Category Archives: Animals! Animals! Animals!

Coyote in Our Camp

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Coyotes live in the southern Arizona desert. I know this because I’ve heard them in the evenings and early mornings yipping, yapping, and yes, howling. It has been their desert before it was mine, and I’m not afraid to share the area with them. I don’t have any little dogs to protect, and I haved no fears for my own safety, as I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking an adult human.

I do, however, expect coyotes to keep their distance. What do I have that a coyote might want? I seldom cook meat–maybe a little seafood now and then–so there are usually no enticing odors or bones lingering around my camp. It’s a big desert, the friend I share a campsite with says, and it’s true. I believe the coyote and I can coexist there without getting in each other’s way.

I was surprised to see the coyote(s) skulking near another friend’s camp as the sun sank in the late afternoon sky. We were eating boiled shrimp, it is true (this desert isn’t so very far from the sea), but the coyote(s) displayed quite a boldness to get so close to the camp. I suppose the smell of shrimp was too delicious to ignore

(I’m still not sure if we saw one or two coyotes moving around the outskirts of the camp. I never saw two together, and I was unable to distinguish any identifying features, so I may have only seen one coyote changing its location.)

The friend I was visiting does cook red meat often, so I suppose his camp beckons to the canines with a plethora of enticing aromas. He doesn’t feed them, and he makes sure his garbage can’t be broken into, but still the coyotes come.

My friend suspects other campers feed the coyote neighbors, which is never a good idea. If wild animals grow accustomed to eating handouts, they’re going to hang around where people are. If coyotes hang around campsites or homesteads, one of them might snack on a cat or a little dog. If a coyote kills a pet, people will call for a coyote hide. In the desert, coyotes and humans should keep a respectful distance from one another.

But at least one coyote was close the night of the shrimp boil, hoping for a handout or an opportunity to snatch a delicious morsel. We offered neither.

A couple mornings later, I got out of the van and walked toward my campmate’s rig. In my path was a large pile of feces.

Look at this! I called to my campmate, who strode over.

I think a coyote has been here!

Are we 100% sure that’s not from a human? my campmate asked.

I shot her a look. We’ve got big problems if a person’s coming onto our campsite to shit.

She got her camp shovel, and we bagged up the waste.

Why would a coyote be in our space? we wondered. Then I spotted the five-gallon bucket set next to the firepit. Yep, it was full of water. The coyote was probably passing through our site to drink from the fire safety bucket. We dumped the water and agreed to offer no more drinking opportunities.

I can’t remember if it was that very evening or a few days later, but soon after, I was sitting in the doorway of my van in the late afternoon. I was making a hat, but some movement in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I looked up, and there was a coyote sauntering through the camp. It was on a trajectory which would bring it past where the bucket of water had stood, straight to the area where a coyote had left a poop deposit.

I didn’t even consider what I should do. I just yelled.

Hey! I shouted in my sternest voice.

The coyote froze.

Get out of here! I yelled as meanly as I could. I would have liked to befriend the coyote, but I knew we belonged to two different worlds. It was better if we didn’t try to meet.

The coyote turned tail and ran off the way it had come.

About that time, my campmate came tumbling out of her rig.

Is everything ok? she wanted to know.

I explained I’d just chased away a coyote.

I heard you yell, she said, seeming a little dazed. She obviously hadn’t known just how big my mouth and loud my voice are.

I used to be in pep squad, I explained.

Apparently the voice I once used to cheer on the football team works just as well to chase off coyotes.

 

Coyote at the Bridge

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I’d been away from the Bridge for a while. When I left in late October, I planned to be back in time for Spring Break, but plans change. By December, I’d decided I wanted to spend the summer working as a camp host. By January I’d applied for several camp host positions. By April, I was on my way to California.

I decided to head back to New Mexico when my work season ended. If nothing else, I needed to say good-bye to friends who thought I would only be gone a few months when I left. Of course, once I was back, I couldn’t resist the siren’s song of making a few bucks at the Bridge. Soon I was unfolding my tables and setting out my wares.

Many aspects of life at the Bridge were unchanged. A dozen or more vendors vied for the tourist dollars. Vendors still fought among themselves but showed each other kindness as well. I continued to arrive early to get a good spot where I could attract the attentions of shoppers. Of course, the scenery was still beautiful; the rugged high desert landscape surrounded by snow-peaked mountains always makes me stop and take notice.

