Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sundays with Steve - Here Doggie, Doggie!

These Sunday's segments are written by my husband, Mr. Jenny. Here's what he has to say about his posts:

Since I’ve started writing “Sundays with Steve”, I’ve been thinking about vignettes of my life growing up in North Idaho. I realize the town where I grew up and the life I lived with my family is really a classic, all-American story. Perhaps you will recognize some of your childhood in these writings. And perhaps you will recognize the town you grew up in along with some of the characters you knew. Mrs. Steve has encouraged me to write these attempts of “creative writing” as opposed to the more factual journalistic style I was trained in and practiced in my early career many years ago. So my apologies if I stumble a bit here and there trying to blend the two styles together.

Here Doggie, Doggie

The movement out of my left eye caught my attention. At the very first glance it appeared to be a large dog trotting down the alley. Half a second later I realized that wasn’t a dog.

Living in small town America, we all encounter wildlife from time to time, everywhere across this country. But some encounters are a bit surprising.
Both Mrs. Steve and I grew up in small town/small city America. In the forest lands of the eastern USA and the far West Coast, deer are common. Out West, where it is much more arid, smaller critters are normal, things like rabbits, squirrels, skunks, muskrats and beavers along the steams and elk in the higher country -- all pretty tame stuff.

We don’t live in small town America anymore. Our “burb” has 600,000 people in it, of the 4-million in this Arizona metro area. We really don’t expect to see wildlife trotting down our alleys, feeding on our pets.

“Jenny, look at that, it’s a coyote,” I said. The grey beast was trotting easily down the alley, just one block from home. It was a Saturday morning, we were returning from a fairly frequent weekend activity of ours, cruising the neighborhood garage sales.

The coyote was moving easily, without apparent effort, and quickly, about the twice speed you would expect a dog to move. But just as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. It jumped a six-foot tall block wall without effort -- one second it was trotting down the alley, the next second it was up and over that wall and gone into a neighbor’s back yard.

“Wow,” I said, “I hope that household pets are inside, or they are going to become a meal.” What surprised me, more than seeing the coyote in the middle of the city at all, was how easily and effortlessly it jumped a tall wall, maybe three times higher than the beast itself.

“Oh, oh,” I asked, “Should we call our neighbors and warn them?” Our neighbors on one side had three yipping, barking, obnoxious schnauzers. I usually don’t mind schnauzers. My father, after his first retirement, raised a schnauzer then put it on the show circuit. I attended many dog shows with that dog as a young man. I recall one morning when I found my basement filled with 22 schnauzer pups, just a few weeks old, a gift from my parents who left on vacation for several weeks , one of those ‘Won’t you babysit the pups, they won’t be any trouble at all,’ requests. I too owned a schnauzer for many years. I understand schnauzers. And I recognized obnoxious schnauzers when I see them. The neighbor’s schnauzers were obnoxious beasts.

“Should we warn the neighbors that a coyote is about to pounce into their back yard and lunch on the schnauzers?” I asked again. No answer. She was thinking about it.

I wasn’t worried about our wiener dog Oskar. He sleeps all morning; he doesn’t get up until noon or so when he wanders the household looking for a snack or a petting.

I’ve read that wildlife is not unusual in our metro area. Critters often come into the outskirts when winter snows get deep in the high country, or in the summer when drought forces them in for food and water. An occasional bear is spotted – that would be a bit of a thrill, wouldn’t it? Going outside to pick up the morning newspaper to find a bear had beaten you to the sport page? A coyote did terrorize the tony Biltmore district in Phoenix last winter, scaring the little pretty little doggies and feeding on some neighborhood rabbits. My father- in- law told me of seeing a coyote prancing down his street one morning last winter, five or six miles away from us.

This Saturday morning coyote was a first for our neighborhood.

Wildlife often appears unexpectedly, and to my fascination and awe. One morning I got out of bed at the weekend cabin of a friend at Island Park, Idaho, just outside the western entrance to Yellowstone Park. This was the near wilderness, but I confess I was surprised to see a huge moose standing on the front porch of the cabin, staring in the front window. I guess he was looking for breakfast.

I’ve already told you the bear stories of Priest Lake. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned watching fox running across the winter corn fields behind our Idaho house in Eagle, heading for the river and water. Or the muskrats swimming the irrigation canals there, and the beaver dams and chewed-downed trees alongside the Boise River that is a constant issue there. In a state like Idaho that is covered by huge forests and vast mountain wilderness, you expect to encounter animals. In the middle of a metro area of a desert state, maybe not so much.

“So, what do you think, do we warn the neighbors that the schnauzers are about to become lunch?” I asked again.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Steve, “we should.” Hmm, I thought to myself, this could be a good way to clear the neighborhood of an obvious nuisance. But no, in the end, we warned the neighbors of the uninvited guest heading their way.

The obnoxious schnauzers are still there, barking anytime I taking the garage cans out, or even when we walk out to our gardens. It makes me wonder, on occasion, if we really did do the right thing.

(c) 2010 Stephen J. Matlock
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Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I bet most people wouldn't even recognize the coyote, myself included. Glad the schnauzers are okay. :)

Pondside said...

Big sympathy for you with neighbours with yappy dogs!
I haven't seen any coyotes here but when I'm on the mainland I'll sometimes see a group of three or four heading across a field or road. They are not attractive animals - mangy and so feral-looking.

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

So hard to do the right thing, but glad you did. We have coyotes here, too. They were brought in many years ago to combat the deer population. I think they need to combat the coyotes now. We have heard them howling in the past behind our house. The neighbors saw one in their yard a while back and called us to warn us not to let Bailey out.

Have a good one!

Pat Tillett said...

Coyotes, crows, opossums, and racoons all seem to do very well in suburbia.
I understand about the yapping dogs! Nice story!

Deb said...

I'm not going to hold it against you the schnauzer comments....I have two...and I know they can be obnoxious with there barking if not hubby...the dog whisperer has ours pretty much under control..atleast when we are around...we have coyotes here too..hubby and I have run across a few when we are riding the motorcycle down at the river bottoms...they are pretty...

Tracy said...

Awww, often when I hear of wildlife coming into our areas it's because we are taking their land away from sad!
My mom had quite a few schnauzers and were such great dogs for her!
thanks for your tangents...we need to have those now and again!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about those barking dogs, but I am glad you gave the neighbors a heads up on the coyote. No coyotes around here that I know of but we do have plenty deer, opossums, squirrels, raccoons and rabbits. And we see a snake ever now and then. Another interesting read Steve, thanks!

Julie Kwiatkowski Schuler said...

Have you seen any feral pigs, though? I hear that feral pigs are on the rise all over the south! I bet they taste better than coyotes.