Usually when I let the dogs out for their last bathroom call they go running straight off the deck towards the back fence. Agatha often runs back there barking her head off, usually when a neighborhood cat has wandered out of the woods behind the fence and into the yard. Agatha chases the intruder back over the fence in no time. A few nights ago when I let her out, she went out barking and running toward the fence, but a few minutes later, I heard her let out a yelp and she came running back to the deck. When I went to let Agatha and Victoria out for their last call at midnight last night, Agatha went running out the back door, stopped dead in her tracks at the edge of the deck, lifted her head and began sniffing the air. She turned straight around and came back in the house. Wouldn't even step off the deck. Victoria didn't even bother going to the edge of the deck, she just turned straight around and came back in. I got the flashlight to see what was scaring her, but couldn't see anything. I could NOT convince either one of them to go out and take care of business. I figured I might have a mess to clean up in the morning, and sure enough, I did.
Tonight when I opened the door, I stepped out with them and could immediately smell something- a musky animal smell. It was a scent I smelled often when we kept chickens in the back yard, and usually was a sign that opossums or raccoons had been around the chicken coop. Then I remembered that when I went to dump some kitchen scraps in the compost the other day, there were scraps on the top of the pile and some deep holes in the middle. I could have sworn that I'd covered up the scraps I'd taken out previously and assumed that some critter had come in from the woods in search of food and had been digging in the pile. Meanwhile, as I pondered this, there stood Agatha, nose up in the air, sniffing. We had a repeat of last night's performance.
But tonight, the critter, whatever it was, didn't hang around, and when I opened the door a half hour or so later, the smell was very, very faint. This time, both dogs went out, sniffed the air, then Agatha went off the deck and took off running and barking towards the fence. She made a couple of passes back and forth, then got down to business, finished up and came back in. Victoria, brave soul that she is, watched Agatha to make sure it was safe to go , then she went off the deck, too.
I'm wondering if Agatha actually had a hostile encounter with a raccoon or 'possum the night I heard her yelp, and doesn't want to repeat the experience. If so, it's probably a wise choice, because I don't think her ten pound little body would scare off either one if they decided to hold their ground, no matter how loudly she barked! Our experience with the 'possum who killed Sam, our rooster, taught me how dangerous a normally peace-loving possum can be when it's cornered and threatened, so I think Agatha and Victoria are wise in their reluctance to tangle with the wild critters that live in the woods behind the fence. Agatha still thinks chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels and cats are worth scaring, though, and thankfully her bark gives them a warning and enough time to scurry out of harm's way.