They had heard the howling of the wolves in the evenings so they took care to put the sheep with their lambs into the barn at night. Some of the neighbors, who also had sheep, had already had the misfortune of losing a few sheep to some hungry wolves.
Linda and her siblings had each chosen a lamb for their 4-H project and looked forward to the money they would earn from the sale of their sheep later in the year at the fair.
One night the howling seemed closer than usual, and Shep began barking. She sprang from her bed and quickly got dressed in the jeans and heavy denim jacket she'd worn earlier during the day. She pressed her feet down into her knee-high rubber farm boots, grabbed a flashlight and ran toward the barn.
The Australian shepherd who had been sleeping beside her on the bed raced ahead of her while her brother and sister slept in their rooms. Shep was what is called an Alpha male and not a meek dog in any way. Life was an adventure for him, night or day.
It was hard for Linda not to feel a sense of fear in the dark at night. The flashlight had a way of making the shadows feel more encroaching upon her. All of a sudden, out of the corner of her eye she saw something spring from the hayloft to the ground about 30 feet in front of her and disappear around the corner of the barn into the darkness.
She'd only caught sight of the animal's tail which was enough for her to know it was a cougar. She had to remind herself that the cougar was probably more frightened by her unexpected presence than she was of this feline prowler.
She hurried on to see if all the sheep were alive in their pen. She counted them several times to make sure. She inhaled deeply and let out her breath slowly, feeling grateful she had been awakened by the wolves. Who knows which of the lambs a hungry cougar would have chosen.
When she turned to head back to the house, she shown her flashlight around thinking she would see her dog exploring the barnyard, but she didn't see him. She called his name a few times, but it was to no avail. "That crazy dog! Doesn't he know how much I need some sleep? Well, at least the wolves have quieted down now."