the wilderness and if you shot first and asked questions later it was a good way to get dead by retaliation, especially if the movement you shot at was somebody’s dog, horse, or kid. Possibly cuz there was no hospital in our town so getting shot was more likely to result in death and they tried to do it more sparingly than in cities where suspects could be rushed to the er before jail. I was aware that the trees and thick brush probably saved my dog as well. In the area they were in, they probably couldn’t get a good look at her, as demonstrated by the wildly swinging flashlight beams. I was also thankful she chose to follow my directions and return when i called her. If i gave her an instruction in the house she gave me a defiant facial expression but in the heat of the moment, she was learning to listen pretty good. I put her in the house. I put both dogs in the crates. I closed the crate doors and stared at em. They were safely in the house. I still had both my dogs. I looked down. My hand was shaking. I had enough adrenaline in my veins to run a marathon. Strangely enough, i didn’t cuddle her. My instinct was not to grab the dog to my chest and hold her and be happy she was alive. I just wanted to sit on the kitchen step stool and look at both crates repeatedly and see that there were two dogs in them. Not one dog and one empty; two. Shit.