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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Singing with joy and coyote musings

R has learned about the good life. While his humans are up before the light, having breakfast and preparing for the day, R snoozes. Occasionally, he'll notice that "romping time" might be approaching, and, while lying in bed, he sings with joy. It's the R "happy song" - his joy and anticipation of a new day bursts out in high pitched notes. Then, he goes back to sleep until exactly the best moment to prompt the Runner to hurry out the door.
K stays in bed too but without the singing. Her golden eyes follow me closely, awaiting the moment when I invite her to come on a bike ride.

This morning, near the start of our snowbike ride, K played on the rocks, showing off for the camera. Who says that dogs don't smile?
Today, it felt like spring had dawned overnight. After freezing and windy weather yesterday, we soaked up the sun, smiled as chickadees sang their spring songs, stopped to spot the drumming woodpeckers, and grinned widely upon noticing aspen buds seemed to have swelled up overnight. The leaves won't unfold until until late May but I enjoy the buds for months!
My back is aching badly so riding the trails wasn't as joyful as usual. I had "dry needle trigger point injections" yesterday to try to break up my back muscle spasms. Alas, this time, the procedure rendered my back muscles as angry as a distressed swarm of bees. Hopefully, it will pass soon.

I hope that tonight's sunset is as gorgeous as last night's. After my procedure, our foursome took a sunset hike. The sun's rays had already fled the meadow at the start of the hike.
The frigid whipping wind seemed at odds with the fiery sunset.
The wind was blowing atop the Divide, launching billows of snow into the air.
After the sun dipped below the horizon, the cloud bank hovering over our heads caught on fire.
And, gradually, the lights went out on another day.
When my spine hurts so much, I am even more grateful for my wondrous surroundings and my pack.

I've read the comments about coyotes after my posts earlier this week highlighting wildlife camera photos of them. I understand the view that it's scary to have these predators among us. I worry incessantly about my dogs (that's why I train them obsessively). However, my viewpoint is that we humans are inexorably expanding our footprint in the natural world. If we don't take steps to accommodate carnivores like coyotes, wolves, bears, bobcats, and mountain lions in our world, they'll have no place to live. The Earth would be a darker place without them, and the environment would become even more out of balance, with prey animals like rats, mice, and deer multiplying unchecked.

At the same time, I feel deep sadness that pets have been lost to the predators that live among us. In some cases, these heartbreaking losses have occurred despite responsible owners taking measures to try to protect their pets. In our case, despite having coyotes next to our house almost every night for more than a decade, we've avoided that kind of tragedy. We don't have any magic solution, just extreme vigilance and probably a bit of luck (although we try not to rely on luck).

I'd like to answer a couple of questions that were asked about my coyote posts. First, I don't let the dogs mark scent posts that my wildlife cameras are monitoring because I'm hoping to capture natural behavior uninfluenced by my dogs. However, I've observed that my dogs mark over top of coyote, fox, bobcat, and mountain lion scat and scrapes on our hikes, particularly when those scent posts are on well-traveled trails. In fact, I tend to observe closely where the dogs mark and check to see which animal's message provoked them to reply. Some of the scent posts that I've monitored with my wildlife cameras were initially pointed out to me by my dogs.

I was also asked if our coyotes have become more brazen over time. I have not noticed any trend in their behavior in more than a decade of observing them. I have read, however, that coyotes are expanding their territories into more developed areas where people don't expect to be living with wild predators like coyotes. In our case, we knew that the wild animals "came with the territory" so we were never surprised by the presence of coyotes, bobcats, bears, and mountain lions around our house. It's become apparent to us that those animals view this land as their territory and view us as the interlopers who planted a house in the middle of their land. I understand the animals' point of view and try to be a good neighbor while still protecting my dogs and myself.


  1. Spring comes slowly, on little padded feet.

    We think that coyotes, lions and all wildlife has a place and like you, we think people should learn to share.

