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coyotesHere in the high desert of New Mexico, it’s not uncommon to see coyotes. They come down from the mountains in search of water and food.

Since they will eat almost anything, if you come upon places with small holes dug, just a few inches by a few inches, you can be pretty sure it was a coyote digging up some large bug, scorpions perhaps.

I don’t know how they fare with jack rabbits who to my mind are rather quick fellows, so much so that Diego pretty much gives them a passing glance and plods on, oblivious to their enticing “eyes” as they bound away.

earspotsIn any event, we’ve seen a few, coyotes that is,  in our travels through the Chihuahuan desert on our morning jaunts. Usually one vision of Diego, and they skedaddle. Coyotes are fairly small, tall but quite thin, no match for the hulk that has become Diego the Dog.

We were on leg two of our trip (there are six in all), heading due south along a dirt “road” fenced to our left. The mountains loom east along that line north to south and a scattered housing area peppers the area. All manner of houses, from manufactured, to double wides, and everything between dot the landscape at intervals about two to three times the size of the average urban lot.

One can see a horse, a goat, and certainly hear a lot of roosters along that southerly walk, as well as plenty of dogs barking. As Diego and I moved along our trail, I heard an unusual sound, a woman yelling quite aggressively: “Get out of here!” I smiled and looked up the winding dirt expecting to see a coyote pop forth momentarily.

Such never happened, though the woman repeated her order a good six more times. This led me to believe it was probably a dog searching a garbage can, since coyotes fairly move on when they see a human. I’ve had the creepy experience of finding a “body” bag (read rolled up tarp) along our western edge walk some months ago. Inside were the rather odoriferous remains of a coyote. Such animals are not appreciated around the rabbit and hen coops that litter those makeshift neighborhoods. Coyotes are wary of humans as a result.

Diego and I completed leg three and then four of our sojourn, turning on the “diagonal road” that takes us north and west back, back to our own subdivision. We were still a good three-quarters of a mile from home, and I was, as is my usual bent, engrossed in the magnificence of my own mind. Read, thinking about something or other.

Periodically, I look up to find Diego, who likes to wander off-road, following his nose. It’s enjoyable to watch as he gets further and further west, and sometimes goes back south, only to stop suddenly, and in a panic search the horizon for me. Sometimes a good block away and with the sun just breaking over the Organs, he cannot see me even though I wave my arms in the universal sign of “here I am” all the while saying those very words.  He follows his ears, in a slow meandering sort of way, and by the time we complete leg five, he usually has popped out on the service road a bit in front of me.

Well, this time was a bit different. I looked up to find the boy and saw him straight away, but I saw something else! Not a hundred feet to the west of him was a coyote, stopped and watching him. I’m not sure if Diego saw it at that moment, but when I yelled, it saw me, let out a low growl, and Diego saw it.

Diego trotted forth toward it, it trotted away. Diego trotted more, and I yelled more. No amount of “Diego, COME” seemed to register, and finally I was left with an authoritative “NO!” which did seem to get his attention. The coyote stopped as well. Diego barked several times, and the coyote uncharacteristically did not high-tail it for Arizona. Instead it held it’s ground.

The boy returned to me and I clipped on a lead, while the coyote eyed us both. “tough morning old man?” I queried. Oddly, he did not answer, but continued to stare. I stood there, some perhaps 50 yards or so away, and chatted on. “It’s really not a good idea to mess with people and their pets. A friend of yours paid the price, a bit yonder over there, you know.” He turned, and walked a few paces.

He seemed somewhat curious, not particularly fearful, and fairly subdued. I thought perhaps he was just tired of avoiding that woman with her broom. We walked on, and eventually I saw him sauntering west. As soon as I couldn’t see him any longer among the mesquite, I let the boy off his lead and he continued his interesting game of “follow my nose”.

A few weeks earlier, a neighbor was out walking her dog, her dog being a good friend of Diego’s but a very small dog, more like a Jack Terrier. She asked if I had seen any coyotes and I replied that I had seen several. She mentioned that one had “followed her and Poquito quite a ways the day before.

I didn’t point out that it was eyeing Poquito as a potential lunch undoubtedly and hoping for the degree of separation between her and the dog to get a good running shot. It’s a very good reason to keep a small dog leashed in the desert.

Such a thought never crosses my mind with the boy. He more resembles a small black bear than a dog. No coyote would be dumb enough to try.

It’s funny though. Diego was respectfully interested in the coyote. Not afraid, just cautious. He seemed downright silly scared of the turtle we encountered earlier this week.

Go figure.

Tales from the desert, signing off.

PS: if you were expecting some sage wisdom from all this, none was intended. Just a story.