But not my dogs.
I doubt that I am special, nor are my dogs. We are lucky enough to dwell on the edge of the high desert, where going primal only requires a tug on the gate latch. But coyotes are everywhere, patronizing convenience stores on Chicago’s Miracle Mile and pupping in New York’s Central Park, not just the wild side of our world.
So why does it seem we’ve had more than our fair share of close encounters? Or have we?
Yesterday was a wake-up call, getting me ready for this hunting season. I was goofing with my new Garmin Astro GPS, when I heard an otherworldly series of barks. I knew they were canine in origin, but the cadence, pitch, frequency were all a bit unnatural. Exactly 145 yards to the south (thanks Garmin), my dog heard them too … because they were coming from about 148 yards! A quick yell, couple whistle toots, and Buddy was by my side, safe and sound. Suffice it to say, this morning we took a different route.
Live and let live. Mosta the time. But there is a line in the sand of my desert backyard.
That eery, sorta-dog sound makes my hair stand on end, because I’ve seen what comes next: one, maybe two coyotes invite your hunting partner to “play,” moving enticingly and puppy-like, away from you, your gun, your sphere of influence. They’ll romp, jog a bit, then turn and yip, inviting your guy to c’mon along for all the fun just over the ridge.
Once, years ago, I heard the most pitiful howl and thought my dog had been caught in a leg-hold trap. (Amazing how fast your mind can jump to the worst-case conclusion in a micro-second.) As I leapt the barbed-wire fence to rescue him, he trundled up behind me. In front of me, a pair of coyotes jogged off, busted. The scar on my palm is a constant reminder of their cunning.
I’ve watched them silhouetted on the high points of a bowl, howling in unison to my dog staked out in the bottom. Watched them on the edge of a puddle of yard light, gleefully urging a pup to join them in the dark just beyond. Their unearthly calls are a top-ten selection in the high desert musical repertoire, always sounding as if they are under your bedroom window. Last season one breasted a ridge so fast and focused at my pup, streaking within ten yards of me. He didn’t even look when I yelled – completely fixated on the young dog. I let loose with both barrels. He rolled, then took off at warp speed.
There was some remorse at shooting him with bird loads, but it was all I had. And I wasn’t going to stand by and wait for the chilling conclusion. What would you have done?