The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

This happened, and I’m still amazed.

I got home, after working the swing shift, just before midnight. It was still rather warm out, so I opened the back door to get a nice cross breeze, and let the dogs run into the fenced yard at will. I settled in to watch some television.

About a half hour later, I heard my bigger dog barking on the back deck. This was rather unusual. She almost never barks at night, mainly because there’s very little to bark at. We are surrounded on three sides by a city park, so it’s usually very quiet at this hour.

I let her get her bark on for a bit, because I believe everyone has a right to express themselves. But as she got more agitated, I figured I’d better go have a look. Safety first.

It’s very dark out back, so I could only see so far. But I vaguely made out that my little dachshund Quagmire was running back and forth along the back fence, leaping and prancing and wagging his tail with enthusiasm. Interesting.

I walked halfway across the yard, and discovered that there was another dog on the outside of the fence. He was also running back and forth, leaping and prancing and wagging his tail. Awww… Quagmire made a friend!

I watched them play for a while. They were having so much fun! It was really cute, seeing their pure joy. But after about the tenth lap along the fence line I started thinking about this dog. There was no human around, and he didn’t have a collar, and it was late at night. Clearly he was a stray. He looked healthy. His light brown coat was fluffy and shiny. He was absolutely beautiful. What was I going to do with this dog?

I got about 5 feet from the fence, and that’s when the dog saw me for the first time. He had been so focused on his play that I hadn’t become part of his reality up to that point. He stopped dead in his tracks, less than 10 feet from me.

He looked into my eyes. He tilted his head. I tilted my head. We had a moment, this beautiful creature and I.

And then he started to growl.

And that’s when I realized that this was no dog. This was a coyote. And this coyote might be playing with Quagmire now, but my little dachshund could become the top item on the menu at any point.

I called Quagmire, and by some miracle, he actually listened to me and came. (You have to understand, that almost never happens.) I picked up Quagmire as the coyote continued to growl.

I said, “Why are you growling at me? I didn’t do anything to you.”

That’s when the coyote turned tail and ran into the park. I, in turn, retreated to the house and closed the door. I was saying, “Omigod, omigod, omigod… what just happened?”

I was dying to tell someone, but I knew that no one would appreciate a call at that hour. So I just sat there, shaking my head, and contemplating how cool that had been. I saw a side of a coyote that I had never seen before. A coyote with his guard down.

I knew coyotes were in the park. You can often hear them howling at the moon. And we’ve caught images of them on our nature cam, like the one below, on many occasions. (As a matter of fact, this could very well be the same guy.) But they’re usually furtive and skittish and shy and focused on the hunt. Often the only evidence of their passing is tufts of bloody rabbit fur.

But this guy was playing! Granted, he was probably playing with what he thought would be his next meal, but still… he was playing. And it was glorious to watch. I think that the reason I didn’t recognize him as a coyote right off the bat was that his pure, comfortable, playful joy did not seem the least bit coyote-like to me.

It makes me happy to know that coyotes give themselves a break every now and then. It also makes me realize that I’ve been getting a bit lax in supervising Quagmire when he’s in the yard late at night. Rest assured that that won’t happen again. Even though we’ve never seen a coyote jump our fence, it could most likely do so if properly motivated.

But, yeah. That happened. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

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