    Mogley G. Retriever

  2. We have coyotes around us and we're in the burbs of a highly populated city. Granted, we're on the fringe... a newly developed area. I assume (but maybe I'm wrong) that the coyotes will eventually move along as more houses are built. You're right about us continuing to infringe on their habitat... where are they supposed to go?

    Gorgeous sky pictures!!!

    Hope your back feels better SOON:)

  3. I know you know we share the same belief about it being their world too -

    We can't keep building on their home lands without something having to give -

    Great shots and great sharing!

  4. Beautiful pictures again! We hope your back pain eases soon. We wish everyone would respect wildlife like you do. Lots of love, Holly and mom

  5. HI KB, Hope the mild weather promised for the next week helps to ease your spasms. I always feel less "tight" when I'm not cold. That photo of K makes her look like a puppy. Also, I'm of the same opinion as R - don't rise and shine until absolutely necessary. I see many coyote markings on the trails I use. When I hiked to Francies, I followed new tracks in the snow, saw where the coyote had marked, but never caught sight of it. They are usually such secretive creatures.

  6. What stunning, beautiful pictures but I have to admit that the opening pictures of R and K were my favorites. And of course dogs smile.

  7. Wow to that sunset!

    We have a lot of singing here in the morning too, starts almost as soon as they hear the alarm, one good reason to try to be awake BEFORE the alarm hits and disengage it:)

    We live pretty close to Tank and yes, the coyotes are here, they run in the shallow wooded area right behind our house. We have seen one when we were out walking a few years ago, only about 200 feet ahead of us, and we have seen several racing across the busy road to get from one wooded area to the next. We agree, they need to have their land too.

  8. I know that K is the true star of the blog, but R is sure giving her some competition! I can just picture his early morning concert. Perhaps he'd like to start eating breakfast in bed, too!

    I had just about given up on Spring arriving here, and then I saw that we had lilac buds this afternoon. There just may be hope for us after all!

    I grew up with a dad who was an avid hunter, but responsible. If he shot something, it went into the freezer and most parts of it got used. He impressed on us that there's a strong need for balance in nature, and I still agree with that, even though I could never be a hunter myself. We need predators out there, and we just have to respect them. I do know that when I was a kid, coyotes were pretty much unheard of here. Now they are becoming rather common.

  9. K is definitely smiling atop those rocks. I love that photo!!

    I totally appreciate your attitude toward the wildlife with whom you share land. I wish more people were as respectful and neighborly. Certainly, where you live is not for everyone, but you approach it in such a positive way. I learn something new almost every time I visit your blog. Thank you for that. I wish you and your pack many years of safety and happy exploring.

    So sorry your back is acting up. I hope it settles soon, and you can hit the trail for one of those bike rides you so love!!

  10. If we are to be good citizens of this planet we must share the resources and spaces with ALL of its inhabitants. We agree that this is not always easy but we applaud your efforts.

    The anticipation of Spring makes hope just sweel up inside, does it not?

  11. That picture of R is so adorable!

    All this coyote talk is jinxing me. I spotted a few the other day as I was driving home from work, they were a few miles from my house. I actually pulled off to the side of the road to get a better look because I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I am on my toes now. We live in a suburban neighborhood which makes their sighting even more scary.

    Hope your back feel better soon:)

  12. Miss K looks like a labra-model today!! Paws crossed for a more relaxed back...

  13. That picture of K on the rock is just perfect. To think that a few months ago you even doubted she'd return to the trails, and now she's leaping over boulders.. I know I say this a lot on your blog, but it's definitely frame-worthy.. (gosh, if you listened to me and framed all of the pictures that I find exceptional, I think your house would be covered!)

    I'm with your regarding the wildlife stuff. Definitely in the "they have a right to be here, too" camp.

  14. I love the sunset pix but my absolute favorite was K smiling! But the thing I love best is how when they really express love for you, is they change the shape of their eyes! From a round serious looking eye, they switch to a sweet little almond shaped eye, that is so full of love, and K has it in this picture. I used to get this from a Lab/Golden mix every day when I came home from work.

