I woke up, not knowing the time. It was dark. I heard faint sounds, like distant, blood-curdling screams. No.., uh…I determined I was not dreaming. There it is again. Is it cats? I got up and went to the tiny, upstairs bathroom window. I see the cats hanging out on the garage steps. That’s odd for the middle of a freezing cold night. There’s the sound again!
As soon as I’d pulled on my bathrobe, I saw my son outside, rushing to somewhere. So he’d heard it too.
“Dad! You have a gun? Something’s attacking Ken’s goats!”
“Yup”. Just happens I keep a 38 snubbie, loaded with JHP +P, in my bathrobe pocket. Call me wierd. I grab my flashlight and head downstairs, barefoot.
Sure enough, just across the sidewalk from my yard is my neighbor’s goat pen, and there’s a struggle going on in there.
I’ve seen a goat get its horns stuck in the fence wire and almost die. The only thing saving it was my hearing its blood-curdling screams. I’ve seen one goat get its horns stuck in another goat’s collar, almost strangling it to death, but didn’t realize what happened until my brain figured out that, no, it was not a canine attacking a goat, but two goats stuck together. The only thing that had saved that goat was my hearing its blood-curdling scrams. The pattern of the screaming goats.
In any case, it can take several seconds, or much more, to process input and realize the full extent of what’s happening.
This time it was more obvious. The goats were being attacked. Two dogs, apparently. Is that one of Ken’s dogs? Can’t be. That would make no sense; his dogs are very protective of the goats. These are pack goats, and they all go for walks regularly. They’re all friends.
Too big for coyotes and too stalky and brightly colored for wolves. Those dogs have collars! Both of them! Those are not just dogs. Those are someone’s dogs.
Regardless, this has to stop. By the time I have anything like a firing solution on one of them, the other has broken off, and the remaining dog, the one in front of my 38’s muzzle, has paused in the attack. He hesitates, then starts in the direction of the goats again. Rather than shoot, I call out in a rapid, percussive fashion, “Uh uh uh uh uh..!” That usually stops an animal from whatever it’s doing.
That son of a bitch was having a good time! He did hesitate for a bit though. Now I have him. We’re about ten feet apart, he’s in the pen and I’m outside the fence. One goat appears dead and is all bloody, and another is down and bloody, but alive. Several others are on their feet, but have obviously been wounded. I have a perpetrator dog in my sights, 38 in one hand, flashlight in the other.
We were looking one another in the eye and I have a perfect, broadside shot. Easy.
Shoot or don’t shoot?
I didn’t shoot. My thoughts were on the fact that, at the very moment, there was nothing to “stop” exactly. I was inside city limits where gunfire would certainly wake up several households, and possibly get me into legal issues. Whose dogs are these? In my mind I ran through these factors several times, as though in circles, and never arrived at an answer. For certain, if that dog had displayed the slightest aggression toward me, or the goats again, or so much as snarled, I’d have killed it.
The dog looked at me with a satisfied grin, eventually turned, walked back, squeezed through a hole they’d broken into the fense, and disappeared into the darkness.
I called the owner of the goats, he called the local police, they came over for a description of the dogs (we’d had a very good look at them, and my particular interest in the collars came in useful) and that was that.
I’d told the police chief that I was a split second away from killing at least one of the dogs, but had paused in part because of it being inside town and all. He assured me that it would probably have been fine.
“Yeah, you said ‘probably’ and that’s the point…”
“No, I’m telling you it would have been perfectly OK.”
Alright then. 20/20 hindsight in the light of day after having had conversations about it with several people. I sort of felt bad for letting them get away.
So far, two goats have died. Those are trained pack-goats too. Not easily replaced.
Later, the goat keeper sent me a text saying the police had found the dogs and their owner. VERY good! Excellent! Hopefully the dog owner will do the right thing and make good with the goat keeper without a lawsuit. Now I don’t feel so bad about letting the dogs live, though I believe it would have been a kindness to the dog owner if I’d killed them on the spot– now he’ll experience the protracted anguish of waiting for the court order to have them put down.
Talking to my son about it later, he described his experience of heading out to investigate as first responder, seeing the dogs attacking, starting to act, then realizing; “Wait, what if the dogs attack me?” That was the genesis of “Dad! Got a gun?”
In his case, self defense was a legitimate consideration. When I came out armed however, the issue of self defense never even occurred to me. It was about stopping an attack to save the goats.
I had the luxury of considering all those other factors without the distraction of considering my own safety. That’s the difference between being armed verses not.