Last week, I had a close encounter with wildlife, and it was kind of terrifying to me, in hindsight.
Let me give a little context. Generally speaking, I like animals, particularly the kind that can be found at “petting zoo” events. For example, chicks. How adorable are they? And goats? They are really calming to pet. During my travels, I’ve fed deers and wallabies and got to pet a koala bear.
All this is to say that I have some curiosity when it comes to animals. I will admit outright that I am not fond of all animals, like cats (sorry to all the cats-lover, but there is a backstory).
Want to wrap a snake around my neck for a picture taking opportunity?
No, thanks. When this happened, I actually backed away from the zoo staff who wanted to engage me to interact with the snake.
Want to see a domesticated lion up close and personal under trainer supervision?
That is a HELL NO for me.
There are some animals I prefer to respect from a distance. I don’t need to get up close and personal.
Scary, Close Encounter Last Week
I don’t ordinarily have encounters with wildlife given my close proximity to the city. Critters like squirrels, raccoons and rabbits are a natural part of a neighborhood. Once in a blue moon, I might spot a deer while driving. A few times in November, I’ve seen a turkey or two wandering around on random streets.
Beyond that, it’s quite uncommon to have interaction with other types of wildlife. There are the occasional news reports of black bears venturing to people’s backyards, or coyotes sightings, but those tend to be in more rural areas.
So I was really surprised when it happened.
The day was just like any other day.
It was almost 6pm, and most of my colleagues have left already. I stayed later because I wanted to tie up some loose ends at my new job. The sun was still up and the campus was mostly empty, as I headed towards the parking garage. I use the side entrance since it’s closer to my office even though the surrounding area is more isolated.
I walked towards the garage as I have done before, while taking in the tranquility of the environment. Suddenly, I noticed something running across the grounds out of the corner of my eyes.
I didn’t know what it was, but I stopped dead in my tracks. The animal ran swiftly. With the parking garage to my west, I watched as the animal ran and then paused a good distance northwest of where I was standing.
My first reaction was one of surprise. Based on the size and shape of the animal, my first reaction was that it was a deer. There are deers around this area?
That initial thought was quickly overridden by my second analysis. Based on the way the animal was running and the look of its hind legs, it can’t be a deer. It looked more like a dog. A really, really big dog. After all, I’ve seen people walk their dogs on the campus, though the owner is usually nearby. I glanced around. To my horror, I see no owners in sight. In fact, there was no one nearby.
At that moment, I realized that it’s probably a wildlife animal. A dog couldn’t have run across the campus as swiftly as the animal just did.
Suddenly, I have this horrible feeling at the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t be sure, but it occurred to me that it might be a coyote.
And it’s not a little one, but a big one.
It was on a run, but it had stopped in its track some distance from me. Just as I had observed it, it was clearly observing my presence.
I’m a petite gal, and I suddenly have this sinking feeling that I could be considered a prey. Worse, knowing that there was no one nearby to aid was quite sobering. It occurred to me that the animal could potentially attack and kill me.
What Happened Next?
It’s hard to feel too terrified in the moment, when you have twenty other things to think about.
The fight or flight instinct kicks in as I considered my options.
I thought about making a dash for the garage, but my rational side reasoned that I could not outrun it. Further, I don’t want to trigger the animal’s natural instinct of giving chase in any way.
I decided to stand my ground, though I was careful not to make any major moves.
If attacked, I will just have to defend with whatever I’ve got on me and yell to scare the animal away. Ultimately, it’s a bleak thought. Given its speed and size, I know I am no match for it.
It also struck me that if it attacks, this could be it. There are some things we can all control in life, but how we end up going is not one that is within our control. It’s certainly not how I would prefer to go, and I sure as heck would put up a fight, but it was also a sobering split-second thought.
Fortunately, after a few seconds, just as quickly as the animal appeared, it darted off and disappeared from view. I breathed a sigh of relief and hurriedly got to my car.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day, I was lucky and grateful nothing happened. There are two possible outcomes and one of them could have turned out terribly.
There is a quote that “we should live each day as if it were our last”. It is so true.
As scary as the brief encounter was, it is encounters like these that periodically remind us how fragile – and even how random – life sometimes is. We need not look further than the recent terrorist attacks on random people going about their everyday lives.
And yet because life is fragile, it is reason enough that each of us do our best each day. To live well each day, to be kind to one another, and to love one another.
Precisely because you never know which day might be the last.