It was a long night.
The Human woke in the wee hours of the morning — very wee. The Dog dozed while its creature tossed and turned, worried and fretted, got up twice to gulp down various tablets: aspirin, allergy pills, whatnot. Turned on its magical noise-making lightbox and poked away at the little black pedals arrayed across its surface.
An incipient sore throat conjured visions of covid-19, God help us all! Is this just a residue of the choking fit that visited in the afternoon? Or maybe an allergy? Or…or…what?
I get up, stumble down to the medicine cabinet, and scarf down a Claritin. But…but…but…I’ve already dropped a Benadryl. Took one of those along about 7:30 p.m., in hopes of staving off a not-atypical allergy-mediated sore throat and runny nose. By 12:40 in the morning it should have kicked in, and I don’t think it would wear off in just five hours.
Holy shit!! I’m coming down with the covid disease. Right? That’s gotta be it.
Sleep is now out of the question.
Couple hours pass. Waking hours. The Claritin does nothing.
At 3 a.m., I get up and drop an aspirin. But I know now I’m dooooomed! No question of it, DOOMED! What other explanation is there but covid covid fucking covid! Ten days before I could manage to prize free an appointment for a shot!
Is that not typical? I ask you: how typical is that!
Give up trying to sleep.
Along about 4:30 a.m., the Human is pounding at its little black pedals when we hear a noise. A weird noise. It’s coming from outside the bedroom’s east wall, loud enough to resonate through the slump block. Like…bleating.
A sheep? There’s a sheep out on the sidewalk?
Sheep? Seriously? Goat, maybe? Do goats bleat?
The neighborhood does have several remaining agricultural properties, land banks and tax dodges for their owners and pleasant rural-looking pockets in the midst of an increasingly gentrified zone abutting an increasingly tough and ugly slum. One person still keeps a few critters, among them an overgrown Vietnamese pig that has been known to escape.
Do pigs bleat? No…I believe in any language pigs oink.
Cat? Naaahhh…cats yowl.
Dog? Whatever this noisemaker is, it ain’t barking. Besides, if it were a dog, Ruby would be up and at’em. She’s profoundly uninterested.
Javelina? Hmmm… Javelinas make a kind of grunting sound, but I don’t believe they’re known to bleat.
Fox? Foxes can make a variety of interesting sounds, being clever little critters. But none of them sound like a sheep.
Delinquents? Since when have teenagers begun to bleat while TPing the trees?
“Ruby! Hey! Ruby! Wake up!”
Dog eyes the human wearily. Now what?
“Listen to that! What is that?”
Dog lifts head off mattress.
Human continues to peck at the computer. Before long, the bleating ceases.
Not too very much longer after that, Dog stirs and notices the sun is bleaching the eastern sky. She arises and demands food.
Human and Dog stumble out to the kitchen, where Human sets a dish of food on the floor. Dog feasts, then goes on about its business.
As the sun marches toward the zenith, Dog and Human set out for their daily stroll through the neighborhood. As they pass the east side of the house, Human spots a skiff of gravel scattered across the sidewalk. The gravel top-dressing on the side yard is roiled up a bit, right outside the bedroom wall. A few doggy-looking footprints are visible.
And now by the light of day, Human remembers: It’s mating season for coyotes. This is February. Sonoran desert coyotes whelp in March (or thereabouts). The serenade we heard at 4:30 in the morning was the Song of Coyote Love.
This means two things:
- Soon we will have coyote pups abounding in the ‘Hood, wherever Mama Coyote can find a quiet and secluded place to den. A-n-n-d…
- This means Ruby-Doo will be at some risk for the next several months.
When coyotes are whelping, they try to clear their territory of other canids. This is because competing coyotes, as well as wolves, will kill the pups when they find them. A coyote actually will come over your wall to take out your dog.
And that means Ruby will have to be watched every time she goes out in the backyard. Over the next three or four months, she cannot be let outdoors alone to putter around, as is her wont.
Few years ago, a couple of my neighbors — a gay couple — were lounging in their living room having a cocktail before dinner. Their greyhound was perambulating around the backyard, where the men could see them through the living-room window. All of a sudden they saw a coyote come right over the back wall! Unfortunately, this was not the wiliest of moves: the animal was no match for an 80-pound hunting dog.
The grey took after the coyote. It managed to escape over the wall as the two men watched in awe. The hound was unfazed.
A few days later, one of their neighbors happened to mention that, gee, he’d found a dead coyote laying in the front yard.
Welp. A corgi a greyhound does not make. Ruby would be no match for a coyote.
Coyote image: By Frank Schulenburg – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46976005