A few days ago, I decided to take a pre-sunrise prayer walk. As you may recall, I’m a ridiculously early riser (we’re talking the 4:30 a.m. range), but I gave up excursions in the wee hours many years ago, largely due to close encounters of the nocturnal critter kind (our rural subdivision is bordered by woods).
But I kinda forgot about that. And when the presence of overnight visiting company blocked entrance to my writing cave (home office) this week (I usually do computer work for several hours before breakfast), I really didn’t have anything else to do so dad-blasted early.
So out the door I naively ventured into the dense foggy darkness just before dawn.
About a half-block from my house, as I was toeing the center line of the road, a noise from the bushes to my right roused me from my three-quarters conscious prayer state. I turned to find a coyote loping toward me. Yes, toward me. A coyote. They don’t usually do that. At least not around these parts. They usually head away from people. The half-dozen or so I’ve encountered in the past have always regarded me with alarm and high-tailed it in the other direction.
But not this fella. Although fully grown, the bounce in his step and the gleam in his eye, as well as the lush condition of his coat (they tend to get scruffy as they age) told me he was young. Young and curious. An adolescent coyote, most likely – a teenager – approaching his curfew (daybreak) with adrenaline-charged energy enough leftover from his night of hunting to check out the new chick on the block.
He approached me at an amiable trot, his body language not threatening, as it would be in attack mode, as far as I could tell. I could actually picture him jumping up with his front paws on my shoulders to give me a slobbery facial lick in greeting, like a big domesticated dog.
But then I suddenly remembered. This is NOT a big domesticated dog. And by now he was only six feet away and closing.
“Stop!” I cried, throwing both hands up like a traffic cop blocking advancing cars.
He stopped so abruptly, his body teetered.
“No, no, no, NO!” I cautioned from behind my raised hands, using my gruff, angry grandma voice (that’s decidedly out of practice).
We studied each other like prize fighters entering the ring. I saw a young, curious, bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed large wild animal that had probably never seen anything like me before. He stared back, not intimated at all. In fact, I could almost believe he smiled and projected nonverbally, “Hey lady, why don’t you throw me a stick?”
We stood there like that, frozen in time, for a long moment. Then he took a tentative step forward. Toward me. Testing the waters.
“Whoa, right there, Buster!” I burst forth, catapulted into action by his simple gesture of intended camaraderie. “We CANNOT be friends! You’re a vicious carnivore and I’m a fat and juicy human. There is no future in this relationship. Do you understand?”
He obviously did not. Ever so gently, his tail wagged.
For heaven’s sake. How do I get into these messes?
The coyote and I were at an impasse. I didn’t for one second get vibes that the furry guy wanted anything more than to see what I was all about and perhaps play together a bit before his mama came forth and dragged him back to the den at curfew. But I knew his idea of play likely involved sharp teeth and wrestling moves at which I would not fare well.
Sadly, I had no choice but to rebuff his overtures of friendship.
“You have to go now,” I stated in no uncertain terms, waving my arms wildly overhead in the pseudo-self-enlarging manner I had read that deters bears in the wild. Maybe it would work with coyotes too.
“Go! Get home! Shooooo!” I kept gesticulating like a crazy person until the coyote, a confused and possibly even hurt expression clouding his eyes, reluctantly turned and melted away into the fog.
Sigh. It was the right thing to do. Wasn’t it?
So why have I felt terrible about hurting that poor animal’s feelings ever since? A human and coyote are forbidden friends, right? But who decided that? How do we know that every single coyote in the world is the mortal enemy of every single human? Wasn’t Mowgli the man-cub raised by wolves and then befriended by a fun-loving bear, Baloo? And Tarzan – wasn’t he raised by apes that could pulverize humans with one swing?
Okay, so maybe those last two are fiction. But the question remains: Why can’t friendship be decided on a one-on-one basis? And I don’t mean one-on-one species.
At one time in history, society decided that Jews and Samaritans couldn’t be friends. Yet Jesus changed all that with the woman at the well and his story of the Good Samaritan.
Some people today swear that people of certain nationalities cannot be friends with other specific nationalities. But what happens if two people of opposing cultures are thrown into a one-on-one situation where their survival is at stake? All of a sudden, they’re just two human beings fighting the elements together, and it’s to both of their benefits to work together and get along. Reminds me of an old Dennis Quaid movie with a similar plot called, “Enemy Mine.” I always liked it – if you ever get a chance to see it, do. Crazy makeup but great takeaway!
Okay, I’m finished with my rant. I guess some friendships are just not meant to be.
But you know what? Next time I venture out on a nocturnal adventure, I’m stashing a handful of doggie Bonz in my pocket.
Deb, I am afraid if you give him a bone, he might be back with friends and they might not be as friendly. Unfortunately, when it comes to humans, many people are just as afraid of being hurt just like you and the coyote. Thanks for your friendship!
You got my unspoken analogy, Sandi. That’s what I like about writing with symbolism – some people get the top layer, others see layers beneath. Love you too, girlfriend!
Julie Blackmore says
I work at Bark Park in Spring Valley, CA…one of the clients had adopted a half husky half coyote dog from Tijuana, Mexico (I am extremely closets the border possibly 20 mins give or take).
.the midterm loving smartest dog I ever met thusfar…and she’s beautiful….God says to show ourselves friendly.. to be friendly with unbelievers, but not to be friends with them in case they contaminate us unless we are more mature believers….we are effecting them instead them effecting us….not to be unequally yoked….but we are to be the salt of the earth.
Bark Park – that’s a hoot, Julie! I assume it’s a dog park? What a clever name. Our neighbor had a half-husky, half-wolf for a dozen or more years that she adopted from a wild animal rescue. Loba was a beautiful animal, but surprisingly, was at the bottom of the packing order (pecking order for canines) within their tribe of four dogs. Would you believe a Pekingese was above Loba? Loba willingly submitted to everyone else in the household, even other dogs she towered over or outweighed significantly. But she couldn’t control herself with cats; if she ever got out, all cats in the vicinity had better head for the nearest tree because her natural instincts took over. Although vets wouldn’t see her (or any other part-wolf patient), she had a sweet disposition with humans and other dogs. We all mourned when she finally passed away. Loba changed my perspctive about all wild animals being all bad.
Lois Fladie says
This was very interesting – glad it wasn’t my encounter. But, must be your voice is not guff enough. If you take treats, he may invite all his friends and family.
Good point, Lois, and for the record, I wouldn’t really take doggie treats to a coyote. But I wish I could! (In a perfect world!) Thanks so much for taking the time to write. And my gruffest voice does sound more hairy than scary!