His name was Earl. We had shared many quiet encounters. At first, I watched him from my window, soft brown fur, little round ears, thick body, lumbering across the green expanse, poking around for whatever looked tasty- mostly weeds and bits of clover. Some days, I watched from behind the glass and I would see him trundle off with his rolling gait to an unknown destination over the rise, resembling a diminutive construction worker slogging off to work. He made me smile. It was at those times, I thought a little yellow hard hat and tiny lunchbox would have suited him well; he had work to do, but his reluctance for speed told me he was in no hurry to get to it. Sometimes, I would open the back door and step onto my deck. Surprised by my bold appearance, he would scurry to the gap under the shed. Once safely ensconced inside his citadel, he would turn and look back at me, poking his muzzle out from his safe place to watch me, never quite sure of my purpose or character.
It was at these moments I would speak to him in soft tones attempting to reassure him that I meant no harm. His sweet face at once tentative and curious, has become more and more a source of affection for me, and I dearly wished he might one day conclude that I was safe enough to stay out on the lawn to carry on without fear.
I don’t know exactly when the turning point came, but it did. For a few days, I observed him from my chair on the deck as he rambled over the green, stopping to taste a leaf here or there.
It felt good that he was less afraid.
Still, whenever I stood back up to go inside, he would dive under the shed, just in case.
It was only yesterday that brought the change.
I had walked through the garage to the back door there, out to the Adirondack chairs at the side of the house nearest the shed. As I emerged, I saw Earl at twenty feet and he saw me. He didn’t dive into his hiding place, but paused in his activities, to watch me settle into one of the two chairs facing him. I lobbed gentle pleasantries to him while he inched along, going from tuft to tuft, his demeanor now calm and unconcerned. Each time he finished off the best parts of a patch of clover, I watched as he opted to advance a little to the next one, ever closer to where I sat. With each shift in location, he shot me a glance, but came closer nonetheless. It was then, with the closer view of the whole of him, that I realized my little friend Earl was actually an Earlene! For the longest time, I had thought of her as him! My heart warmed with the idea that my little friend was a sister, and I wondered for the first time where her male counterpart might be. She seemed to be living a solitary life as I have been these days, and I felt we were comrades in our way. At some point, Earlene stood up on her hind legs, front paws dangling, head held high, as she seemed to be sniffing the air for danger and contemplating her next move. She held this pose for a while, and resumed her grazing, moving forward until she was no more than eight feet from me. I was stunned. Here was this wild creature, one that had every reason to run, accepting my presence and going about her business. She was quite aware of me, but she had clearly decided that I was not an enemy. She and I watched each other, while all along, she nibbled. It was magical. I knew that she was so close that if she had decided to charge me, I would not have been able to out run her. I have no doubt this was her calculation as well- and I felt honored.
Eventually, she made her way back to a clover patch set at some wider distance. I had waited for this before I dared to make a move. As I stood to go, the spell was fully broken, and Earlene scurried away to a safer spot on the patchy lawn, our shared space, our shared home. From there, she watched as I turned my back and went inside, leaving her, my new friend, my little roommate, to wander as she would.