The phone rang on what seemed to be an ordinary Wednesday night.  Seeing a Colorado area code, but ever leery of telemarketers, I picked up the phone.


“Leslie, it’s Susan, your neighbor.  I’m kind of freaking out.  I let Finn out in the yard and I can’t find him.”

This started an all too familiar story in the mountains.  I got my car and flashlight and slowly drove Cougar Run, looking for the glint of an animal’s eyes.  Desperately hoping I would find him and bring him back home to a happy Susan.

The task is made even more frustrating by the fact that Finn, like many old dogs, has lost his hearing.  So I can’t even call out his name to lure him over to the car.

I’m still hopeful though, as a couple of months ago when Bryon and I came home one night, we found him wandering down Cougar Run having slipped through the gate to his fenced in yard.

Bryon comes home and joins me in the hunt.  We drive Ridge Road east past the Summer Road, and make loops on Cougar again.  Looking in the woods, along the road — hoping, hoping.  I check in with Susan.

“Susan, did you find him?”

“No, but I’m going to keep looking.”

At some point, Bryon and I give up the search, still hoping he may find his way back.

But the next day, he still hasn’t turned up, and inevitably thoughts turn to bleaker outcomes.

It’s funny, because just last month a friend of mine from Nederland told me how his old dog wandered off one night.  He had greatly deteriorated and he was convinced his dog had gone somewhere to die.  A week later, the neighbors found him dead next to a nearby creek.

While I commonly have heard of cats disappearing to some secret place to die, I had never heard of this with a dog.  I wandered if this is what happened to Finn.

But the other thought that comes to mind is much more gruesome.  Finn is a small terrier, less than 20 pounds, and it’s hard not to think of some wild animal getting to him.  Our woods are filled with foxes, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions.  I’ve heard horror stories of mountain lions snatching dogs right from their backyards, just feet from their house.  And wild cats are particularly active at night, when their prey can’t see them coming.

A couple years after we moved to Nederland, I walked the dogs one night on the east end of Ridge Road.  I figured with three of us, we made enough of a pack to ward of a lion attack.  A woman stopped her car to talk with me.

“Hi, we’ve just moved here and are new to the neighborhood.  Can I walk my dogs with you?”

“Sure, I’ll wait here for you to go get them.”

She came out with two small dogs, one a Chihuahua, that looked to be five pounds soaking wet.  The other was a MinPin, of about 15 pounds.  I had my two 60-pound dogs with me, and see they were off leash, she unleashed her dogs.  The Chihuahua started to lag behind.

“You might want to keep a close eye on that dog.  There are a lot of wild animals around here.”

All I could think of is how much a coyote or even a Great Horned Owl would love to feast on that dog as an hors d’oeurve.

My neighbor’s dog disappearing makes me even wary now.  Though our dogs are larger, I still worry about their well being, especially after dark.  Now, I don’t even take a chance.  I leash them, staying with them as they do their doggy business before we go to bed.

The mountains can be very dangerous for our 4-legged loved ones.