    We are so blessed to have dogs in our lives!

    Cheers and hugs,


  15. It does make me sad when humans expand into the territory of wild animals and then expect them to be accommodating. We have coyotes here and sadly they have found plentiful food sources via the garbage that people leave uncovered on trash day. Of course I like that they keep the chipmunk population in check on our property. And yes, I have seen them getting bolder.

    mango momma

  16. We need more people with your attitude. So often people think that wild animals are beautiful and exciting, until they infringe upon our activities. Then, they become vermin.

    One of my cats sings in the morning, too. Unfortunately, I think he's tone deaf because his yowl is decidedly off key. I will say that it gets you up and feeding him, very quickly.

    I'm sorry that your back is bothering you and I do home that your procedure helps in the long run.

  17. Your coyote comments have absolutely NOT offended me. I totally agree with you about living in harmony and protecting wildlife. I never really thought about a "bad side" until my friend lost her dog in such a tragic way. Her family was DEVASTATED. Then the stories came in waves from vets, dog owners, and farmers. Every evening she hears the coyotes in the creek bed down from her house and she remembers that awful night. She stays at her lake house every weekend just to get away from them. And she is a nature-lover just like you and me. That is why we were so shocked by the coyotes coming that close to the house with all the lights on and action at the house.

    Anyway, I am rarely offended by a blogger. I love your blog and your outlook on life. I posted my comment mainly to share my experience and get your take on your coyotes and their evolution. Just a point of discussion- hope I didn't offend you!

    Mamma Heartbeat

  18. I'm so sorry to hear you are feeling pain again. I hope today is better and that the ride is more accommodating.

    We have coyotes near our place, too, and I love to hear them sing at night, often wondering what triggers their outbursts, if they've captured dinner or missed out. They apparently don't have any luck with my uninvited resident bunny! I just wish they wouldn't be so camera shy! I'd love to be able to capture the shots like you do!

  19. Thanks for your insight re: coyotes and such. This gives me a better perspective on the human vs animal condition. The coyote situation here is exasperated by human encroachment and thus, you hear the inflamed stories from upset people. I haven't run into any compromising situations as of yet, but I dare say it's going to happen and I want to be prepared.

  20. That was an awesome smile! I'd smile too if I could run around out in all the beauty!!

  21. What a thought provoking post! I so understand what you is saying. I lives in da same place as da Heartbeats so I know what hers is saying...lotta peeps, lotta traffic, and a freakin' train in my yard and we still sees coyotes, And dis ain't a new neighborhood either, it's actually very old. ANyways, they is heres.
    Bit, I likes you outlook on how things are and how vigilant you is withs da dogs.


  22. i couldn't have said it better!

  23. I don't see or hear coyotes where I live now and I miss them even though their presence where I lived before made me worry for Java's safety and made me extra vigilant.

    Some of the suburbs who have encroached on coyotes are taking measures to control their population and presence. I don't think that's right.

    When I visit family in Arizona, who have been dealing with coyote presence forever, I see how they use fencing to keep their dogs safe. One of my nieces, with a small dog has a fenced area with a cover over also as a hawk could pick up her dog too.

    I know people who have lost their dogs and cats to neighboring wildlife and it's a terrible loss. But being hit by a car is a risk too. It's hard when being careful doesn't eliminate a risk but that's kind of how life is.

    I hope your back is feeling better now.

  24. Great post! Totally agree with you. The world could use more stewards like you!

    The Road Dogs

  25. I love R's ritual singing - what a joyful way to meet the world!
    I wish everyone respected wildlife as you do...
    I'm hoping your back pain subsides soon!

  26. We agree KB,, its their land too.
    We must all learn to live together.
    Its not fair for them to be denied their land. Humans are no better than the fur and feathered creatures.
    The blue bird was so sweet.
    And all the photos so beautiful

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