Monday, June 21, 2010


When we first moved into our house eighteen years ago, we were at the northern edge of development in our little city and very much in coyote territory. Shortly after we unpacked, our beautiful silver tabby, Sterling, went missing. I was distraught. And when I began to question people about possible sightings of her, I was assured that "the coyotes got her." I could barely contain my grief and guilt. It turns out that Sterling was angry about our move and was hiding in a nearby storm drain. After most of a week, she sauntered home in the elegant, nonchalant way of cats and deigned to re-enter our home and nibble at a bowl of cat food.

For several years, our nights were filled with the excited cries of hunting coyotes and the anguished cries of their victims. Driving home late at night, it was nothing to see a coyote or several coyotes trotting down the four lane street close to our home. We were aware that we were living in their territory.

When my beloved Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Champers, became disabled as the result of a dog attack, I had to take him out on the deck to relieve himself and then wash him off. One early morning as I was doing this, I looked up the hill that constitutes most of our back yard, and there was a very sleek looking coyote assessing Champers. I felt no fear. I like to think that my glare was what made the coyote ramble on down the coyote trail at the top of the hill. He clearly had enjoyed easy pickings from among small domestic animals in our neighborhood who were left outdoors unsupervised.

After that, I became less aware of coyote activity.

When I began walking Daphne, our first rescued dog, I saw plenty of neighborhood cats. Daphne did too. So I assumed that coyote days had passed. Even during Zephyr's time with us, the cats were still in evidence. She had her--literal--bete noir, a neighbor's black cat who waited until Zephyr and I made our way toward her house, and then the cat would walk very slowly across the street. Zephyr was perpetually frustrated with my refusal to drop her leash and let her show the cat who was boss.

I assumed that the stable cat population was an indication that coyotes had retreated. Which made sense, because our subdivision had been built out up the slopes of the surrounding hills.

Then, about two years ago, as I was walking Portia and Bingley in the early morning, both dogs went on alert, and there, directly across the street from us was a coyote. For a heart stopping moment one large coyote assessed my two ex-racing Greyhounds. Neither coyote nor Greyhounds uttered a sound. But the Greyhounds won. I swear, the coyote shrugged ever so slightly and turned down a well-worn coyote trail away from us.

What was stunning was the fact that both dogs were calmer in the face of a coyote than they were when we encountered a loose dog.

It wasn't long after wards that signs appeared asking help in finding missing cats and dogs. Zephyr's old nemesis, whom Portia and Bingley also wanted to chase, disappeared.

Coyotes had returned.

I cannot count how many coyote sighting and encounters John, the dogs and I have had the past few months--not just on morning walks, but also just beyond our back fence in broad daylight.

A few days ago two little boys came to my door hoping that I had seen their orange cat. I had seen the cat frequently--weeks and weeks ago. But not recently. This is no neighborhood for indoor/outdoor cats, I fear.

A lady who recently moved in across the street has acquired a cute black cat. I let her know about our coyote sightings. But she seems to think her cat is safe. I see it balancing on the edge of my north fence. Sometimes it invades our back garden, sending Bingley and Magic into paroxysms of barking. I shush them and let the cat go about its business. I figure it won't be around much longer to upset my dogs.

Poor cat.

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