One day last week I was scheduled to install some woven wood shades in a cabin in the Tahoe City area of Lake Tahoe.
I was told that a key would be left under the mat by the front door and I was to let myself in, install the shades, and then lock up again leaving the key under the mat where I had found it.
The neighborhood is an older area where some of the houses are identified by the lot numbers that were used before house numbers were assigned, some have the newer house numbers, and - just to keep things interesting - some have both. The numbers can jump around following no apparent pattern. It is quite possible to get confused and end up at the wrong house.
On this particular day everything seemed to go without a hitch. I was able to drive directly to a house that had the right number showing. The house was located on a corner lot as expected. Then I noticed the front door had no mat. Instead it had one of those metal grates that are often built into the porches in this area for the purpose of allowing people to easily clean the snow from their boots in the winter. There was a small piece of red fabric sticking out of the corner of the grate, and when I pulled on it up popped a key. I was in!
That's when I heard the dog.
Right on the other side of the front door was a very unhappy sounding dog. When I walked back off the porch to double check the house number the barking stopped, but every time I approached the door the dog would start in again letting me know that he really wanted to have me for lunch.
I tried to call the woman who sold the job in order to verify the details about the location of the house but all I got was her voicemail. I knocked on the door - nobody answered - except the dog.
Almost everything about the house seemed to fit the description I had been given. The number was right. It was a corner lot. There was no door mat, but there was a key. The house was supposed to be unoccupied, but there wasn't supposed to be a dog. Now what?
That's when I heard the neighbor laughing at me.
It turns out that a bear had recently broken into this house searching for food and in the process had caused quite a lot of damage. The owners, who are absent most of the time, had invested in an electronic watchdog that is triggered by anyone (or anything) approaching the front door.
I quickly unlocked the front door and stepped inside, mostly to escape the undisguised glee of the neighbor. There on the floor was a small speaker that continued to threaten me with dismemberment until I yanked it's power cord. The rest of the job was uneventful and the "dog" didn't bark at me again until I plugged it back in just as I was preparing to leave.
I don't know how well that gadget would work on a hungry bear, but it sure fooled me.