We booked our summer house in Sweden half a year in advance. It was supposed to become a fun vacation and short sabbatical for me to think about my career over.
But when the time to pack come, I had much more to think over as it was planed. The last two and half months before the departure day I spent at home, because I accused a colleague in sexually harassing me, and my employer paid me through this time but asked to stay away from the office.
I was really down as we boarded the ferry in Rostock on Germany’s northern coast. After we arrived at our summer house, I barely left the couch for the next few days. We had no direct neighbors, so I did not have to engage in any small talks for a while.
But then two events waked me up in a way I cannot say was a therapy everybody should go through.
We started our usual evening walk with our dog Missy in the twilight. A narrow path between a field and a foresty ravine led to a village road. We wandered down the road till we reached the nearest house, surely half a mile away from ours.
We turned back to the same path. Since no people were to see or to hear, I let the leash of my dog fall, so she could run around and sniff. It’d got very dark, and we had our headlamps on to avoid twisting a foot.
The path had two turnings. I was nearing myself to the second turning, as Missy disappeared beside the corner. My husband was 20 meters ahead of me and started to call for her. I looked into the ravine and saw her back. She was moving past me, but some 10 meters lower. I stood at the edge of the ravine, which was quite steep, but still enough flat for an active dog to manage the altitude.
I called her too. She was not visible for a second. Then I saw her eyes, shining green because of my lamp, but could not see her body. Suddenly, I heard a bell. That was her aluminum ID mark, hanging on her collar and bumping against the second mark, indicating my phone number and the dog’s name.
I heard the sound, but it was not coming from the animal! The animal was not my dog. I screamed and ran. I was shouting to my husband that we probably met a wolf since the tail that I saw through the darkness from above the edge, was similar to a wolf’s and our dog looks like a wolf a bit.
At the corner, before I was able to turn around it and run to our house, my foot sunk in the soft soil of the field, and I fell on my side. I sprung to my feet, the animal was even closer to me now. Two steps away I turned around to measure the distance between us and to find out, what it was, and if I was going to die.
The animal stood and waited, but as I faced it, it made a notable sound with its paws and headed for the other direction crossing the field. We ran till we’d reached the house and we could not breathe for another few minutes.
For the next two weeks, we dropped the evening walk and only let our dog out for a couple of minutes before going to sleep. We then stood next to the porch door, and my husband was holding an ax all the time. I know, this was silly. We even carried the ax during our daytime rounds in the national park that we prolonged to compensate for the evening tour.
We talked to our landlord, but he said that no wolves had been seen nearby for at least 50 years and that we probably stumbled over a fox. Still, I remembered the sound that the animal made with his paws while running away, and was convinced that it was somewhat heavier.
I started to write a diary to go through the memories I was not able to confront before. I wrote the whole day and then cried.
One day I had an especially bad mood. We drove to the supermarket. This was our only place to see other people during the last four weeks.
My husband saw the deer as it stood next to the road, and slowed down. The animal did, what all wild animals unfortunately do, when they see an approaching car: he started then. He made a first huge jump, bypassing our car successfully, and jumped again. The second car was coming in the opposite direction. It had a small cargo trailer with a back wall. The deer flew above the trailer without touching it, but the wall was too high. It smashed the animal and sent it to the ditch.
I turned around to watch and saw him lying on his back and his legs, twisting in the air.
We moved another ten meters, and I could not hold tears. I needed another minute and a lot of effort to stop wailing. Then we turned and went back to see if it is still alive and can be rescued. We drove by, and I saw that the deer was in the ditch and trying to reach to his possibly broken legs with his snout, maybe to lick them to relieve the pan.
The car that hit the animal was parked alongside the road. A third car stopped on the opposite side, and the driver came out of it. We asked, what they were going to do and whether we could help.
The Swedes told us that they would call a huntsman, who was taking care of this part of the forest and ask him to come. If it made sense to try to help the deer, the huntsman would transport it to the veterinary, but quite probably, he would just end its sufferings.
At the moment our car was driving away I thought about another animal, I left without my help, and I could not stand it.
As I still lived in Moscow, I had to use the subway every day. One evening I walked toward the exit and saw a thick sheet on the floor and a puppy, wrapped in it. It was cold down there, it was minus 20 degrees on that day. I wanted to take it with me, but its appearance told that it was going to grow into quite a big dog. And I still lived at my mom’s place and it was small for us two. No, honestly speaking, I was too coward to take responsibility for a pet and raise a dog and take care of it. I left it there in the subway station, where it was cold, hoping that the sheet is thick enough to keep it warm, till someone would take it home. I hoped that it was going to be someone to take it from the street. The next day the puppy was not there.
I saw the injured deer and thought back on the small dog I left there that may have died because of my irresponsibility and refuse to risk my comfort. I thought about my own dog and that I would not wish it being left on the street without help.
I regret even yet that I did not pick that other dog. I will never forget it and the deer in the ditch, struggling to its feet. Big luck it did not manage to stand up, otherwise, it would have walked days through the forest before facing its end.
After a while, we gave up taking the ax on the walk. Our dog tried to hunt deers, hares, pheasants, and even tractors. I got another adrenaline shock, as she ran to the moving machine for whatever reason. Another time she spotted a deer in the thick bushes, and it almost bumped into me, but I was noisy enough to make it aware of me and flee.
I found lots of animal hints on the soil near our place. Big and small hooves near the corner, where we met the “wolf”. Most probably, wild pigs with their newborns. During the time, when the babies are too weak to run fast, wild pigs tend to attack humans. I am glad, we had not met any.
This was unusual for me to think about nature as something hostile. But then it became clear to me that I could either stay on the couch to hide from the dangers or go out and try to enjoy the moments that were left to me.
I started to contact people I’d sent no messages for years, just to check, how they are doing during the pandemic, and whether they are fine generally. Life got value.