I have lived with Shepherds pretty much my whole life. I just love their style. They are easy to train, loyal and they come equipped with a built in security system. I have spent many nights sleeping soundly in the backcountry with my dogs knowing that if I NEEDED to be awake - they would sound the alarm.
At 4am on June 29th 2017 that particular security system was tested...
June 29th, 2017 was an important day for a lot of reasons. It was my wife's birthday. It was also her due date as she was 9 months pregnant with our first kiddo.
Back then, we lived off the grid in a 30' yurt. Access to this home was ATV/Hike only for over a 1/4 mile. One of the things I miss most about living there was the quality of sleep. Deep in the mountains, a wood stove for warmth and the sounds of the outdoors not blocked, but more muffled, through the insulated fabric walls of our round home. It was remote, quiet and peaceful.
This one night in particular was no different. The whole pack was knocked out sound asleep to the lullaby of the outdoors and wood heat...
That is until Liesel started a low growl at 4am... Now this wasn't an all out bark. Not yet. Being a GSD Liesel barks frequently...and as her human I have become a connoisseur to the subtle differences in her barking dialect. For example: Barking at a bite sleeve sounds very different when compared to her barking at a burnt stump we may come across in the backcountry that apparently doesn't look quite right to her... So in the middle of the night, breaking the silence, when she started to growl and chuff I immediately noticed a difference - she was cautiously skeptical. It was just enough for me to wake up with heightened senses and hear the deep breathing outside...
Now, my wife and I had been living in this yurt for over 2 years. We knew there were bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wolves etc in our 'backyard' but with a brigade of sheps patrolling around we never actually saw much. I heard a mountain lion once down by the creek but Rumble and Liesel made quick work of running the cat off. Otherwise, our backcountry yurt life was pretty peaceful. So when I heard breathing just outside the fabric wall of our yurt, 3 feet from my face, sleepiness washed away immediately and I shot up on alert. I quietly felt for my phone in the dark and switched on the flashlight to see Liesel standing on the edge of my bed staring straight at the wall tuned intensely to the deep breathing outside.
Admittedly, I got pretty excited. 'FINALLY!' I thought, 'I am going to get to see a bear back here!' I gently woke up my pregnant wife...'Caitlin' I whispered, 'I think there is a bear right there,' gesturing to the wall next to our bed. She shot up. Now, the whole family (including my other 2 shepherds) were all awake and quietly focused on the wall 3 feet from our bed. Mind you, this wall, although super strong, was composed of fabric and lattice...components that you start to question when that is the only barrier between you and a sizable, deep breathing X factor at 4 am in the Montana backcountry. 'I need to check this out!' I whispered half nervous/excited. As I made my way to the door Caitlin made a few merited statements about my mental stability for wanting to go outside...I grabbed the .357 revolver off the wall and slowly opened the door...
I held the gun up in front of me with my cellphone light in the other hand...I inched my head outside and peered slowly around...nothing. I took a couple steps out onto the deck and leaned around to get a view of the area just outside the bed where I heard the breathing. My brain was prepared for a bear and that is was I was looking for. As my eyes adjusted in the dark I could easily make out the deck, the yurt and what looked like a couple logs that seemed to be leaning against the wall just outside my bed...then it donned on me...
'HOLY COW A MOOSE!' I shouted leaping back. Turns out, what I thought were a couple logs was actually the backside of a giant bull moose. This monstrous animal had quietly walked over my bear fence and was pretty much leaning against the yurt...just chilling...until some pistol wielding bozo in his underwear shouted the above statement.
Needless to say we were both startled. We simultaneously jumped...I went back a few feet to block the doorway to keep the dogs from running out (moose have no problem fighting back against dogs and those huge hooves can be deadly) and he turned sideways showing off his true size illuminated now by the lights from the yurt Caitlin turned on.
'WHOA Caitlin you have to come out and see this!!!' Now let me paint this scene. There I am, standing in the doorway in my underwear holding a revolver and a cell phone for light and just outside the door (like 10 feet) is a huge bull moose just staring at me. She said, 'Are you crazy I am 9 months pregnant I'm not coming out there! There is a huge moose and you have a loaded pistol I can read the headlines now...'
***Note - I will always be the first to say I 'married up'. My wife definitely gets the intelligence badge in our marriage as illustrated by the above conversation. Not to mention she is an attorney that completed law school while living off the grid in a tent in the woods...
Anyway, moments passed and the moose, keeping a close eye on me, slowly walked away.
The next day Caitlin went into labor. Not wanting to get on the ATV - she walked over 1/4 mile out of the woods to our truck (this was our commute to our vehicle back then see photo below).
I rode out with the pups and over night bags. Not long after our first child,Ember Alice, was born.
Over the next week Caitlin and Ember recovered in the Hospital while family helped us begin to move into our new home across the valley. Our family and the business was expanding and we needed more room :) ...The night of the moose was the last night we slept in our off grid yurt home. A fitting end to an adventurous era.
We later looked up the symbolism of seeing a moose and found sentiments like this:
"To dream of this animal in its natural habitat means you can expect a beneficial change of circumstances coming your way now'.
How perfect is that? And forget dreaming of a moose in its natural habitat...thanks to a talkative little German Shepherd we lived it.