Ever wonder how your characters feel after you've put them through car chases, murder attempts, and various/sundry other calamities? Well, as of this AM, I've developed the Amazing Adrenaline Simulator to help you get a feel for it.
First, you'll need two dogs (most will do, but mid-sized terrier mixes preferred; feel free to borrow my two), a fenced back yard, and a hopelessly-trapped member of the local wildlife community.
It helps if it's about 6:20 AM, just getting light, your dogs wake you from a sound sleep, and you stumble out in your night shirt and fuzzy slippers, your half-awake brain cells reminding you of the mess you had to clean up when you ignored their whining the previous morning.
As the dogs explode out of the back door, you notice that instead of one of the gray squirrels that frequently taunt them and seem to enjoy the chase before invariably escaping, the beasts are zigzagging through (and shredding) plantings in hot pursuit of an absolutely panic-stricken nine-banded armadillo.
Now, for those of you who don't know it, armadillos are nearly blind, dumb as posts, and known for two things around these parts: the long, sharp claws they use for excavation and seriously bad rep for carrying diseases. But not just any diseases; we're talking rabies and (wait for it) leprosy (yikes!) which they've been known to pass on to human beings who come into contact with them.
The armadillo runs faster than you might think, but not faster than the usually-benign dogs, who are tag-teaming the poor thing with savage, silent glee. (Too caught up in the kill to bark. Wow.) Running toward the fray, you start screaming at them (thinking of the gi-normous vet bill from hell this will likely result in): "Leave it! Leave! No! Bad dogs!" but they are hearing nothing but the panicked scrambled. Potted plants are knocked assunder, bushes are snapped, and just as the armadillo seems to have a shot of getting out (it had to've gotten in somehow), one of the dogs grabs it by the tail and holds on tight, then drags it back into the open, where the two cooperate to flip it over. (Even mutt terriers have some kind of instinct for this.)
The armadillo briefly escapes and determines that you offer the Path of Least Resistance. It scrabbles over your bare feet and ankles. (What the heck happened to those slippers?) Several times. You grab the larger, stronger dog with one hand, but alas, the other arm is broken, leaving the other dog free to C-R-U-N-C-H.
The sound of canine teeth against that chitinous shell is too much. Screaming "NOOO!" and feeling a surge of pity for the poor, terrified armadillo (which probably just gave you some biblical plague disease destined to make various body parts rot off) you loose your grip on the other dog, and the mayhem starts all over. And goes on for God knows how long.
Much chasing, barking, and shouting ensue, but you're committed now to preventing the inevitable carnage. You wade in, wondering if your own animals -- as in a dogfight -- will turn and bite your face off. Everything seems crystal clear and decision making (not always the best decision-making, either) happens at lightning speed. Saying screw-it to the broken arm, you manage to grab a collar in each hand, then somehow get both collars in the good one and drag them, muddy paws and all back into the house...
Where you sink to your knees, shaking so hard your movements lose all coordination. Feeling sick to your stomach, you huddle, looking at the dogs (no visible blood, but you never know with all that hair) but unable to move for minutes that seem like hours, you finally manage to get up and call your husband and blubber out a story so disjointed that he immediately ditches his golf plans and rushes home, fully expecting to find all manner of carnage.
It takes more than twenty minutes to stop shaking, about the same for the nausea to calm down. About that time, you start to feel the scratches and bruising on your own ankle (from one of the dogs, you're pretty sure) and the throbbing protests of your arm for your abuse of it.
If all this sounds like way too much trouble, you may just want to take my word for it. An adrenaline rush is far more potent and debilitating than it is in books and movies. And regardless of the cause, from a slasher coming after you with an axe or your dogs scrapping with an armadillo (this sounds so very Hee Haw, doesn't it?), your body will react in exactly the same way.
Note: This all happened a few hours ago. Miraculously, the dogs weren't hurt (unlike the oppossums and racoons around here, armadillos rarely bite), the armadillo survived (probably sore from its mauling but essentially intact thanks to its hard shell) to dig its way out of the yard (we think it pushed in beneath some wire in one spot, but because the wire had bent in toward the yard, it couldn't leave that way) and I'm fine, after a shower with plenty of soap, peroxide, a thick slathering of Neosporine just in case, and a couple of Aleve.
All in all, this turned out to be less trouble than the Zippy vs. skunk fiasco (after which she ran inside and rolled all over everything, from the carpets to my bedding) but this was much more dramatic.
Thank God my son wasn't there with a camera, or this episode would already be up on Youtube.