45: Sam and the Buffalo

45: Sam and the Buffalo

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

Sam and the Buffalo

Spaniels by Nature are very loving, surpassing all other Creatures, for in Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, Day and Night, they will not forsake their Master.

~Richard Blome

GRRRR! I tried to shush him. My seven-year-old Cocker Spaniel, his head raised from the bed, growled intently. I placed a hand on his blond body, attempting to lay his head back down. Instead, growling again, he raised his entire body into a sitting position, concentrating his stare on the patio doors off the bedroom.

I glanced at the clock — 3 a.m. Groaning, I said, “Sam, it’s not time to get up yet!”

He barked, not a Cocker Spaniel yip, but an intense woof! And he jumped off the bed. Wide awake now, I detected danger. A woman living alone eight miles from town in a sparsely populated region of Montana. I reached for the pepper spray I kept on my nightstand. I tiptoed to the curtained sliding glass doors. Standing to the left side, I began to pull the six-foot long swag from the glass. Sam’s stare never wavered. He rushed toward the doorway, barking furiously, and causing me to jump further from the glass.

Then, I heard the moaning. Deep, bellowing sounds reverberated from the deck. Pepper can in hand, I poised, ready to spray the foe that waited outside. Sam’s barking intensified and the hair on his blond shoulders stood erect. More moaning and groaning, but no body appeared.

I peered around the curtain. No person stood on the deck. Bright moonlight made the September night like day, so I surveyed the surroundings. Still no visible intruder. I stepped away from the safety of the curtain that covered the patio door. Smack! The wooden deck shook as if we were having an earthquake. The movement rippled to my bedroom floor, causing us to jump.

Then, I saw him. Dark brown hair rippled in the night breeze as he stepped from the shadows. Then another, smaller, most likely younger, fellow followed in his steps.

“Oh!” I exclaimed in astonishment.

Two bison stood in the light of an autumn moon, having sought a hideaway for a few hours slumber under my deck. Having recently moved to a small town outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park, I had heard stories of bison leaving the park and traveling through the area where I now lived. And though I had visited Yellowstone numerous times and encountered the large, wooly animals while driving, never did I imagine any would come this close to my residence.

Fascinated that these bison were so close, I stepped onto the deck. And before I could reach backward to slide the glass door, Sam bounded through the opening, leaped down the deck steps and rushed the bison. Frantic, I commanded, “Sam, come!”

As usual, he ignored the summons. Within seconds canine and bovine were face to face, nearly nose to nose. Sam’s barking persisted. With a combination of scolding and scaring, my fearless dog took on an animal nearly one hundred times his weight and three times his height.

The younger bison squalled and stepped back in surprise at the assault. The older, larger male, however, simply stared at Sam and grunted. As my dog rushed at the bull’s face once again, my screaming for him to “get back here!” again ignored, the bull went from annoyed to angry. The great creature stomped his front foot and shook his massive head. I envisioned my dog pierced by one of the bull’s black horns, caught in the air and shaken until dead.

Somehow, Sam sidestepped the bison’s horns. He must have finally understood the danger he faced, for after one more deep growl and tough bark, Sam scampered back to the safety of the deck. He stuck his tan head between the rails and again railed against the wooly intruders.

Tiring of the incessant noise, the two bison lumbered away, heading for the quiet of those lots without houses. Sam and I watched as they moseyed several hundred yards away, snipping at dying grasses along the way. The two giants lay down near one another after leaving the area occupied by a crazy dog and his snooping human.

These would not be the last buffalo we’d encounter. About a month later, I came home late from work on a snowy night. As I entered the driveway, the car’s headlights captured an unforgettable scene: about two dozen cow and calf bison taking refuge under my front porch. Several of the calves huddled like football players while their mothers surrounded them, protecting their offspring from the harsh elements. I sat in my car mesmerized by the incredible sight: snow, wind and very large mammals.

How was I going to get into my house with these huge creatures blocking the entrance? Female bison weigh nearly 1,000 pounds; the calves, about half-grown, easily weighed half of that, and these great creatures stood between my bug of a car and my front door. Then, I heard him, my protector, my rough and tough canine companion. At the living room window stood Sam, his Cocker Spaniel serenade braying from the house into the night air. Ten minutes later, the herd of mothers and their young wandered away, the lead female bison escorting the rest to the sanctuary of nearby forest lands.

~Gayle M. Irwin

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