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Guard Dogs are Good, Guard Cats are Better

  • It wasn't until the bear climbed through the open camper van window I learned how much Sage, my aging Maine Coon shorthaired cat, really cared about her food. I was in the back of the van, in bed, my full-grown Rottweiler, Koko, at my feet when I heard a low guttural growl. I turned to see a black bear halfway into the front passenger side window. He was after Sage's food bowl on the platform where the passenger seat once was. I'd converted the passenger side to a feeding/watering station, litter box closet, and bed for my furry girl. She was trying to eat breakfast and he was trying to steal it. 

    My rottweiler also raised up to see what the commotion was about. "Oh, a bear," she thought and laid back down after seeing the bear. She didn't bark, growl, or even act curious. She had once made the mistake of trying to steal the cat's food and had the scars on her snout to show for it. No way was she getting pulled into this fight. The cat, all 20 pounds of her, could hold her own.

    I looked frantically around for something to defend myself with - certain the bear would kill the cat and then climb through the window and want a bigger handout. Before I could even reach for the metal pipe I kept under the bed, the fight was over. Sage had rolled around the bear's face like a cartoon character simulating a tornado. She'd bitten, spit, growled, swatted, and terrorized the bear in less than 15 seconds. Convinced the food wasn't worth the trouncing it was receiving, the bear struggled to back out of the window, the cat still attached to its face like that creature in the movie Alien.  Just as the bear had pulled back enough to drop to the ground, the cat released its snout and hissed a final warning. She then sniffed at her bowl and began feeding, obviously content with the bear's retreat.

    I got up, rolled up the window while looking out for the bear - but it was gone. I never saw it again. In all the time I was full-timing I only had a few instances of needing "help" from my pets. My Rottweiler was all bark and snarl, but never even nipped at anyone or anything. Her generation of a dangerous breed was enough to keep people at bay. When a 10-year old girl leaned into the window to hand me a balloon during a parade we were in, Koko barked and growled. I was certain she would bite the child's hand off, but she stopped instead to lick her face and hand. The cat slept through the parade and the barking. When we pulled out of a gas station in Wyoming, a homeless man tried to carjack us, yanking on the doors and telling us to stop or he'd shoot. Koko went halfway out of the driver's side window, lunging over me to get to the man. He let go of the door handle and fell to the ground and we sped away, none the worse for wear. Koko ran to the back of the van and barked as the gas station and the man receeded into the background.

    I've been fortunate to have animals who alert, cry, bark, hiss, or even seem to be willing to die for me when they sense danger. They've chased off raccoons, welcomed mice, run from skunks, and played with deer. I can't imagine full-timing without out my animals. Koko and Sage crossed the rainbow bridge some time ago, but I have two cats with as much or more savvy than Sage, and I'm looking forward to traveling with them this fall. If you have animals, share your story about when they were guard dogs, or helped you in some way!