Friday, June 13, 2008


Janka and her friends were having a blast on their usual hike on the hump of this week when we encountered a pair of coyotes as we were heading home, not 1/3 of a mile from the main road.

There is a long slope leading down to a drainage ditch before facing a steep
climb again that eventually ends at a concrete pavement. We were contentedly tired from our walk as we turned from the trail and headed towards the field that leads to the valley.

Apparently the coyotes spotted us long before we realized they were there, blending in beautifully with the golden hills. We still would not have noticed them if Levi had not suddenly taken off in hot pursuit of one of them as we started our journey downhill.

We were so focused on recalling Levi while keeping an eye on the girls that it took us a moment to realize there was another directly behind us, barking and yodeling.

Although no altercation took place between wild and domestic dogs, it was still a harrowing experience. While Levi - normally the most obedient of the trio - threw all lessons to the wind, we were fortunate that the girls decided to behave and stayed close after a curt command from us. When Levi finally returned, we gathered our dogs and headed toward the road, slipping on loose soil and rocks as we hurried down the slope.

The coyote behind us was extremely bold, trotting directly behind us with decisiveness. It was not put off when I stood my ground and yelled at him
, waving my arms high in the air. It paused long enough for me to take a picture, howling and yipping intermittently, his beautiful amber eyes locked on mine. He was so close, I could pick out the plush tawny-gray fur, highlighted with russet in the setting sun.

As I fumbled for another picture with an impatient 8 month old pup tangling my legs with her leash and my friend (who had already crossed the ditch and scrambling uphill) yelling at me, the noise & motions broke the tensed suspension momentarily shared between human and animal. It started picking up the pace again.

It started to slow down as I put effort into trying to catch up with my friend her dogs. By the time Janka and I crossed over the drain, it was no longer following us. But both coyotes kept up their eerie love duet as dogs and humans headed for civilization and its relative safety.

I was in utter awe, coming face-to-face with a natural predator for the first time in my life. Wild and free, on its land. They were truly the Alphas, and we were the trespassers. There was a mystical wild beauty in this experience, mixed with fear and an unsought-for courage from within which humbled me while leaving a richness in my soul that I will never forget.

For these beautiful burnished hills of gold are rightly theirs, and we are after all, the uninvited (welcomed perhaps, by a hungry pair?) guests who happened upon their wide-ranging dinner table.

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