Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming . . .

. . . because I'm still trembling.

I had started another post for tonight, but it will have to wait.

My neighborhood in north Texas is an acquired taste. The heavily wooded lots are large, but oddly shaped. There's a creek that runs through the development, and its serpentine path dictates the size and shape of the lots on either side of it. The hills are very steep. Half the houses are actually below street level with the roof lines even with the pavement. Other houses are thirty feet above street level with driveways going straight up.

We don't have sidewalks, and the lawns and bushes do not adhere to the carefully manicured look you find in most upscale areas. The streets meander and turn back on themselves; there is virtually no thru traffic because most streets dead end on each other. The sixty-foot trees make it difficult for street lights to illuminate the neighborhood at night, and the complete silence (except for owls and other night critters) can be unnerving.

My mother visits very seldom because she finds the lack of normal traffic sounds creepy (She is also offended by the fact that the French doors in my den are not covered by draperies or blinds).

It's the kind of neighborhood that people either love or hate. I love it. When I moved in ten years ago, I could count on seeing four or five bunnies in my yard every morning. There are raccoon, possum, dinner-plate sized tarantulas and the occasional coyote.

No one leaves small pets outside overnight because the coyotes have proven remarkably adept at getting over tall fences. I still remember the woman who left her toy poodle outside one night because he wasn't housebroken. A coyote scaled her privacy fence and left the dismembered dog for her to find in the morning. Her husband buried it about three feet deep in the backyard. The coyote returned and dug it up overnight. The husband buried it again--this time four feet down--and the coyote dug it up once more. The couple moved away a short time later.

A year ago in February, I wrote a post about encountering a coyote while I was out walking alone late one night. Read it here. Since that night, I haven't walked alone after 9 PM or before 7 AM.

Anyway, I was writing my post this evening when I remembered Dinah, my one-year-old kitten, hadn't come home yet. I went to the French doors and called. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear her because she wasn't wearing a collar or bell. I forget if she's lost six or seven collars by now, but she's going au natural these days.

Usually Dinah comes running when I call, and I was surprised when she didn't respond. I walked around the back of the house calling softly for her. After opening my gate, I stepped out onto my driveway. That's when I saw her in the glow of the streetlight, standing in the middle of the road, staring toward the lot across the street.

My neighbor to the west has two large lots. The empty one sits between our properties, but is behind a hurricane fence.

Dinah was in that arched position with her hair standing on end that cats use to threaten each other. The only odd thing was that she wasn't vocalizing.

I assumed she was facing down another cat, and I called to her. She didn't move.

As I drew nearer, I realized there was a coyote standing in the shadows under a tree.

I froze. I didn't know what to do. I was pretty sure if Dinah moved, the coyote would attack, and Dinah apparently agreed with my assessment because she looked like granite.

I started to shout at the coyote. "Get outta here. Scram! Beat it!"

I obviously wasn't making much of an impression because he didn't run off. Instead, he slowly moved his head to stare at me.

The only time I can remember seeing such soulless eyes was on a shark in a large aquarium tank.

Suddenly there was a crashing sound, and my neighbors' two pit bulls hit the fence hard. They didn't bark a warning until they slammed into the fence.

I almost had a heart attack, but while I jumped, Dinah went at least three feet straight up into the air. She twisted her body on the way down so that when she landed, she was running past me. The little slut didn't hesitate. As far as she was concerned, I could get eaten. She was outta there.

I looked back, and the coyote was gone. I hadn't see him leave. I don't know where he went, but--I'll tell you--I got out of there as fast as I've ever done anything in my entire life. Dinah was waiting for me at the French doors. We got into the house and collapsed.

Going to bed now. I need to remember to say my prayers of thanks.


B.E. Sanderson said...

Wow. I'm glad both you and Dinah are okay. As scary as that was for you, my first though was 'how cool is that?' We have coyotes around here, but they never come into town. It's too wild out here, and they have better things to do than come around buildings.

Maria Zannini said...

>> The little slut didn't hesitate.
Miss Dinah is a survivor. You gotta admire that. LOL

I've spent many years living in the country. The most relentless predators we had on our ranch were hawks and a raccoon that must have worked for black ops because he infiltrated an entirely enclosed chicken aviary. It wasn't until Greg wired a silent alarm to the chicken coop were we able to catch the glutton in the act of dining. It was his last supper.

Coyotes seem to commit murder more easily in woody suburban areas. My sister lives just outside a state park and she is constantly on guard. Like most predators, he was waiting for you to lose interest so he could continue his stalk. If you had approached it, it probably would've run.

While many coyotes in suburban areas have lost their fear of humans they are little threat to adults. They are too small to do much damage and won't enter a fight with a creature that is so much bigger. Wolves, might be a different matter. But again, we are not their natural prey and they keep their distance.

Maya Reynolds said...

B.E.: If it had happened to someone else, I probably would have thought it was neat, too.

I have two ugly scars on my left hand from my attempt to rescue my dog from an attack by another dog. Knowing the damage that a domestic animal can do, I'm not about to mess with a wild one.

Maya Reynolds said...

Maria: Two other people have told me the same thing. However, the coyote didn't looked scared to me. He looked like he was waiting for me to make a decision, and he was cool with whatever decision I made.

He wasn't that small either. He was larger than my border collie had been. My guess is that he weighed about fifty-five pounds. He was not as big as the one I saw a year ago, but he also didn't look like he was starving either.

Goofy Dinah apparently hasn't learned a thing. She ate breakfast and ran to the door to go out this morning.

Laura Vivanco said...

That sounds really, really scary. We only have urban foxes.

Re the 'soulless eyes', I remember the first time I looked properly at a pigeon's eyes. Those eyes are not soft or gentle looking. In fact, they looked distinctly reptilian (which, now that I think of it, fits with the evolutionary theory about birds).

Maya Reynolds said...

Laura: Thanks for the validation. It really did scare me.

The coyote last year was bigger, but I was less afraid then. That one also gave the impression that I could choose whether we danced or not.

I've thought about it off and on all day. I think the reason I was so afraid was that I was fearful for Dinah. If he had chosen to go for her, I had no weapon. I don't *think* I would have rushed him although I have a record of being stupid when it comes to the people and animals I love.