Flo in her later years
As Flo became more socialized, she hunted less and less. Apart from the occasional frog, or the time I found a bloody baby deer skull with tiny antlers, still covered in cartilage and fur, perched proudly in one of my planters—she embraced her domestic dog side. Except for one thing: she hated small yappy dogs. Probably the coy-dog instinct was too hard-wired genetically for her to be able to resist killing a small obnoxious creature. I think she couldn’t—or wouldn’t—distinguish a small domestic dog from a rodent or small game.
The first time it happened (at least while I was present), Flo and I were walking down a remote dirt road in central New Hampshire as an elderly couple walked toward us. They were walking a small, longhaired dog—probably a Pomeranian. When the dog saw Flo it started barking at her in a high-pitched, frantic yip. I felt Flo tense and then silently run at the dog in full kill mode. In a flash, before I could even react, Flo grabbed the dog and shook it like a rag doll, instantly snapping its neck.
The people were screaming, “Lady! Lady! Lady!” I was horrified. After many apologies and negotiating and groveling, that little episode cost me $1500.00. Not that this could ever replace a beloved pet, but this was the price they asked for that breed.
Back in the car, I yelled at her, “Jesus Christ, Flo! What the hell am I going to do with you? You just can’t kill someone’s pet! You do that again and you’re going to be dog meat. I mean it!”
She looked at me serenely, deliberately obtuse. “What? What are you going on about? I thought that was a groundhog.”
More than once, I believe Flo saved my life. When I turned forty, a Mexican shaman woman named Quinn suggested I do a vision quest to celebrate this milestone birthday. She designed it for me. She said I was to do three days in the wilderness with water, but no food, and she allowed me to take a knife, matches for fire—and my dog.
My dog? I said I thought it was pretty unusual for me to be able to take my dog along on a quest that was supposed to be solitary. She agreed that it was—but she said she had seen that my dog was also my spirit guardian and she needed to be there to protect me.
I spent three days deep in the solitary wilderness of coastal Downeast Maine, and it was miserable. At first it was foggy and misty and rainy, as only the Maine coast can be. Then it got humid and the mosquitoes came out in droves. I wondered wryly if the Native Americans of this area, the Penobscot (which means “first light”), had to contend with horrendous mosquitoes on their vision quests. I resorted to rolling “stogies” out of dry oak leaves filled with dry pine needles and “smoking” these cigars, blowing the smoke around my head to keep the mosquitoes away.
On the final night, the mosquitoes were so bad that I dug a body-sized hole in the forest floor with my knife and I buried myself in it. When I woke, it was pitch dark. A light rain had started, and it put out my fire. Then I heard a growl, a low threatening growl very close to my back. All of a sudden Flo attacked whatever it was, and there was a screaming fight between the two animals. They were locked in a ferocious battle to the death. For many minutes, I heard guttural snarls and jaws snapping and screaming and howling—and then nothing.
Then something started walking slowly toward me where I sat trembling in the dark.
Ho…ly…shit. I braced myself for the worst.
Then Flo rested her snout on my shoulder.