Max's bark scared it almost to death, and the poor animal darted off into the vegetation. He wasn't used
to all that natural wildlife, but I knew he was going to love it there as much as I was, if not more. He
barked fiercely, then suddenly bolted through the trees, deeper into the woods, and I guessed he was
chasing the deer. I decided then and there that I'd have to keep him on a leash.
"Max!" I yelled. "Come back!"
He didn't listen.
I glanced back at the house, wondering if I should get my parents for help. The woods and its
inhabitants scared me, but I debated on what I should do. Finally, I decided to just go a little ways into
the woods, but I did—if only for a brief second—wonder what the chances were that I'd run into a bear.
I stepped through the vegetation and took a tentative step. Glancing around, I didn't see Max, so I
called for him a few times, only to get no response. When I heard a bark in the distance, I took off
through the woods that surrounded our property. I pushed aside some green vegetation and glanced
ahead and could finally see my beloved and ornery pet. "Max!" I shouted. "Come back!"
He gave me the dog version of the I-see-you-but-I-don't-care look, then started sniffing the ground.
As I walked toward where he was, I seriously considered obedience classes. A thorn grazed my skin,
and I bit my lip to stave off the pain. I swore I'd never let that cantankerous canine off the leash again.
I stumbled left and tripped over a pile of termite-ridden, moss-covered, rotting logs, then burst
through more towering ferns. Max disappeared into the thick vegetation once again. I couldn't see him
anywhere, but I could still hear him barking. Panting, I spun in a slow circle. I was afraid if I went in any
deeper, I'd get lost, but I couldn't just desert my best friend.
The snap of a twig behind me , followed by the unmistakable crunch of dried leaves, halted me mid
step, and I strained to listen. Was that...Max?
The snap of another twig drifted through the forest.
I peered around the trees and high grass. "Max?" I yelled. "C'mere, boy."
I swept an uneasy glance around the trees, my senses on full alert, and I whistled. "Here, Max!
C'mon, boy. Let's go home."
The singing of crickets and chirping of birds was my only reply.
I jumped, startled, as a sudden flash of tan glinted to my left. I flinched. For a split second, I saw
amber-colored eyes in the foliage. Panic struck me; I was sure it was some kind of wild animal. I worried
that Max might have been attacked, and I knew one bite to the throat might prove fatal. I grabbed a
long, sturdy stick. It wasn't much of a weapon, but I'd be able to poke those yellow eyes out if their
owner came after me.
A menacing growl broke the silence. My heart thudded against my ribcage, and a shiver swept over
my skin. Running after Max had been a dumb idea. My dad had warned me about black bears, coyotes,
mountain lions, and bobcats. He hadn't said anything about tigers, but it was still quite the oh-my
Whatever the creature was that I'd seen, it had already seen me, so I knew there was no use hiding.
I had to call for Max again, as I couldn't possibly leave until I knew he was okay. "Max!" I yelled, pointing
the stick at the eyes peering out from the vegetation, ready to fight with every ounce of strength I had.
Finally, Max burst through the thick plants, and I clutched my heart and let out a sigh of relief when I
saw that he was unharmed. He immediately took a protective stance in front of me and starting
growling and barking at whatever was in those ferns. Given the fight-or-flight choice, I was sure the best
course of action was to slowly sneak backward and get the heck outta there.
When the ferns parted, I gasped. I was face to face with a mountain lion, and when it let out its
bloodcurdling signature roar, my heart began to pound in my chest like a high school marchi ng band.
I turned around quickly, only to bump into a guy who looked to be about my age. He was so
scorching hot that if I had wet my finger with my tongue and touched him, his chest would have