Our home backs up to a wetland. There is a pack of coyotes that frequent the wilds back there. They feed on rabbits and other furry edibles. Recently, they also snatched a neighbor’s poodle.
I met the owners that morning, a distraught mother and daughter. They were half-walking, half-running down the trail when I approached them coming in from a run. The mother had that look in her eyes that all mothers do when they know something is seriously wrong. The daughter trotted 20 yards behind her, a wild and worried look in her eyes as well. She looked so vulnerable and alone the whole world seemed amiss.
They told me the dog’s name, and asked me to keep an eye out. Over the years during runs and rides, I’ve caught up with a few wandering dogs and used the number on their tags to called their owner on the phone. Glad when that happens.
Two days later at a neighborhood party, I learned the fateful truth. The lost dog, a small poodle, had been snatched by a pair of coyotes. A neighbor witnessed the event by sound and let the family know their dog would not be coming home.
There are plenty of ways to look at that event. It’s a dog-eat-dog world… is one of them. We all know the world can be a harsh and cruel place. Whenever I watch one of those World War II movies set in Poland or France, I think about the desperate people bombed from their homes and wandering the streets with nowhere to go. I think of the soldiers marching through with weapons raised, the untold mission or more mayhem in mind. In some circumstances, they can’t stop for anyone. Orders must be followed. People are left like poodles in the rain. Or worse.
Our own family dog was rescued off the streets of Chicago by my son and a friend eight years ago. Our pup is a schnoodle or something of that order. We don’t know the real mix and don’t care that much to know. He does have a bit of separation anxiety. You can imagine why. He was tiny, cold, and huddling in a paper bag covered in white paint when found. So the fact of those people from our neighborhood losing their dog to coyotes hits home. There are painful realities around every corner in this world.
Yet I’ll admit I find the sight of coyotes behind our house fascinating. Their calls and yips and cries are some of the wildest sounds you’d ever want to hear.
But when it comes to civilization and the American Dream, there is only so much wildness most people care to take. We love the sight of a coyote, but not the implications when our small dogs are at risk.
The problem with small dogs is that they often don’t know how small they really are. They may rush a coyote as an act of territoriality, but they don’t know what they’re getting into. Our dog barks wildly at certain dogs when he’s on the leash. It’s called leash aggression. We don’t understand the psychology of it fully. But it’s real.
I don’t think human beings are all that different from dogs in that respect. We’re all tugging at a leash of some sort in our lives. Sometimes we make mistakes and bark at the wrong dog or try to chase a squirrel into traffic. I’ve done it more than once in life, and sometimes it is our naivete, our poodle mentality that there is always protection waiting for us, that gets us into the worst trouble.
It’s also true that some people adopt a coyote mentality because they’re the ones that feel wronged. Something has hurt them in some way, and from then on, every dog they can find is a target. Some pump that anger into sports such as dog-fighting. Others troll the Internet looking for people to harm, to criticize, to penalize for their own pain. It’s one giant pissing match out there, with everyone raising their legs on the feed or wall of another.
Harsh world, it is. Some fold up their fences and simply stay indoors. They’d rather be a poodle that’s alive than try to fake being a coyote, or a troll.