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October, 2005


by Valerie

Sometimes unexpected things happen on morning walks. This past spring, I was walking on a path in an undeveloped area of Austin with Peri, our dog. I stopped, as I often do, to take photographs of some wildflowers, allowing Peri to wander in the tall grass and weeds to the end of her extendible leash. She often gets full of burrs this way, but it entertains her so I can take my time with my subjects and she rarely gets into trouble. All of a sudden, I heard the dog start to growl and snarl ferociously about 10 feet away. Quickly standing up to look, and fearing a confrontation with some wild animal, I saw that she was getting hysterical over nothing more than a dead raccoon which was lying in the grass several feet off the path. As I walked over to check out why this particular dead animal was so different from all the others that Peri has encountered, I noticed that it was quite fresh, with blood still dripping from gashes behind its head. I jumped to the conclusion that Peri was unduly disturbed because the animal was probably still warm, possibly making her think it might still be alive. I also assumed that the poor raccoon had met its demise at the jaws of somebody's large dog.

After snapping a couple of pictures of the raccoon and dog, I put my camera back in my bag and pulled the pooch along to continue on down the path. She was eager to lead the way, as usual, but kept looking back as if to check to see if the raccoon were following us. I found this amusing. For some reason, about 50 feet away, I even looked back, although I was sure the raccoon was dead. Standing in the middle of the path, adjacent to the corpse, was a coyote. It was a beautiful animal, with thick, well-groomed fur, that shown a deep rust color in the pre-dawn light. It simply stood there watching us for a few seconds, then loped off into the adjoining woods. I realized then that it must have just killed the raccoon before we disturbed it and had probably been nervously watching from nearby, hoping that we wouldn't steal its feast. Peri undoubtedly smelled the coyote, which would certainly give her cause for concern, as they are a natural enemy of domestic dogs.

Walking about 50 more feet, I looked back once more. The coyote was once again in the path. This time it stood its ground, comfortable with the increased distance between us and its prize. Not wanting to bother it anymore, I walked on down the path and only looked back again when I was pretty sure we were out of sight.

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