Several months ago, I was at a park near my house with my dog when a woman approached to hand out a flier about coyotes in the area who had been seen at the park and to tell her personal tale of one trying to take her small dog – still on a leash – in broad daylight.
I suppose this is the type of thing that would lead most dog owners to live in fear, but the logical question I asked myself was how starving that poor animal must have been.
Coyotes have been a way of life in Southern California for all of my life, and I can only hope that trend stays the same. While urban sprawl and poison and other extermination programs have struggled to decimate these beautiful creatures off of the face of almost every bit of their natural territory, the coyote has shown a tenacity unlike that of almost any other wild creature and certainly unlike that of any other large predator.
For most predators, when the food sources go, they go. Sure, Southern California will always have mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, opossums, and raccoons, but their numbers in a lot of places have dwindled quite a bit. Controlled extermination and the relentless drive of the bulldozer keeps their numbers in check after the almost complete annihilation of the fox. (Who, I am told, once ran in large numbers at the senior community Leisure World in Seal Beach – and, logically, other areas – until completely eradicated; causing an enormous boom in rabbits. And, although the elderly citizens there petitioned against and succeeded in stopping an extermination program for those rabbits, their numbers have somehow dropped dramatically in the past few years from where you could see five or six lounging on one lawn to barely being able to see one scurry into the bushes on a good day.)
I regularly see opossums and raccoons on evening walks with my dog, who has a tendency to stand on his hind legs and whine up at a tree to “out” them – I’ve no doubt his intentions are good, as I have a cat and kitten and he was raised with ferrets, as well (not to mention the overly friendly squirrel that came up to him, only to be picked up by the neck and immediately dropped without chase), but he gets so excited to see them.
I share my dog’s enthusiasm. I enjoy watching wildlife – everything from crayfish, turtles, snowy egrets, and herons at the lake our condo is built around to opossums and raccoons we sometimes stumble across, at night. And wildlife seems to respect this attitude, for the most part. I remember my dog’s exuberance scaring a mother raccoon and her babies up into a tree. After backing off a fair distance and talking in a soft, soothing voice, she came down and had her babies come down, one by one – the fourth and last, quite slowly, as apparently he didn’t realize going down where you could see the ground from far up was a lot more difficult than going up!
Coyotes, to me, have often been a symbol of undestructable nature. In such an unnatural setting, I find a kind of comfort in this. True, one ate one of my grandpa’s daughter’s cats and the other was found on the roof with his claws shredded and tufts of coyote fur between its paws – but, guess what? Domesticated cats don’t belong outside! They are an enormous threat to wild songbird populations throughout the United States. Almost everyone who has an outdoor cat seems to have a “they can take care of themself” mentality – a mentality, no doubt shared by most people who find their pets run over or eternally missing. But few cats are any contest to a coyote, and we know there are coyotes, here… So all I can conclude is that owners who still let their cats out aren’t that bright or just don’t care.
Lately, my life feels like it just needs some major changes. I procrastinate on these changes. I told myself, this new year, I would get things together. It was a slow start, with a betrayal of a friend online that left me reeling and, more recently, getting sick. This time, I told myself I wouldn’t have a cold for over a month, again. After about a week, it seemed to have cleared up, but then there was a major stabbing pain in my right ear and my throat and head were back to aching as if it had started up again, anew. I found the best way to start again was to force myself to be active, even if it made me cough and that made me tired. No more lying around for hours!
I pushed myself to walk my dog further than I had been since being sick. I knew it was time to turn around at a certain point, not far from the point I would normally walk him – good progress, considering the week before, I could barely bring myself to walk him, at all! I noted this as progress rather than giving up… I began to think about how I needed to rise above whatever pain and excuses I had made up in my life and to stop hoping others could change. The only way I could progress was on my own. I can’t hope someone else will motivate or inspire me. I need to forget about what I left behind and focus on what I deserve. On what others who have supported me deserve. On what my animals that I chose to give a home with me deserve.
I was feeling good about this change, about making myself accomplish things I have needed to accomplish for years, and about understanding that others would try to drag me down, to make themselves feel better or less alone. I was ready to just enjoy the walk part of my walk. My mp3 player randomly selected Bon Iver’s Re:Stacks, and I was briefly transported to the excellent episode of House that had played that particular song: Wilson’s Heart.
And then I saw it.
The coyote pup ran right past us, from a shopping center into a residential cul de sac. It was by no means a tiny, fluffy, bearcub-like baby, but a one and a half foot long, ultralean prototype of its parents; probably about four months old. A rugged little thing, beautiful in its wild and raw simplicity amongst a backdrop of manufactured false beauty, non-native ornamental plants, and personal tanks loitering on driveways of cement no doubt poured over its ancestors’ bodies.
A stubborn little wild stain that no amount of consumerism could quite wipe clean from its yuppie paradise facade. Skimming past near identical homes with trimmed and perfectly manicured lawns – a visual reminder of both what humanity is capable of creating and incapable of entirely destroying.
What a perfect sight! My dog was a bit excited, as if he might get permission to run alongside the little pup, if he just played his cards right.
My sweet dog, who remained so well-behaved and patient as I was sick; sometimes barely being able to even walk as far as the mailbox. If I could make his life better, it stood to reason that I could make my own better, as well.
The coyote will always be wild. You cannot take that from him. He is what he was meant to be. He isn’t ashamed or reserved about his talents or what his presence means for the rest of the world. He is loyal to those who love him and he works for what he needs without complaining. If he doesn’t succeed, he starves. Even if you kill him, he dies, free.
A lot of my life was spent, telling myself I’d be alone. Perhaps someday, I’d be fortunate enough to be stranded on a deserted island or buy a small parcel of land I could essentially disappear in. But I began to realize that some friendships change you in such a way that you will never truly be alone. Now my path through wilderness – whatever its form – will be shared. And I am ready for the responsibility that those relationships brings.
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