Thursday, January 31, 2013
Stalking the Stalkers
Then Bombay balked. He just locked up his legs and refused to move. The way his ears were pointed, he seemed to be concerned about something behind him. I looked back there and saw nothing, so I dislodged his legs and urged him along. He took a few more strides and then locked up again. I whirled around to start my routine of backing him, spinning him and lunging him, but was taken by surprise to see a coyote running right toward Bombay's outside flank.
I doubted the coyote had plans to eat my horse, but I was a bit spooked after a story my husband told me in which he went outside in the wee hours of the morning with both dogs on leashes to do their business, and he could hear coyotes whooping it up close by. Suddenly, their voices got quiet and my husband could hear lots of paw beats running toward him. He dragged the dogs into the garage on their leashes and right when he hit the door to our house, several coyotes appeared right where he had just been standing with our two little dogs. Single coyotes may be easy to chase off, but a pack of them might just snatch a little dog on a leash right out from underneath you.
I jumped toward the coyote that was running at Bombay and yelled, "Go on!"
It spun around and headed away from us, yet beside us and stopped to get a good long look at me. I yelled, "Get outta here!" and made various angry animal noises. He skedaddled a little further down, but stopped again and stared. I started to chase after the coyote until I hit the end of the lead rope and got yanked back by Bombay who refused to budge. I wondered if some kind of instinct was kicking in with him that told him to stand still, because if he runs the coyote will give chase. As a kid, I learned to never skateboard past a loose dog if I wanted to wear the pants I was wearing ever again.
I watched the coyote disappear, got Bombay walking again and said, "Let's go chase that coyote."
I knew that if we didn't stalk it, the coyote would keep walking beside and behind us making it impossible for me to get my exercise, because Bombay would just keep locking up on me. So, as I was urging Bombay to go faster and trot beside me while I jogged, he suddenly snorted, threw his head in the air, lurched forward and then froze up again. I looked behind him and sure enough, a second coyote was giving chase from his flank. I hollered at that one too and turned Bombay to cut across an open area right at it. That one didn't stop and stare, but ran off more quickly.
I chose a path I'd never taken that runs along the top of a deep arroyo so that we could keep a better eye out for predators by being above them. I stopped Bombay on the edge of a cliff and saw one running along the bank. Then I realized that it wasn't a coyote, but the biggest freakin' jackalope I've ever seen. That rabbit was the size of a small coyote. Holy cow! I never have my camera when I need it. Nobody believes me when I tell them how big the jackrabbits grow out in the desert.
Somehow we ended up on this very narrow path, just wide enough for a bicycle, that ran alongside a really busy road. It went up and down through several arroyos and ditches. I was having fits trying to get my horse to walk in a single file line. I couldn't have him walk in front of me, so he had to get behind me. He wanted to run up the hills, so I had to keep throwing my hand up in his face to make him slow down and not plow right over me. I understood that he was just heaving himself up and struggling to keep his footing with his heavy weight, but he still had to stay out of my bubble. I stopped climbing up to show him that he could stop in the middle of a climb and he won't fall back down.
We passed two hikers with two dogs off leash, and the dogs were very well behaved. The hikers cut us a wide berth so they and their dogs wouldn't get kicked. Bombay visibly relaxed when he saw them moving out of his way. He's still carefully assessing every situation that we approach, but he's not freaking out anymore.