Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fright night

It takes a lot to rattle me, but after walking Hathaway tonight, consider me rattled. Still trying to unwind.

I took the dog out tonight for a quick walk around the block -- 7-10 minutes tops. Just long enough for him to water the neighbors' bushes before we tuck in for sleep. Even though we don't do this every night, my pit bull and I have a usual route and a usual routine. And usually, I let him off his leash. Tonight, thanks to some sort of divine intervention, I kept him leashed.

We were walking and peeing (him, not me), and peeing and walking. We got about 40 yards, when Hathaway stopped, and looked -- alert to something behind us in the dark. I saw a huge, black shadow near a neighbor's house for a second, then it disappeared. It was enough to spook me good.

I couldn't help but think of the third Harry Potter book, "The Prisoner of Azkaban," when Harry thinks he sees a big, black dog, not sure if it's real or a hallucination. "The Grim," his Divination teacher calls it -- the symbol of death.

OK, so I read too much. And just home from book club, after a glass of wine, maybe I'm overreacting. I gave the dog a tug and said "walk," and we went a few more yards, starting up a side street, when he stopped again.

I turned and looked, and trotting behind us, 10, maybe 15 yards away, is the biggest coyote I've ever seen. It was the size of a German shepherd and the only thing telling me it was a coyote and not a wolf, was logic and a basic knowledge of geography. The beast was well-fed, had a beautiful coyote and scared the living crap out of me. It moved swiftly and silently, from house to house. It's trash night in the neighborhood. Plenty of goodies for a late night snack.

The coyote stopped and looked at us and we looked back, and then I yelled. Like an idiot. A loud idiot. Yelling as I searched and groped desperately for rocks that I could throw if he started toward us. "No! Go! Get!"

Thankfully, he went on his way, which was away from us, but I was scared. We finished our walk with Hathaway oblivious and me clutching my rocks, risking whiplash, trying to watch every direction at once.

I have been closer to wild coyotes before, so I'm not sure what made this different, why this time I felt threatened. Maybe it was the sheer size of the thing -- just devastatingly huge to be living that close -- and twice the size of my 60-pound pit bull. I was scared for my dog and for myself; something I've never felt walking or hiking or breaking up a dog fight. I know my dog could take care of himself if the coyote came after us. I know he would protect me at all costs. I just don't ever want to have to see it.

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