A few weeks ago, our dog Brady had his first close encounter with a bear. From the moment we stepped out the garage door, Brady was on high alert. His nose was pointed in the air, and our scheduled potty break was the furthest thing from his mind.
When we finally spotted the bear–less than 100 feet away, just across the parking lot–Brady went from high alert to red alert. Every muscle in his body stiffened, his hackles rose, and he started barking in the deepest voice I’ve ever heard him use.
I tried to drag him back toward the garage door. His feet were firmly planted, and his sturdy Cattle Dog body didn’t want to go anywhere.
I was in flight mode. I wanted out of there, and out of there fast.
Liesl was even closer to the bear. Calmly, and with a loud, deep voice, she shouted it at the bear, telling it to go away. She was also slowly backing up, though I couldn’t tell in my highly anxious state.
The bear soon decided it had had enough of all that barking–human and canine–and it took off into the woods.
When I had time to think about it, I realized that my instincts are those of a prey animal–run, run, run without thinking, and run fast. And my instincts were exactly wrong in that situation.
Those of us who back down from a fight have one kind of wisdom. Those who stand strong, those who defend their territory with full voice, have another kind of wisdom.
Most of us are a mix of predator and prey. Those who are mostly predator have little respect for others, and those who are mostly prey have little respect for themselves.
The key is to balance those two instincts within ourselves. It can be good to be peace-loving, like a prey-animal, and it can be good to be fierce, like a predator.
Brady was fierce, to protect his family (Liesl and me). Liesl was fierce, to protect me and Brady, but also to protect the bear (so that it wouldn’t get shot by Fish & Game). I wanted to run, so that no one would get hurt.
Life sends us teachers, if we pay attention. I’m grateful for the lessons learned from the three predators I encountered that day–Liesl, Brady and the bear.