Marolt: Close encounters of the natural kind
I know it was him. I’ve seen him a half dozen times before. He roams the shale slope at the entrance to the neighborhood. I have thought him arrogant as he saunters between juniper and sage. He’s bigger than average. Maybe that’s what led to my impression. From the car or standing at the bus stop my guess was that he was about 50 or 60 pounds. Now I know he’s all of that.
It’s not like he’s the only one around. They are all over the place. You hear them howling often at what seems like the times just after you have fallen asleep, when their menacing moans become part of your dreams before reality catches in your mind.
Sometimes they attack earlier. I assume that’s what they are doing. To hear them yelping stirs something instinctual. You know you are safe from them, but it gets your attention.
The puppy likes to go out on the second-floor deck when they get going. He howls back at them and they answer, I’m nearly sure. I don’t see how he could know what they’re up to as he doesn’t run in that crowd, but you never know with nature.
At the beginning of the trail behind the neighborhood, there is a pile of bones. There’s a jaw with teeth still in it. There are some ribs. There are some leg bones. It’s probably what’s left of a deer or maybe a young elk. It never occurred to me that the carcass was once his prey. There’s a pile of fur a little further on — just fur, nothing else. It had to have been a small-boned creature. You don’t want to think of a house pet, even though, if you had money on your guess, that is what you would say.
It all makes sense when you think about it after the fact. Just the day before, my eight-month-old pup and I had a great hike up there. So lighthearted was the occasion that I posted an Instagram of him sitting there looking cute in front of the sun-basted, snow-covered mountains with a silly caption having to do with a John Denver song. We were on the way home when he discovered the meadow below the worn but never-used tack barn.
The grass is just sprouting, and it looks like a gigantic manicured park. He just took off and ran — zigging, zagging, but never stopping. It was like he had never run before, or like he had never seen such a wide open space to just open it up to see what he could do. He didn’t run out of gas for 10 minutes. It was a long time to smile and laugh to myself.
Of course we had to go back the next day. It wasn’t like before. There was new snow in patches, and the skies were gray. I walked, and he did wind sprints in and out of the brush, never more than a few yards from me. He’s curious but cautious; he never seems to want to be too far from me. I see where the yo-yo trick of “walking the dog” comes from — first in front, then behind, always back to my side between direction changes.
I wondered if he would remember the meadow, and he did. He anticipated it and ran toward it sooner than he had the previous day. He was even crazier-excited and soon out of my sight. In that state, my voice wouldn’t register with him. I hurried to catch up to where I could track him.
As I got to a point where I could see the entire meadow and him racing around in it, I relaxed, and the big coyote flashed out of the brush on a direct line toward my pup. I’ve never seen one in attack mode and was shocked at how fast it moved.
I just started screaming and running and screaming some more. Wes stopped what he was doing and saw the coyote coming at him. He got in full flee mode and was tearing up turf to get back to me. The coyote stopped. Apparently he hadn’t seen me as I was so far behind when he was stalking Wes. Startled, he bolted back into the brush from whence he appeared. I got my pup back on his leash. Hearts pounding together, we passed a hundred yards below the beast sitting right there in the open, eyes never off us.
That was our formal introduction. Looks like we’ll be neighbors for a while.
Roger Marolt was aware of the possibility of encountering a bold coyote in his backyard, but thought the odds were slim. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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