I was spreading hay for the ponies midday when my young dog started barking. I was pretty sure I knew why. She’s decided part of her mission in life is to herd moose. Sure enough there was one lying down on the south-facing flank of the compost pile, and my dog felt it needed to recline elsewhere. For my part, I was thankful for the fence between us as it watched me continue spreading hay, especially when my dog had succeeded in getting it to its feet and it started moving in our direction!
It occurred to me to wonder whether my newest pony had seen a moose yet and what she might have thought of a wild animal bigger than her. And I wondered what the largest wild animal was that she’d ever seen on the fell in Cumbria. Then it occurred to me that she might not understand the concept of wild animals. Here my ponies know them as the ones who live on the forest side of the fences.
I much prefer encountering moose during daylight hours, especially this time of year when snow covers the ground, making their dark form more obvious. Usually at least I have a little more notice. A few days before, I was walking a pony down the driveway when a cow moose made her presence known, and she had no interest in moving off. My pony and I therefore modified our route instead. I let my pony run up the driveway on her own, and she didn’t veer away from the moose as she passed at a gallop. When I returned up the driveway, though, I did veer away until I realized the moose had finally done the same.
At night I rely on my dogs to tell me if moose are about, and I often have no idea how close or far off they are. I’m most likely to encounter them on the long walk down the driveway to the farthest pony paddock. The walk isn’t leisurely if the dogs are barking since I’m actively processing where the object of their attention is. More often than not, though, it’s a quiet walk.
Moose are definitely bigger than I am and while I’ve never been charged by one, they do charge the dogs who are usually with me, so I always consider myself potentially in danger. For that reason, when I do get to that last paddock at night without an encounter, I feel myself relax. And it seems a special reward for my efforts when my arrival is met with a nicker.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2018
More stories like this one can be found in my book What an Honor, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.