Although there are signs all along the borders of Saga's park warning people of the presence of coyotes, and even though I have heard them howling at all hours of the day and night, I have never before seen a single one. That is until about twenty minutes ago. I am still shaking. It was a beautiful and frightening experience.
I should have seen it coming. Something was amiss. Saga had her hackles up the moment we left the warmth of the house this morning. She practically tore my shoulder out of its socket as she rocketed toward the park. The flexi-lead let out a distressed hiss as she ran out the entire 25' of line and then the inevitable jerk came as she hit the end of the line.
I reeled her in, trying to calm her. She was implacable. She kept trying to get to the park. Once the park was in site, she started barking at seemingly random points in the distance. Now, in my own defense, none of this behavior was (strictly speaking) really all that unusual. She often pulls on the lead, she often forgets that she can only run so far before she runs out of line, she often barks for inexplicable reasons.
We got onto the path to the lake and headed into the park. Uncharacteristically, she did her business without the preliminary sniffing of every blade of grass in a 50-square-yard circle. She then went back into full surveillance mode. We were walking along the northern border of the lake when I saw the cause of her distress.
The coyote was hunkered down by a bench, eating something. Somehow I had expected them to be bigger than they are. This guy was no bigger than Saga (perhaps it was a juvenile?) and looked to be as startled at our presence as I was of his. His gray coat seemed to glow in the light of the full moon as he sat staring at us.
I've seen her hackles up before, but this time, they were fully extended. She appeared to be twice her normal size. Curiously, the scene from The Gods Must Be Crazy came to mind where the little boy is trying to trick the jackals into thinking he is bigger than they are by holding a big sheet of tree bark up over he head. What else could I do? I was frozen. I was trying to remember what I was supposed to do when confronted by a wild dog.
Saga, on the other hand, took action. She started growling and barking. The ghostly coyote yipped (in surprise?) and picked-up the piece of trash he had been gnawing on. Saga advanced a step. I grabbed the lead, called "No!" and pulled her back to me. The thought that pushed the absurdity of the movie replay from my head was: "Don't coyotes hunt in packs?"
Sure, this guy could be a loner, or perhaps they scavenge singly, but what-ever! We must have been an amusing tableau! The wild dog cowering under a bench with a discarded sandwich (or whatever that was…) in his jaws, Saga snarling and barking, trying to escape her lead, me trying to figure-out whether it was safe to walk away (in all likelihood either dragging or carrying Saga with me).
Luckily, I was saved the decision. The coyote eventually got tired of our company (no – three's a crowd!) and skulked off into the low weeds toward the woods. Saga gave it one last attempt to break free and then satisfied her self by growling at the retreating animal. Eventually, she realized that the entertainment was over and turned to walk home. I swear there was a smug little swagger in her gait as we walked back home!
Wherever you are this morning, I hope you've had an exciting start to your day!
Don Bergquist – February 19, 2008 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA