By the time it was over, I opened the freezer, pulled out the leftover white cake-flavored vodka (belonging to one of my kids) and took a slug although I don’t drink. My dog Shay drove me to it. But to be fair, the coyotes drove Shay to it.
Rewind to six hours earlier when, getting ready to go to the home of friends for a special dinner, I asked my family, “Where’s Shay?” No one knew, but Forest had seen him heading toward the woods an hour earlier. I stepped out every door of the house calling for him, and then Ken and I, with Daniel and a friend of my kids in the car, drove up and down nearby lanes, car windows open in the stark cold, calling, “Shaaaaaaayyyyyy!”
We went onto town, instructing Natalie and her friend to look for him, but they had no luck, and we cut our evening short with friends after Moroccan chicken and home-made tortilla chips, and headed back home, driving slowly up the slippery snowy lane to our house. No sign of our dog, so it was time to do a deep-snow, long-term search.
We layered ourselves in clothes and boots, took up little flashlights, and headed out again, this time following tracks in the snow. Up the field and down, along the woods and into them, and then, when coming out from the woods to our east, we saw fast-moving shadows across the field, rushing east. “Shay!” No Shay, but coyotes, four of them actually, and when we followed their tracks back to the woods, hoping fiercely not to find the remnants of our dog, we did discover four small clearings in the snow where they had bedded down, waiting for our dog.
We followed the coyote tracks the other way to see where they ran, again hoping not to find blood or fur. We found many cross-over tracks and circles back from where they paused to see what we would do, and eventually, we discovered the tracks vanished in the woods to the south. Another set of tracks, Shay’s we thought, went that way earlier. Did we scare out the coyotes only to set them toward our hiding dog? At the moment I started to be overcome by cold and despair, my phone in my pocket rang. Neighbors. They had a brown terrified, trembling dog.
Hallelujah! Back across the long field, and off to the car for a snow-packed drive down plowed and unplowed roads to a house hard to reach but not so far from my ours as the crow flies. Although the house was dark and deserted, from a garage behind it, a door opened and two men with cigars and our dog emerged.
I hugged Shay all the way home, but my relief was short-lived. As soon as we got to the house and opened his door, he shot out, right back to coyote territory again. I ended up standing on our back deck calling for him for ten minutes before coming inside, sitting in the bedroom chair and crying. Knowing he was just trying to protect us from the coyotes didn’t help when he was clearly being outwitted by the coyotes, who just wanted to eat him.
But the story doesn’t end here. Shay came back in a few more minutes, satisfied that he had done his job. I told him I hated him, then hugged him again before heading toward the freezer to pull out the bottle of booze I was embarrassed to buy earlier that day. I mean, who drinks white cake-flavored vodka? Turns out I do, but only under extreme coyote-edged circumstances.
Meanwhile, we have a dog pacing the house today, exploding into barks and jumps when one coyote crosses the field, trying to lure him out. He’s not going anywhere, except, by leash, to the car with me so we can buy a cable to tie him on when he needs to go out. Ken plans to go out to the field and mark some of the territory to scare the coyotes away, and if that doesn’t work, it may be time to shoot some of our neighborhood coyotes. Bad vodka and guns — I guess true love can drive you to such things just as it drives Shay to risk his life in his belief that he’s saving ours.