I’m so enchanted with the wild dogs of the desert. Such agile wispy spirits, coyotes move discreetly through sandy soils, prickly pear cactus and piñon pines. Coyotes have a compelling love affair with the night. Their mystical howls dance across the land with the moonlight and owls.
My beloved canine friend, Jasmine, and I had our first close-up encounters with coyotes several years ago. On a hike in the Oregon forest, Jasmine diligently outran a coyote who was determinedly chasing her. Jasmine rushed back to find me on the trail, welcoming the safety of her pack. Sensing a two-legged, the coyote gave up the chase and turned around, disappearing into the trees.
A couple days later as we hiked along the same trail, the forest’s stillness suddenly erupted into an outburst. There was Jasmine running with wild abandon through the sagebrush, chasing a coyote with all her heart.
Inside this dance of the canines, a potent question was being raised. Just how would the curly-tailed pup and the wild dogs co-exist? In their interactions, the canines’ negotiation was fueled by a shared passion for living, the distinct purposes of their lives, and the unyielding claiming of their birthright to run free on the land.
The agreement made then between Jasmine and Coyote wove it’s way through the passage of time and the diverse places we’ve called home. In the red rock mesas here in New Mexico, I’ve watched Jasmine and a young coyote play. They chased each other back and forth across an arroyo, distinctly marking their respective territories on either side of the dry river bed. The coyote barked and howled. Jasmine wagged her tail. Attentive and alert, each dog held her ground in a fur-raised territorial stance until one of them spontaneously decided to start the chase. And so on it went, two dogs of different worlds playing in the dusky glow of the setting sun.
Because we too had a dance, Coyote and me… How do we both claim our birthright to live wild and free on the land?
Coyotes are keenly attuned to their environment, so instinctively connected and protective of their pack. Often a scouting coyote silently watched over from the top of a ridge to monitor our movements along the arroyo below. The coyotes were attentive to our presence in their homelands, reaching out to understand who we are and why we’ve come, determining the need for any further response.
One sunny afternoon under the turquoise skies, an elder coyote watched me watching her as she led her litter of young further out into the mesas. A flowing river of puppies bounded over sandy ridges and dispersed in divergent directions toward the cover of trees. I sent out my greetings, honoring her ancient maternal instincts and celebrating the exuberant beauty of her pack. I so wanted her to know that I had no intention of bringing harm to any of them.
Because we too had a dance, Coyote and me. And potent questions hung in the air. How would we co-exist? Pursue the unique purposes of our lives? How do we both claim our birthright to live wild and free on the land?
One evening I climbed up a ravine and came face-to-face with a coyote watching over from the top of the ridge. There we stood, nose-to-nose, just a few feet from one another, silent and still, curious and sensing. I’m not certain what the coyote experienced but I was thrilled by the unexpected crossing of our paths.
In the timeless expanse of those few precious moments spent gazing into the eyes of a wild dog, I reached out to create a respectful and knowing connection. A joining between our worlds shaped by love. A weaving of a web that would untangle us both from the well-entrenched legacies of wariness and fear.
Because the shared history between us two-leggeds and coyotes includes generations of concerted human efforts to eliminate them. Nevertheless these spirited dogs of the wild keep growing in number and expanding their territory, thriving in all kinds of climates and terrains.
Some consider coyotes to be tricksters. I consider Coyote to be a great teacher about tenacity. About the unwavering pursuit of potentials and possibilities, the purposeful manifestations of dreams. About relentlessly reaching beyond survival to boldly flourish and thrive, even against all odds.
Coyote walks with the passion of the hunt, living fueled by the hunger to seek out and catch and take in and share only what nourishes life. Clearly unwilling to give up or give in to someone else’s agendas and fears, the wild dogs of the desert are ingenious. The mystery and magic of their ways are held sacred in the red rock mesas and moonlit skies.
Coyotes have an exquisite love affair with life. I hear them calling me to join in the dance.
Photo courtesy Christopher Bruno.