Whatever you think you know of a dog’s temperament the truth of the matter is this: given the impulse to do so, a large dog already has the ways and means to become a mortal threat to you. Lacking that sort of impulse, a large dog can still damage you in a way that really matters. So when I let the Cousins out at two last night, with Tyger Linn fired off way in front of the pack and Lilith Anne holding back at the rear, I went back to bed without a thought as to what might go bark in the night. The cousins are holding down a quarter of a ton of mass between the two of them.
Marco Ladakh announced himself to some Jehovah’s Witlesses last week and put on an impressive show replete with very loud noises and slobber flying through the air. I’ve never seen that side of him and it was a reminder that as much as I dislike the JW’s, or for that matter, anyone who arrives unannounced and unwelcomed, it’s a good idea to have a door between the large dog and the small humans. I’m not sure if there is a human translation to the exact meaning of what Marco was saying but the JW’s totally understood his body language. The three females made themselves heard as well, mind you, but Marco had this one.
I drifted in and out of sleep then heard Tyger’s very distinctive “Let us in!” yelp and all four came in wagging their tails and excited. Tyger Linn wrapped herself around my head when I got into bed so I knew something was up. The Coyotes, I guessed, were near, and after about fifteen minutes I heard their yelping begin. It’s interesting that they waited a while after the pack had come inside to make their calls. None of the dogs so much as raised a head at the fuss.
Near my head is Tyger Linn, who always has to be closer to my face than Lilith Anne Magnolia Mutt, who is content to lying at my right side. The four days that Lilith were gone filled me with an angst that I have never felt before and much of it due to the Coyotes. Had they caught her out in the open and alone I would have lost her and lost her in a very sickening manner. Yet the Coyotes know, intrinsically, instinctively, that battle with even medium sized dogs is fraught with peril, and fighting large dogs is something to never considered lightly. Dogs can go to vets and be patched up and operated on whereas a wounded Coyote has only fate to guard it if there is a grievous wound. What gain is there in a fight that leaves pack members bloodied and open to disease? What is proven by war that opens wounds in the flesh and the heart? These are not creatures of scorched earth and needless violence. They are of the shadows and drink deeply of stealth, except for their callings.
The Coyotes can and will kill dogs if they can but they aren’t about to come over the fence to go to war with four dogs and they may not consider a member of this pack alone and outside fair game. Pack animals know boundaries and they know what it means to cross over the lines, fencelines and those lines that have allowed their pack and mine to live in peace. Were they silent when Lilith was missing because they simply were not in the area? Or did my searches for Lilith push them back away from my territory, deep into their homeland, and warn them that something I valued was out there? Are they intelligent enough to know that by me being out as far as I went, calling for her, looking for her so very deeply into the woods, did that trigger in their own pack an understanding of how much value I put on her safety? Did they not seek her out for this reason? Or is all of this just an anthropomorphic fantasy that I have, joining my wishes and desires into a tale of a dog protected by my love for her, against the darkness of the night?
I reached down and petted Lilith’s ears, bringing her out of sleep, and she crawled forward a bit. This is my world, of warm beds and ear pettings yet less than fifty meters away are Coyotes that howl. It is a very fragile luxury that we enjoy, life is. The Coyotes seem to content in calling, yapping, howling, and now that my pack is whole I like the way it sounds. They went quiet when Lilith was gone and I will be forever grateful for that.
The sounds of the night return once the Coyotes move on. There is a leaf hung on a spider’s web and it taps the window pane sharply. There are doves calling, even this late, which is rare. There is the sound of a train, many miles away, and on that train is a person traveling through the darkness, having their own thoughts about the night. There is the sound of the wind in the trees. Mostly, I can count dogs by listening to their breathing as they sleep. The two closest to me drift deeply into their own dreams and the two on the floor snore softly. Tomorrow’s sun will bring another day and I have no idea what comes with it but now is not the time to care. Now is the time to allow myself to relax and let my body repair itself and hope my mind will stop its stirrings. The pack is whole and they are safe. The outside world is silent. It is time for sleep and to be grateful for this time we have together.
This all may be some fantasy, some dream, some illusion, and nothing may be real, but there is a time to dream, and that time is now.