PFHQ sits smack in the middle of 10 acres of Florida oak and palm hammock, and those 10 acres are just one small piece in a much larger forest owned by other folks.
We'll call them "neighbors" although I hardly ever hear or see any of them.
Point is, PFHQ is no island.
Lots of wildlife move under, through, and over the patchwork of fences that delineate our little human kingdoms.
Most of that wildlife is welcome here, and those that aren't are not summarily executed...even the dangerous ones.
Over 30 years, I've taken the time to move coral snakes and even a rattler to bigger, safer, wilder places...like our 20 acre pine plantation a few miles from here.
I've taken in less dangerous refugees too and released them here at PFHQ.
You walk a fine line when you try to live and let live with rattlesnakes though. Mostly, I never see them. Yet, I know my 10 acres is ideal habitat for them with a mix of open and forested land, a pond, palmetto patches, and gopher tortoise burrows.
Last year, I found a 5 foot freshly shed diamondback skin draped over saw palmetto fronds ... it was still moist.
Not counting the pygmy rattler I relocated last year, it has been years since I've come across a rattlesnake on the property.
He's also dead.
We have 2 Labs, Bear and Coquina.
The dogs and I walk our woodsy trails multiple times each and every day.
I always walk them on two 15 foot retractable leashes because the property is not perfectly fenced and they are big powerful dogs who I would never catch if they gave chase to the deer that frequent PFHQ.
Plus, if they were roaming about during the warm months, unsupervised, they could easily come across a diamondback in the scrub or a moccasin by the pond.
Bear has a particular peculiarity that adds a little more danger to this scenario.
He is the most private pooper I have ever seen. Coquina will drop a load just about anywhere away from the house, but Bear ALWAYS has to go behind a tree, a bush, or most scary, into the palmettos to poop usually with his back to me.
Never had a dog that was such a shy shi... well, you know.
So, he basically goes into the most likely rattlesnake places each time he poops. I use the leash to limit how far into the bush he goes for his constitutional.
I was home sick with a nasty sore throat and cold today, so we took more walks than normal. On our midday walk, Bear stopped to investigate a tiny clump of brush. Coquina carried on down the trail just a bit until the two of them had me straight armed like a cross with Coquina ahead and Bear behind.
I told Coquina to stay and turned to urge Bear to come on.
As I did, He jumped back and the buzz of a diamondback filled the air. Curious, he stepped forward, ears up, as the snake buzzed and struck.
The snake missed, partly because Bear had not regained his original position and partly because I came close to jerking Bear's head off via the leash.
It was WAY too close.
Ahead of me, Coquina heard the commotion and dashed back to Bear's side, so now I had both of them in the danger zone.
Luckily, Bear responded to "LEAVE IT!", (thank you Petsmart, puppy obedience school!)
I checked Bear thoroughly while the snake continued to buzz, and then ran them both back to the house where I checked him over and over again for any signs of a hit.
There was none and he was his usual frisky self at post walk treat time.
About 15 minutes after getting him back to
the house ... AFTER I was sure he was fine,
I went back into the woods with my Glock and located the snake. It was about 10 feet from where we had encountered him.
I wasn't in "live and let live" mode ...
Like the human death penalty laws, this wasn't about justice or prevention, it was about vengeance.
Simple angry vengeance.
The rattler had only done what instinctively, (and I would argue innocently) all rattlers do in defense, ... I know that. The rational me knows that.
I just wasn't in a rational mood at the moment.
Tonight, I can lie on the floor in the living room and rub this sleepy face,and more so than usual, I know how special that simple pleasure is.