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The unexpected twists and turns of a life well lived

August 22, 2009

Last Sunday, I was up at 6 a.m. and was walking the dogs by about 6:30 a.m. Since I purchased the kennel, they spend their nights in the garage and then their days in the kennel so they can absorb some sunshine and have fresh air.

They are our babies, as most of you understand, and for those who do not, how much you miss. The poor dears had some cedar chips in their Puppy Chow. Yes, I know they are elderly fellows. On the people scale, Puppy, our 15-year-old, should be gone by now, but they can handle the small bits of Puppy Chow better.

Outside on a quiet Sunday morning, I was donned in my fuchsia raincoat (pink for you guys), crocs, pink capris, and in my hand, I held my 38 pistol. I really want a pink one, but my boys told me that was "out of control on the pink thang" and not going to happen. Also, I had in my pocket my phone, 'cause these days ya just never know, and my ... get this: pink camera.

Lucky the Golden Retriever did not want to stay inside. While I was coaxing him and trying to keep him in the kennel, my eyes saw movement. Lo and behold, behind my daughter's blue Chevy Cavalier, she walked. No, not my daughter. It was Lilly the Mountain Lion sauntering up the grass as if she owned the place.

I was shocked and frozen once again. She has a way of doing that to me.

I shook my head, and reminded myself to turn on my camera. Slowly lifting it I felt my heart beating a bazillion beats a minute. I know I'm exaggerating, but my heart was literally hurting.

Knowing the importance of the picture, I tried so very hard to get a good one. I was only about 40 feet from her.

Evidently from Lilly's standpoint, I was not even worth bothering with and probably looked like a giant pink powder puff or something because she totally ignored me and slipped behind the sparse woods beside my house. The kitten cougar, aka Freaky, lopped behind her and all of the sudden would pounce and play and then resume the lopping/sauntering like his momma. To my surprise, another kitten followed them. And here I hadn't known about him/her. Maybe that is why we have over a dozen sightings of the kitten ... there is more than one of them. The baby didn't have a name, so "Freddy/Freda" (if I name them I cope better, remember?) just sauntered behind Freaky who was behind momma and I am standing there trying to get a picture as they waltz off into the woods beside my house.

Stunned, I realized, I am in a dog kennel on a Sunday morning trying to get a picture of a mountain lion for the DNR. My bizarre life. My baby sister, Kathy, dubbed that phrase about me a few years ago due to the twists and turns my life has taken.

I contemplated the danger of taking the dogs back into the garage. Puppy doesn't move very quickly. Go figure. And Lucky was just so "wigged out" and trying to knock me over in order to get out, I decided to leave them in. With the canopy on the kennel, I knew she could possibly get to them, but not as likely as if they were out in the open. I walked stealthfully across the yard holding up my pistol in ready mode. Go ahead and laugh. A middle-aged woman out in the morning dressed totally in pink, and walking in Charlies' Angels mode.

Quickly, I darted into the house and shut the door. I knew better than to run and turn my back.

The adrenaline rush had got me through the moment, but all of a sudden, the reality hit and the tears flowed. Now, I don't mean a giant sob fest. But for a few moments, I wept. Bringing me back to the moment were Lucky's pitiful howls. He was petrified and just wanted out of the cage. I watched from the house and kept going from window to window to catch another glimpse of this frightening, yet beautiful creature.

I contemplated calling the state police because I had already called them and they said they would come if I needed them to. However, I realized that Lilly was probably gone, and it would be too late by the time they arrived.

However, Lucky's protests from the kennel made me wonder. I knelt in prayer. No, I'm not kidding. I need help, and obviously, he is the one to give it to me. I thanked God for his protection and asked for the continued protection until this "situation" gets resolved. After about 30 minutes, I ventured back out and opened the kennel door where both dogs scurried (yeah, I know they're old, but they're not dead yet) into the garage and seemed so very relieved.

I showered, woke the kids, and told them of the events of the morning. They were mortified and made me promise to never "go outside alone" again. Ha. Talk about role reversal.

Another night this week, we had a house full of young people, and it was time to bring the dogs inside. Joe, Kristin and I went outside armed like a militia, shining flashlights all over the land, watching carefully before opening the kennel door.

We made it as far as the patio, and my thoughts were along this line: With all this noise in the house, what animal in its right mind would come around here?

However, when we got to the side garage door, it was locked. The sounds from beside the pool began, a deep growl began ebbing and flowing and I attributed it to my shot nerves and the darkness. I said nothing.

Joe proclaimed, "Do you hear that?"

Kristin said, "Yes, but I was pretending I did not."

"Jimmy!" We all screamed. "Unlock the door."

He ran as fast as his legs could carry him as all the teenagers watched from the windows.

To say it is never boring at our house would be an understatement. Walking out the other evening, our church intern, a 24-year-old preacher, Amos, and my son saw "Freaky." The intern, Amos, could barely believe his eyes.

Walking he and his girlfriend, Whitney, to their car that night, (yeah, I do armed security now) the cat started making its noises. Preacher Amos, said, "Mrs. Wolfe, I have lived in inner city areas where most hated Koreans (he is half Korean) and was held up at gunpoint and beat up, but this is more frightening than anything I've ever experienced."

But they keep coming anyway. The kids and the cats.

It's nothing for there to be a dozen (kids not cats) or more on a weekend night. We love it. The funniest reply to the lion in the woods was my 6-foot, 5-inch nephew, Jonathan. He comes often, but just walks out the door when it is time to go home seemingly unafraid. When I questioned him, his reply was so "Jon."

"If God wants it to eat me, I guess it will eat me."

My e-mail box has been busy as has been my phone ringing since last week's article.

There have evidently been many other sightings of cougars in our area. The most frequently mentioned area was Lower Cheat. I'm not sure exactly where that is, but most of you will know. The other areas mentioned were Dryfork, Mingo Flats, Snowshoe and Canaan. If I'm missing anywhere, please forgive me as I didn't write this down. And so many of you wondered where I live. Drumrolls please. ... You are not going to believe this: Chenoweth Creek Road. And only a little distance from Wal-Mart and Kmart. Hard to believe, isn't it?

Now, I need your help. I have to have a picture of the mother cougar before the DNR will investigate. I am having trouble operating the wildlife cameras and keeping them working. Could everyone with a wildlife camera put them up at this time? Please?

There is a book being written right now, by a former outdoor writer for The Charleston Gazette, and an article in the works for Outdoor Life magazine as well as others by our family friend, Mr. Jim Wilson. He also writes for Goldenseal and Wonderful West Virginia Magazine.

All we need now is a picture. The DNR needs a picture in order to move on this and these fellows would like a picture for their writings. Can you help me out?

Bizarre life aside, I can honestly say I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. We have learned many life lessons about this elusive animal by studying about the life of mountain lions, pumas and cougars, their habits, territories and the huge cat scrape in my flower bed. Talk about hands-on learning.

However, I am now ready for this experience to come to a close. So, as hard as it is for me to ask for help, I am asking.

(Kimberly Short Wolfe, MA, is the grief counselor for Mountain Hospice and a home school mom. Contact:,, or call 304-823-3922, ext. 136.)



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