Lulu’s tongue was lolling out of her big grinning mouth as we cut through the morning humidity, about half way through our five mile walk. I tilted back my head and pulled the thick morning air through my nose, smelling the slight crispness around the edges, that signified the approaching fall. I loved the smell of summer and fall mixing as New England summers came to an end.
Loud panting brought me back to the moment, and feeling a pull to my left, I looked down to see Lu heading off road, head down, pulling me through the still green, fire bushes. A few more weeks and the leaves would be blazing with color. I stumbled forward, and made a half ass attempt to pull Lu back out of the bushes, but she smelled the creek, and lowered her flat block head, pulling hard against her small prong collar. She had set her mind and eyes on the cold water at the bottom of the hill, and I threw up my arms to block the branches as we plunged towards the creek.
Lu reached the water and plunged her muzzle into the cold, swiftly running little creek, pulling her head out quickly and shaking it hard. I stood watching as she lapped greedily at the water – and then she froze, staring straight ahead across the small, dark creek. I looked up and froze as well. An enormous, muscular dog was standing staring at us about 20 feet away. He was larger than any pit bull I had ever seen, and I could see every muscle in his body bunching as he looked from me to Lu, until his eyes locked on Lu’s.
I looked down to see Lu crouched just in front of me in the edge of the water. As I watched, she slowly lowered her small head, and let out a guttural snarl that sounded like nothing I had ever heard come from her. Her whole body trembled, and as she crouched even lower, I tightened the leash, not sure if she was going to attack or flee.
I looked towards the other dog. He stood motionless, staring intensely at her, and then slowly leaned forward taking one tentative step towards the edge of the water. Lu suddenly plunged forward snarling fiercely, snapping her jaws and clearly warning off this threat. She had always been aggressive towards other dogs, but had never behaved this way. I began to back up, gently saying her name in a low voice. She glanced back quickly, and began turning towards me very slowly to follow. The collarless black behemoth took another step, and Lulu let out a shrill scream, plunging towards him again. I just kept slowly backing away.
Suddenly, I heard a man’s deep bellow, and looked across the water to see a man step out onto his porch, behind the house across the creek. The dog turned towards him, glancing back repeatedly as he slowly made his way back to his own yard. The man waved briefly, opening a screen door for his scarey looking black horse to enter.
I felt the tension drain from my body as Lu quickly moved past me and up the hill back towards the road. She had no desire to hang around for a repeat appearance, and I broke into a quick jog as she trotted quickly up the hill. Reaching the top of the hill, I ducked under the last fire bush branches, glancing up to see Lu staring down the hill, still trembling from the adrenaline that was draining from her muscles.
We still had another 2.5 miles to complete, and Lu lived and breathed in anticipation of her walks, but with a quick accusatory glance my way, she turned and headed back the way we had come. That one look told me not to dilly dally, but to get my ass in gear, because we were going home where it was safe, and there were no black demons hiding in the shadows.