As soon as I got up I knew it was going one be one of those mornings.
It has been raining on and off for the past several days, but dawn burst cool and clear, with a cap of unblemished turquoise-colored sky above, fat tendrils of mist winding themselves through the valleys below.
The kind of morning whose air crackles with wild excitement, drawing creatures out into the open to do their wild creature thing. You live long enough in the woods, you get to know what that crackle sounds like, what it feels like. For humans, it means to be on the alert as well.
Sure enough, we weren’t but two minutes into the walk, when I heard a rustle off to my left and a coyote charged across our path. Slinky, low slung, an adolescent near as I could guess, and of indeterminate sex. Naturally, Ivan charged after it. From what I could see through the trees, not in an aggressive way. In fact, I was surprised to see him lurch down into a play bow, a move reciprocated by the coyote, before both took off deeper into the brush, and I could no longer see them.
But I could hear them. The coyote at least. Chitter-chattering away in that nerve-singing way they have. Ivan made no sound, but he’s always been silent – both in play and in fight mode.
I had no choice but to continue down the trail. Me and Ivan against one adolescent coyote? No problem. Me and Ivan against whatever of the coyote’s relatives decided to show up and join in the fun? Big problem.
Minutes later, I heard the tinkling of Ivan’s collar tags and there he was, tromping down the trail, muddy and limping slightly, but with no discernable gashes or puncture wounds.
Poor Ivan. He always looks so happy, out there in the woods, doing what his canine genes impel him to do. There was a time, when S.B. and I lived even further out, that the dogs did wander happily. Never got into trouble, never hurt a soul. In fact, they had friends throughout our area, homes to which they’d show up at certain times of day to say hello or hang for a bit. One late afternoon, I got a call from a gal who lived three miles away, to tell me Ivan had just showed up in time for happy hour on the patio, was it okay if he stayed? Once I got over the shock of just how far my dog’s territory stretched, I said, sure, so long as he’s no bother. When you're ready to go inside just tell him, “Ivan, go home.” He’ll know what that means.
We can’t let the dogs do that here. Despite the National Forest at our backs, this is a true neighborhood. But I’m thankful that for a few years of their lives, our dogs lived unfettered by fences and fretting, that they got to answer the call of their wild genetics and move through the world with freedom and ease.