The Trickster

Saturday morning the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, colder than it had been for a few weeks.  Sadie and I had waited until the sun was over the ridge of the Sandias before we headed out on our walk in the open space near our house.

It was good we waited as the air was warming and the birds were singing now.  Sadie spooked a rabbit and tore after it.  Ridgebacks can run fast, but rabbits, having more to lose, can run faster.  She rejoined me and trotted along a few paces in front, as I walked along sheding layers of clothes thinking about how nice it was to have the warm weather birds back.  Earlier I heard a western wood pewee and a spotted towhee.  Further along, I spied a canyon towhee on a pile of rock.  It also started singing, as did a curved billed thrasher from its perch on a cholla.  Ahhhh spring, I thought as I strolled along imagining that the concert was for me, rather than for some female of their species.

cholla cactus in bloom
cholla cactus in bloom

Just as I was threading my way through some boulders near the top of a hill, we heard the characteristic, shrill bark of a coyote very close.  Sadie, who has no use for coyotes was off like a shot.  I yelled at her to come back.  As I came around the rocks at the crest of the hill, she came trotting up.  Another bark sounded and I looked up. There was a coyote about 20 yards away barking taunts at Sadie.  The coyote showed no fear of me.



I grabbed onto Sadie’s breakaway leash to make sure she stayed with me.  After a  hard stare at the coyote she came along willingly. I headed back toward home.  As we walked down the hill a chorus of three other coyotes started in calling and taunting trying to lure Sadie into chasing them.

Many of the Southwestern Native People refer to the coyote as a trickster.  I had just observed one of the reasons why.  Sending one member of the pack out to lure dogs to come play or chase is a common tactic.  The lure then leads the dog to an ambush by the rest of the pack.  I think Sadie may have fallen for this trick once.  Her speed and endurance may have saved her.  She knows this trick now and was content to escort me back home.





Forty years later…

Once again our bedroom is very close to our neighbor’s yard.  Once again, we have clueless neighbors with dogs that bark.

The dogs in question are of the small yappy variety this time.  Small, yappy ones that bark at every noise and movement in all the surrounding yards.  Despite knowing it’s not the dogs’ fault, all the neighbors hate them.

Some time ago, the dog’s owners bought the two small, fluffy dogs for their kids.  No one in the family had ever had a dog before.  They didn’t seem to realize that dogs don’t house break themselves.  That dogs that get bored can be destructive and end up chewing on things that they shouldn’t. They had no idea that dogs need to be trained. They need exercise and attention. They thought that when the dogs did something bad, they should just be put outside.  Once outside, the dogs amused and expressed themselves by barking.  At everything.  All the time. Yap.  Yap. Yap.  The owners didn’t seem to hear them.

One warm September night my directionally challenged ­­­spouse and I were in bed, trying to sleep.  The yappy dogs were out in their yard yapping every once and a while.  The later it got, the more the dogs yapped.  My spouse grumbled and cursed.  Finally, after what seemed like hours of yap, yap, yapping and cursing.  Gail got up. She said she would be up a while.  I managed to get to sleep, but awoke when she came back to bed.  She said that she had gone over to the owners and rang and rang their doorbell, but no one answered. There were lights on. She knew someone was probably home.  They just wouldn’t come to the door. That should have been a clue.

The next morning the dogs were still barking.  Their house was closed up and dark, so I went over to take a look.  I knocked on the door, loudly.  No one answered. I rang the bell.  No one came.

I decided to check with the people who lived on one side.  The woman who came to the door said she had no idea where the owners were.  She was sick of the barking too.  When I turned to leave, she said, “I had just gotten to sleep last night when someone starting ringing my doorbell. I couldn’t imagine who it was, so I didn’t answer.  That wasn’t you was it?”

“No,” I answered, “but I know who it was.”


This is a view out the slider in our bedroom.  The house on the right is the house with the dogs.  The house on the left is the doorbell house.


Night Stalker

One of life’s mysteries is why people who have dogs that habitually bark, whine or howl don’t ever hear them, or if they do hear them, why they don’t do anything about it?

Years ago and right out of college, I was sharing a house with one of my male cousins, Mikey.  We had very small house next door to a family that had a black lab named Duke.  Like most Labs, Duke was a big, friendly guy who just wanted to be with people.  He really didn’t like being outside all night chained to his dog house.

It was fall in Kansas.  The hot prairie summer was gone. It was perfect weather for sleeping with the windows open.  The windows in both of our bedrooms were very close to Duke’s dog house, so that when he began telling the neighborhood how lonely he was, and all he wanted was to sleep inside with his family, we both had front row seats. Front row seats like at a concert because Duke didn’t bark or whine, he sang.  His plaintive howl would go up and down a scale: woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo. Over and over.

After about half an hour of listening to Duke, Mike started the ever effective tactic of yelling at him to shut up.  Duke would shut up for a few minutes and when no one came to rescue him, he’d start in again, then Mike would yell, etc.  This cycle went on for another half hour.  Finally, I heard Mike jump out of bed and storm out of the house.  He stalked over to fence where Duke greeted him, tail wagging.  I watch out my window as Mike picked the dog up by the scruff of the neck, got in his face and through gritted teeth asked him to be quiet.

That seemed to work.  Duke settled down and so did we.  We were all just drifting off to sleep, when I heard a police radio and saw a flashlight beam sweep across my window. Mike heard it too and recognized the voice as belonging to the chief of police who lived just down the street.  Mike yelled at me that he’d go out to see what was going on.

What was going on is that our neighbors who couldn’t hear Duke singing or Mike yelling at him, had heard someone outside in their yard. Suspecting a prowler, they called to police.   My cousin, the abashed new, rookie cop, had to confess to the police chief that he was the night stalker.

And then there was the time….tune in for the next installment….