It’s not in my nature to be mean, or tough, or even assertive. It’s part of why I left teaching. I just tired of telling kids what to do. It’s why my dogs have no manners and don’t listen when I give them instructions. Well, two of the three. The third one is deaf, so she just doesn’t hear the instructions. Although I’m sure if she did, she would also ignore me. In truth, I just have no desire to control anyone or anything. Oh, sure, I’ll snap at someone if I’m tired or something, but mostly, I just let it (whatever “it” is at the moment) roll.
That’s why Spurtle is such a problem for me. If she’d leave my animals alone, I’d probably set a bowl of food out for her, but I know that acclimating her to humans is a bad idea, as much as I just want to scratch her behind the ears. So, I know I can’t be her friend. To that end I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get rid of her.
I know there are a host of you out there who would simply raise your rifles or shotguns or assault weapons and take your best shot. It would be easy to do with her, because she lets me get pretty close. But I’ve said before if I kill her, another would just take her place. And if I won’t step on a spider, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to shoot a coyote. I just want to co-exist with her peacefully. I’d also really love to get a good picture, but my phone doesn’t take great pictures and I’m too cheap to go get a really good camera. It pains me to spray the ants in the house, much less go out and shoot what looks like a big woolly dog. I’m a vegetarian because I watch videos of goats, pigs and cows leaping for joy when they get into wide open spaces and believe the only reason we don’t eat our dogs is because of our own perceptions, not because there is any real difference.
So, shooting a coyote is out of the question. I thought about getting a sling shot or a bb or pellet gun just to scare her away by non-lethal means, but I did some research on that, and most hunters thought it was a bad idea. They, who would shoot the animal and kill it because they just didn’t want it around, were concerned that using a slingshot or pellet gun might put an eye out or inflict a festering wound on her which might cause her to suffer a long agonizing death. I figure if hunters are concerned for her then it’s a bad idea.
Instead I’ve learned that I just need to wave my arms and shout or shake a can of coins at her, throw objects at her, and keep going after her until she is gone from the area I want her to avoid. So, that’s what I’m doing, or have done.
The other evening I heard the chickens raising their alarms, so I went out to investigate. Sure enough, Spurtle was lurking near the fence of the east pasture. I wouldn’t have seen her, but she made a noise as she sought cover in the dead hemlock. I saw her then crouching against the fence separating our pasture from the neighbor’s field. As I moved toward her with an old lemon, a rock, and a blue enamel coffee pot full of coins, she started north along the fence, so I mimicked her move. She stopped and headed south and back into the open field. I followed her, shaking my coffee pot of coins.
Let me just stop and let you know there is nothing magical about the blue enamel coffee pot or the lemon. My wife collects the stuff (the blue enamel, not the old lemons), and there is one by our door, in which I placed some coins just for noisemaking to scare off animals. The old lemon just went bad in the fridge and made for a nice throwable object, although for those who have seen me throw, you’ll know the coyote was in no mortal danger.
So I headed south and east into the pasture after Spurtle, who continued to glance over her shoulder to see if I was following. I picked up my pace and rattled my coins, hoping she didn’t consider me a bit of undercooked potato as Scrooge saw the ghost of Marley. She picked up her pace and bolted through a gap in the fence. I continued to pursue my parallel course as she continued east. She stopped when she saw I was not getting closer, and I pondered my options. Fortunately, I discovered a gap in the fence and went through it. This moved her along again.
But it was about this time I began to feel bad. Previously, on other days I had called to her, even whistled, wanting her to stay close so I could… I don’t know what I wanted. To pet her? To get a good picture? Now, here I was chasing her and rattling my magic coffee pot of coins and threatening her with an old lemon. When we began our chase, her ears were up. She was perky. But as I pursued her further east, her head began to droop and her ears fell. It was like she was hurt that she wasn’t wanted.
When she stopped again, I threw the lemon in her general direction. It was only close enough to hurt her feelings. She turned and began to trot off, and I realized how close we were getting to the highway. At the easternmost point of our field, it is separated from the highway only by a drainage ditch filled with riprap. The neighbor’s field ends in a triangle between our field and the highway. In my head I saw visions of the coyote running onto the highway and getting struck by a car, or cars swerving into ditches trying to avoid the coyote. All the while, her head continued to droop and she glanced back at me with those big sad eyes.
I stopped my pursuit and lowered my coffee pot. I took the rock from my pocket and dropped it where I stood. I watched her for a bit, still heading east. She paused and looked back over her shoulder one more time. Instead of sitting to see what I would do as she normally does, she simply turned east and continued on her way. I wondered if she saw in my face that I did this only out of obligation and for her own good. I felt like the kid in that old movie who had to throw rocks at the dog to make him go away.
We were too close to the highway for my comfort. Night was falling. She was not stopping. I waved goodbye to her unseen and turned for the long slow walk back to the house, hoping she’d head south away from the road and back into the comfort of the copse of trees along the creek in our field, hoping I’d not find her dead on the highway in the morning light. I counted my chickens, and checked their water and food. I closed the run knowing they were all safe for another day.