There were differences too. Although still officially fall when I arrived, days were cold. I soon wore a comical number of colorful layers in an attempt to stay warm. Days were shorter too. While in the summer we had until seven o’clock or later to catch the sunset visitors, in October and November, daylight was gone by 5pm. Also, the number of visitors must have been less than half of what we saw in the summer.

This photo shows the wild coyote in the vending area at the Bridge.

My favorite addition to the Bridge community was the coyote.

During the many nights and early mornings I’d spent at the Bridge, first while sleeping in a picnic pavilion and later in my van, I’d heard plenty of coyotes. Sometimes there’d be simple, predictable howling, but often I heard the yipping and yapping I anthropomorphized as “partying”–as in the coyotes are really partying tonight. While I knew the coyotes were relatively close because I could hear them, I never saw one. For all the noise they make, coyotes know how to be visibly discreet, so I was surprised to see one skulking around in the sage on the highway side of the fence, pretty close to where the vendors set up.

I was excited to see the coyote, but other vendors were blasé . They knew this coyote; it had been coming around for a while.

Some of the vendors left food our for it. Early in the morning, when there weren’t many people around and food was available, the coyote would come right into the vending area. That’s when I realized the coyote walked with a limp, which is probably why it hung around close to humans who were willing to leave it food.

By talking to other vendors, I pieced together the coyote’s story.

Sometime after I had left the previous fall, the coyote’s foot had been injured. I don’t remember anyone saying what exactly had happened, but whether by trap or by gun (or some other way entirely), the coyote’s foot had been seriously hurt, and it could barely walk, much less run. The vendors saw it limping around and one of them (a great friend to animals although often causing strife for humans) started leaving meat out for the coyote. Her offerings probably got it through the winter when it couldn’t hunt.

The vendor who told me the coyote’s story repeatedly referred to it as “she.” I wasn’t sure if he could tell the animal’s sex by its size or markings or if he’d been close enough to check out its genitals. While I certainly never saw testicles or a penis, I can’t say I got a definitive look. Maybe because of the months the coyote had been around, the vendor felt confident in what he had and hadn’t seen.

While the coyote certainly wasn’t fat, it was by no means skeletal. I’d expect a coyote that was only living on human handouts to be bony and weak. This coyote was lean, but seemed healthy. I think the coyote was hunting again and only supplementing its diet with what the vendors shared.

Although the coyote obviously limped, it moved around well. It was still quick. It wasn’t difficult to imagine it hunting, especially if it used cunning to get the job done.

I had mixed feeling about the coyote hanging out so close to the vendors. I typically think wild animals should stay wild and humans should stay uninvolved in the lives of wild animals. I worried about how close to the

I worried about the coyote crossing the road, as it is doing in this photo.

road the coyote came when it skulked around the vending area looking for food. I got really nervous when I saw it actually cross the highway. I worried about what might happen to the coyote if it did a perfectly normal coyote thing like snatch a little dog for a snack. Now that the coyote could take care of itself, it was better off leaving humans behind.

On the other hand, I was glad the vendor had fed it when it was injured and couldn’t hunt. I’m glad she saved the coyote’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to see the animal up close too. Not everyone gets to see the beautiful independence of wild creatures. Even though the coyote was eating scraps left by humans, it wasn’t begging. One look at the coyote and I knew it belonged only to itself.

I haven’t been to the Bridge in over a year, so I don’t know if the coyote still visits with the vendors early in the mornings, but I think of it whenever I hear a coyote howl.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Book Review: Don Coyote

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Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned America
I’d never seen or heard a coyote until I lived until New Mexico. Until I was in my 4os, my sole experience with coyotes was Wile E. Coyote from The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show. But when I spent three summers and parts of two winters in Northern New Mexico, and heard coyotes and sometimes even saw them.

During my first winter in Northern New Mexico, I found a copy of Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned American Original by Dayton Hyde in a free box. I read the book and learned more about coyotes than I ever thought I’d know

One night, while reading , Don Coyote I had the pleasure of hearing real live coyotes yip, yap, and howl in the distance. I thought this book and that far off canine conversation might be as close as I ever got to a coyote.

