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Lisa Adams

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Coyote Taught Me a Lesson Today
by Lisa Adams   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, September 27, 2010
Posted: Saturday, February 05, 2005

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Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.

After reading the title, you might think this article will be some sort of rhapsodic meandering with a Native American bent, right? Nah. No need. Just wanted to report something really cool that happened today that not only made me smile, but clarified an issue that has been bothering me for a week now. I think you will like it. Oh yes, and it contains nothing politically controversial, I swear.

Mel and I have three dogs and four cats...a veritable animal shelter. And this would not surprise anyone who knew me while I was growing up because I had always wanted to be a zoo veterinarian while writing books.

The youngest of our dogs, by way of backstory, Sapa, has made friends over the past year with a small, female coyote we call "Yasle" (pronounced, "yashlay") the Lakota word for coyote.

Yasle is small for a coyote, and we figure she was the runt who, beyond the norm, lived but also has managed to survive alone in the wild for at least a year. She has the most magnificent golden eyes, slanted like a cat's. And the intelligence behind those eyes is extraordinarily-humbling. I sit on the bottom stair of our deck and watch her, positively thrilled she is allowing me the privilege of doing so.

Eventually, she came to trust me and approaches very very close to say hello before racing off with Sapa. She trots over making little "peeps" much like a highly-excited dog. But make no mistake, I studied coyote behavior once this all started, and they can be very fierce. They speak a definite language and live a sometimes brutal existence, rarely living more than a few years here in California. Most are hit by cars or die of worms of all things. So every second with her has been precious to me.

I never presumed her to be anything but wild. Her ruff is silver, her back, jet black, and her bushy bushy tail, black; with a white muzzle and cute little round belly. She is just fuzzy and gorgeous. We love her deeply.

All of our dogs are fixed, so Yasle could not tell what was up with Sapa, and probably thought she might be a good mate. Once she realized Sapa was a nada in that department, we assumed she would leave. Instead, a fast bonding was established and the two of them play and play every evening and in the morning. In the bush, through the bush, around the bush; across the field, around the shed, through the tall grass, and back to the gate. An endless cycle of canine fun with the two older dogs trying to keep up. Yasle is so fast, she leaves our little energy bundle in a heaving lump who sleeps for hours after their games have ended. One quick nip, and Sapa goes tumbling like a dry tumbleweed. Yasle never harms Sapa, only shows her who is dominant.

In return for the companionship, Yasle watches over our house and the dogs when they are outside. In fact, when someone approaches the house, she places herself squarely in front of them and barks low (threat) then "screams" to scare the bejeez out of the intruder. And I will tell you, having been on the receiving end of that shriek when first she and the dogs were outside at the same time, it is unbelievably loud and frightening. She did it to our landlords, who are also friends, which is how we discovered her covert property protection services were being rendered at no cost.

Well since day one, it was clear Yasle was being terrorized by three huge crows - they actually are probably ravens because they are as big as the ones occupying the courtyard of the Tower of London complex. The likely explanation is they were competing for food. You see, there is a cow pasture right next door...and there are calves and cows in the pasture. When calves are nursing (forgive me if you are squeamish or gross out easily) their, uh...poo, contains milk. This is highly-prized by opportunistic feeders such as Yasle and, yep, the crows.

This dance betweenYasle and the crows has gone on with never-ending hilarity. We have watched the crows trick Yasle time and again to lead her away from the prize so they can have at it. We have watched Yasle try to get them back for deceiving her.

Well, Yasle soon formed a formidable alliance with two of the bull calves to counter the crow search and steal tactics. So now, three bull calves and one small coyote make a habit of chasing the three crows hither and yon about the cow pasture. They actually play together and Yasle and her latest BF (boyfriend) sleep near the young bulls, each with their backs to the other. So much for the theory coyotes are heinous killers of livestock and scourges of the western territories, eh?

Anyway, this morning, I glimpsed a rare and definitely one-time-only performance of the croyote (combination of crow and coyote) dance. Yasle drove the crows to the top of their preferred fenceposts to either side of the cow gate. They cawed at her, as if giving her the biggest raspberry on the planet. They had become content in their superiority at that moment, knowing Yasle could not climb the fence post.

She shook her head, turning to walk away. My heart sank. Fight back, I thought. As soon as she had taken a few stpes, one of the crows swooped down on her to freak her out. Man, that coyote spun around, her bushy tail almost a gyroscope as she leapt into the air, snapping some feathers off the now-freaked out bird.

For the first time, the other crows were completely silent, while the instigator flapped off to the top of a telephone pole, cawing furiously and obviously put out by the experience and humiliation of it all.

Adding insult to injury, as the other two crows looked on, too stunned by the monumental shift in the cow pasture balance of power to even move, the BF sauntered over to an area just beneath one of the trio. He nonchalantly marked the fencepost and ground in his own unique way.

I cheered Yasle and the BF on. The calves frolicked and cavorted on the other side of the field. It was clearly a rout. How wonderful to see her finally stop ducking and dodging every time she heard a noise overhead to give her nemeses the big "f-you."

It was then I realized that she had freely offered me the key to solving a problem I had been having at work with my superior, who I shall call, "the crow" from now on. He constantly has thrown bones to me and my staff, but never really gave up all the meat of various important issues. I realize now that the key all along has been to demand what we need. His personality is such that he will give in. I had been so blinded by the drama of it, I could not see the forest through the trees until a scraggly, petite coyote showed me the way.

So thank you, Yasle, for your sound advice. It was well taken. I think we can all learn something from watching what is beyond our television screens and computer terminals. It is much more interesting, and infinitely more amusing.


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Reviewed by S. Reisner 2/6/2005
What a wonderful article. Thank you for sharing this experience. It's a beautiful reminder of how we can learn some great things from the natural world around us.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 2/6/2005
enjoyed the read.
Reviewed by Jake George 2/5/2005

I should have known it would be you to write such an eloquent story. Yes the coyote can be a great teacher. I enjoyed the story and am glad you thought to share it with us.

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