Friday, March 14, 2014

Coyotes on a recent hike and other observations

Several knees have been jerking over my stories about Ben adjusting to the coyotes at the river.  Several responses have to do with stories about coyotes luring dogs into packs where they were presumably killed and devoured.  I’ve mentioned several times that there are no packs at the river where we hike.  Maybe someday there will be, but we’ve been hiking down there for 15 years and haven’t seen a pack yet.  Also, all my Ridgebacks have chased coyotes at one time or another and none of them have been lured into anything.  The mother coyote who has a litter every year wants the exact opposite.  She wants to be left alone.  The one unfortunate confrontation was when Ginger, an unusual Ridgeback who tried to make friends with every dog she met, tried to make friends with this female when she had a litter on the ground – and received a nip on the rump for her trouble.  I took her to the vet and had it cleaned.  That was a lesson well-learned.  Ginger troubled me with her friendliness more than once, but after the nip she left the coyotes alone.

Ben, now, for those who may not have been following this, was received as a three-year-old adult, and he won’t be four until November.  The river and its coyotes have been a new experience for him.  That he was going to chase them was no surprise to me.  I would have been surprised if he didn’t.  That he came back after a chase without his hackles up was a surprise, but after a bit more reflection, I don’t really recall checking my previous Ridgebacks for hackles after such occurrences so perhaps his response isn’t unusual. 

Some have gotten the idea that Ben is fraternizing with the coyotes.  That is a misunderstanding.  I intended to say that he and the coyotes are curious about each other rather than hostile.  I did say I couldn’t at this point rule out his trying something like Ginger did, but don’t really expect that to happen.  I also said that these two coyotes are probably the ones Ginger, Sage, Duffy and I encountered 2 ½ or 3 years ago; so they were used to seeing Ginger and Sage (whom I recently lost) and Duffy.  They were not used to seeing Ben (whom I received December 1st, 2013).  One of the photos I took recetnly is a rather blurry thing showing Ben chasing a coyote.  I doubt that anyone can look at that photo and suspect fraternization.  I don’t yell at Ben when he chases a coyote, but when he checks the brush for their appearance later on, I tell him to “leave the coyotes alone.”  That’s what I have done with all my Ridgebacks and they all gave up chasing coyotes.  Hopefully Ben will give it up as well. 

[See photos for yesterday’s hike at – the last hike mentioned in the March 2014 gallery in the “River Photography” folder.]

Others have said they wouldn’t do what I do, but I’ve heard that all my life in a manner of speaking.  I enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 during a war.  My graduating class didn’t follow my example but instead wrote in my yearbook such compliments as “jarhead” and “bullet-stopper.”  My favorite sport for years and years was “free-diving” which consists of diving without tanks and spearing fish.  Almost no one could hear about what I did without asking, “Aren’t you afraid of sharks?”  After the movie “Jaws” I had the entire ocean to myself, which I appreciated.

After Susan and I were married she developed some ailments that made it tough for her to make it to work on time.  We both worked at McDonnell Douglas; so I got a motorcycle which allowed us to dash down between the lanes on the San Diego Freeway in order to make it to work on time.  She sometimes dozed off on the way to work.  I would feel her helmet hit mine and reach back for her, pulling over into the right lane until she was awake again before speeding up.  When we got to work she would take off her riding trousers, pull her skirt down, put on her high-heeled shoes and rush in to work.  I got reams of articles on my desk over the years describing every motorcycle accident anyone read about.   Many people assured me we were going to die.  Obviously we didn’t.  Not everyone should ride a motorcycle just as not everyone should own a gun, but for some of us these things aren’t especially dangerous.  Still, people who hear what I do can’t resist telling me how dangerous it is.  That has been going on for 63 years (I’ll be 80 in October of this year). 

I must admit, however, that I like the coyotes being down at the river.  I try to treat them with respect because their presence keeps virtually everyone else from hiking down there; which is the way I like it.  Some people will walk or ride bikes up on the levee, but I haven’t seen more than a couple of other hikers on the river in the 15 years I’ve been hiking down there.  Probably the few who have tried it have been spooked by something they have seen, possibly coyotes.  Some people ride off-road bikes or trucks down there from time to time, but not often.  These things invariably stall.   I’ve noticed a few of these guys working on their bikes, staring about at the brush apprehensively.  Notice Ben looking into the brush in some of the photos I took this month, but he isn’t being “spooked” by anything – rather the reverse.

From my standpoint I appreciate having a dog-breed which was bred to do the very thing I’m doing.  I know most Ridgeback owners keep their Ridgebacks as mere pets, but mine at least have a taste of what their forebears were developed to do.  Worried about coyotes?  Pshaw. 

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