Tale of Tails: Tino and the Surprise Visitor
One of my more scary stories of Tino has to do with a trip we took many years ago. We are not big travelers and we like to take the dogs with us whenever we take a vacation. Frequently we rent a cabin on Big Bear Lake and it’s a great relaxing time swimming, boating, hiking. We also like traveling north to Santa Barbara and Ojai.
One summer when Sally and Tino were young, we rented a home in the hills of Ojai for a long weekend. We planned to relax, do some hiking, visit with some friends who lived there and lounge by the pool the house offered watching the beautiful ‘pink’ sunsets of Ojai. (Since Ojai is lined up with an east-west mountain range, it is one of few towns in the world to have a “Pink Moment” occur as the sun is setting. The fading sunlight creates a brilliant shade of pink for several minutes on the Topatopa Bluffs, over 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above sea level at the east end of the Ojai Valley)
Steve got stuck at work, and since it was only an hour drive, I drove up in the afternoon with the dogs. The place we rented was maybe a 5 minute drive outside the main street in a sparsely populated section of Ojai. The valley is surrounded by the TopaTopa and Sulphur mountains and is really a beautiful area.
I arrived with the dogs, unpacked the car and set out to explore the acre property. It was supposed to be fully fenced so that I could comfortably let the dogs roam, although I wanted to check the fence line and ensure their safety. The property was very wooded with a small open space by the house and pool. There was a path leading down away from the house, so the dogs and I set out to wandering our temporary home.
There was a neighboring house that I could see through the trees and I figured that’s where the fence line was, so we aimed in that direction. Tino was usually the ‘scout’ on our off-leash walks, out in front seeing what there was to see, scouting. Sally usually wandered slowly behind me taking her time. As we were walking, Tino and Sally were off sniffing and exploring having a grand time. I was enjoying the quiet and solitude. And then I noticed a dog walking parallel to us – he seemed to be walking along the fence line because it was a bit farther down the hill. I knew if Sally and Tino saw him, they would run off to play with their new found friend.
I called to both of them so I could put them back on their leashes. They both started back, but then I saw the dog running and started to get a little nervous. It wasn’t running towards us, just parallel to us, but I knew the movement would attract Tino’s eye, and sure enough he saw it and rather than come back to mom, he decided to go check it out.
I called to him again as I grabbed Sally. I was keeping my eye on the dog so I could judge it’s size and demeanor – it looked like a larger dog – maybe 90lb and maybe a Lab/Pyrenees mix. And then I watched as this dog ran up a tree.
I paused and thought, wait a minute…what…what kind of a dog is that? And then it hit me, that’s not dog, it’s a mountain lion.
I freaked. I had Sally on the leash, but Tino was on his way down the hill to investigate. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go after Tino with Sally, so I ran back to the house, screaming for Tino as I went, but he was in the prey zone and going after whatever that was he just saw. I put Sally in the house and looked around for some kind of weapon. The best I could come up with was a broom. I grabbed it and went tearing out of the house yelling and screaming not knowing what I was going to find when I got back down the hill.
I was watching the trees overhead and the ground below looking for Tino. Luckily I saw him down the hill, sniffing around the very tree that I’d seen the mountain lion run up. He as excited beyond belief…like he would have taken that lion (fat chance). I grabbed him, leashed him up and ran back to the safety of the house as quickly as I could. I saw no sign of the mountain lion…did I imagine it, was it just a cat? No, I couldn’t possibly mistake a cat for a big Lab…
I called Steve, told him to get his butt up there quickly because I was afraid to leave the house now. Then I called my friends who lived in Ojai and they told me that seeing a mountain lion is supposed to be a sign of strength & good luck, so I should consider myself lucky…right. They did talk me in off the ledge though and to say this put a damper on our weekend would be untrue. I settled down pretty quickly and realized that the mountain lion was probably long gone after an hour or so. I was able to sit outside by the pool – with a big glass of wine – and watch the beautiful sunset. And we got another adventure to add to our list of Tino’s Tales.
How about you – ever had a run in with a predator? What did you do?