A few years back several of our children were off on some trip or another giving Sherry and I the opportunity to take a small trip with just our eldest daughter.
It was nice to be spontaneous, just to take off for a few days, destination unknown. Unfortunately, we had our lovely Bella to consider. Reluctant to send her to a doggy hotel or a dog sitter, we resolved to bring her along. That meant our spontaneous-ness was out the window. We had to have accommodations that allowed dogs, not the tiny dog places, but the full grown herder that was Bella.
Okay, if we go north there is a pretty good place about 150 miles from here. We can go slow, fuss around, then roll in about dinner time. It seemed like a plan, and indeed it worked pretty well.
After dinner I took Bella for her evening walk on a special dogwalk behind the motel. Clearly this was a place that catered to dog lovers because there was this well cared, groomed path right next to our room. And other guests were using it as well. I could see a rather large man holding a long leash for his animal as he stretched it to the limit. Bella often did this, whatever the length of leash, she was at the furthest end.
The other guest was patiently waiting while his pet was doing his/her business, when the pet turned back to the owner, grabbed his hand and continued walking.
Grabbed his hand!! This dark animal at the end of the leash had an arm, a hand, and two very bowed legs. It was a big monkey, a primate, a chimpanzee!
Well, the place did cater to animal owners. When Bella came upon the chimp poo she went nuts. What the heck is this? Excited, scared and a little perplexed, Bella suddenly stayed very close to me for the rest of the walk.
Coming around to the front of the building I now noticed several vehicles outfitted with cages, doors wide open for ventilation and cooling control. With no lights I couldn’t tell which one had my monkey friend, and there were several to pick from.
Bella was no help, she was having a hard time coping and just kept circling me in tight spirals.
At this one cage, which took up the entire back of the van, I thought I saw our chimp huddled in the corner. As I approached I little closer to verify, the huddled mass hurled forward to smash the cage inches from my face. It was so fast that my brain signals were still thinking about jumping back, but they hadn’t gone to my legs yet. So it was this comical delayed reaction, totally too late to provide safety. And when the signals did come through I couldn’t jump back because Bella had hog tied me with several wraps of heavy leather. I didn’t go back, I just went down.
Then I noticed the yellow green eyes as the animal came forward to look down at me through the bars. The street lamps lit an odd profile. Large head, yellow eyes, ears flattened and a deep low hissing growl. A full grown panther.
Thank you that the cage was locked.
The next morning I got a shoulder shake and the command to get my camera. I had told the ladies about the chimp but did not talk about the panther. Well, I was told to get my camera because a guy had a panther on a leash, and a monkey was messing with the panther’s tail.
Hmm, “No, I think I’ll just get a few more winks.”
“What? This is such a great opportunity, the animals are trained movies animals. They love to be photographed! You gotta go! They will be great photos. You’re a photographer!”
Again, my family was well aware of my big cat issues. But here was a photo opportunity. Sadly, I reached for my camera and went out the door searching for my death spot. Perhaps the cat would sink his fangs into my eye sockets and drag me to the pool area. It was heated and there was a hot tub.
I found a large fake rock outcrop in the middle of the parking lot. The chimp was at the top and the panther was on a ledge just below the top. The chimp was wisely harassing the panther by grabbing his tail and giving a little tug, driving the panther into a rage. Oh yeah, the panther was not on a leash, he was at the end of large chain, similar to ones used to secure motorcycles to telephone poles. And the large man from the night before was straining mightily to keep the cat from the chimp. Snarling, flashing white fangs and extended claws the panther was a perfect picture of a living, breathing, weapon of mass destruction.
As I sat there taking a few badly composed photographs, the cat suddenly stopped, realizing the extent of his leash made his action pointless. Cats learn quickly about their prey.
Then he looked at me and I saw a flicker of recognition from last night. Also, a distinct food declaration. Fortunately the cat and I had came to the same quick math conclusion. Take the length of the chain, arc it from the center of the radius, and the food was still two feet out of reach. I saw the eyes blink and then refocus on the monkey.
I saw the calculations in his eyes! So, I took two or three more photos them backed away. Notice I said “back away” I kept the panther in my sight all the way into the back parking lot.
I survived, and my family did not seem surprised. They actually thought I would take some pictures, and it would be great. I love them, even if they don’t listen to me.