If there are two things I know about myself without a doubt, it's these:
1. I'm a chronic worrier and tend to be afraid of many things. If there is a worst case scenario in any situation, I'm sure to focus on it and find something to be frightened of.
2. I am fiercely protective of my dog, and would risk my life to save his if necessary.
Yesterday, I came face to face with both those sides of myself, the fear and the protectiveness. At the same time. In retrospect, it probably wasn't such a big deal, but at the time, I felt fear like I haven't experienced in many, many years. Real, palpable, pulse-pounding fear. And the discovery that indeed I would put myself between my dog and danger, without a moment's consideration of my own safety.
We were out for a short, four-mile, easy mountain bike ride and had stopped at the lake after only a couple of miles to let Fry cool off a bit before continuing back to the parking lot. In the midst of the splashing, I heard a weird chirping, followed by the sound of leaves rustling. Steve and I both turned to look back up at the trail, thinking it was probably another biker riding by.
To my great surprise, there in the middle of the hiking trail down to the lake, was a big ratty looking raccoon making its way rather hastily toward us. A raccoon. In the middle of the afternoon. Chattering angrily, it was hesitatingly but definitively moving right to us. I looked around and grabbed the biggest log I could find and waved it at the critter, putting myself solidly between the raccoon and Fry. Looking back, I don't think I even considered the possibility that the critter might attack me - my only concern was not letting it tangle with my puppy. Meanwhile Steve, thinking very quickly thank goodness, snatched Fry up out of the lake and into his arms. The raccoon seemed completely unimpressed by my impotent log-waving and yelling, and continued moving in our direction before suddenly detouring off toward its right. We pounced on the opportunity and sprinted up toward our bikes, angling away from the raccoon, Fry still curled quietly in Steve's arms, almost like he knew he was being protected.
I jumped on my bike and began pedaling as fast as I ever have, to hopefully encourage Fry to follow me once Steve put him on the ground. All the while, I was keeping a close watch to make sure the raccoon was not following. It wasn't. Once I got a little ways up the trail, Steve got on his bike and sent Fry along to catch up to me. Fortunately, my sweet boy quickly came up beside me and stayed right on my wheel all the way up the insanely steep climb to the top of the trail. Fry would periodically peer back down the trail to make sure Steve was following - he was - but I was relieved to see that my precious pup never left my side.
We took the shortcut and hightailed it out of there, but did stop to notify a friend who lives nearby - and who also rides with his dog - about the raccoon. I have no idea if the thing was rabid, had distemper, or was merely out scouting for food in the afternoon. But I didn't particularly want to hang around and find out.