Dayton Hyde has been up close and personal with coyotes. Don Coyote is the story of how he befriends a wild coyote, then has friends in the East send a captive mating pair to his Oregon cattle ranch. Hyde ignores the necessary coyote permits and finds himself in possession of eight coyotes when the female gives birth to a litter. Since his plan is to tame the pups “to the point where [he] could release them on the ranch and observe their everyday life without their being concerned about [his] presence” he snatches two of them from the parents before their eyes open. Days later, when the pups’ eyes are opened, he steals two more from their family and brings them into his human world where they stay until each decides to move on into the wild. (Strangely, from that point, he never again mentions the parental coyotes, and the reader is left to wonder what happened to them.)

By the end of the book, Hyde is a rancher and naturalist, but he was not always both. This book chronicles not only his fascination and love of coyotes (the ones he tamed to varying degrees as well as wild ones), but also how that love and fascination caused his transformation from a person who tried to mold nature according to his human whims into someone who observes nature and notices that often the natural way is the best way. As he stopped fighting nature, he began to feel more of a responsibility toward the earth and all nonhuman creatures.

Hyde writes, “What made me so different from my neighbors was that they figured we humans had dominion over the land while I felt we had a responsibility for it—for the soil; for every plant, bird, and animal that shared this planet with us; for the rivers, and for the air.”

Hyde’s writing style is accessible, although his vocabulary is sometimes of an age prior to the book’s 1986 copyright date. He’s a thinker and not just a doer, and his prose is lovely and evocative.

This book came to me via a free box, and I’m glad to have read it. It is a must read for every environmentalist and for anyone who thinks killing predators is a good idea.

(Guest Post) How to Travel with Your Dog…

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Today’s guest post is from Jenny of Here Pup dog blog (https://www.herepup.com/).

Traveling with a dog is possible, but it can be a huge challenge. However, if you don’t want to leave your furry buddy behind, the best thing that you can do is be prepared for the trip. This is also true if you are planning to dwell in your van, whether it’s full time or part time, or if the situation calls for it, or you want to experience this kind of lifestyle.

One of the first things that you need to do is make sure that there’s enough room for you and your pet in the van. You want your pet to be as comfortable as possible for the long journey ahead. Create a checklist of everything it needs and make sure you get them all packed. Some of the most important items to never miss are your dog’s medications, foods, favorite toy and blanket, leash, and crate.

Don’t forget to bring your dog’s medical record too. Do a research and get the contact information of the vets around the area of the places you are going to so you’ll have someone to call in case of emergency. Plan your route ahead so you’ll known where you can bring your dog for an enjoyable break.

There are more things to consider to make travel with your pet more fun and less troublesome. We prepared this great looking infographics that lists more tips for van dwellers and regular travelers alike who are traveling with dogs.

Be prepared on your journey with your best fur buddy with the help of this guide:

How to Travel with Your Dog without Going Completely Insane

The Frogs of Calaveras County

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These frogs live in front of one of the stores in Murphys Main Street business district.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Mark Twain. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read anything substantial written by him. Sure, I’ve seen quotes by Mark Twain (although I can’t think of one), but I don’t recall reading any of his novels or even a short story. (In 10th grade English class, the kids with overprotective, over-Christian parents read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or maybe The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. My mother signed the permission slip, so I got to read Brave New World instead.)

I know Twain is supposed to be funny, with a biting wit, but I’ve never been able to get into his writing. I think my my enjoyment is blocked by his Victorian Era syntax and word choice. Reading Twain’s writing feels too much like schoolwork to me.

In any case, when I went to California and first heard someone reference Calaveras County and frogs, I had only a glimmer of what it the speaker might mean.

I’ve learned a couple of things since then.

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This frog lives in front of one of the stores in Murphys Main Street business district.

The title in question is “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Celebrated_Jumping_Frog_of_Calaveras_County), it

is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain. It was his first great success as a writer and brought him national attention.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches is also the title story of an img_75811867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain. It was Twain’s first book and collected 27 stories that were previously published in magazines and newspapers.[1]

It turns out that Calaveras County is a real place. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calaveras_County,_California) says,

the County of Calaveras, is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 45,578.[3] The county seat is San Andreas,[4] and Angels Camp is the only incorporated city. Calaveras is the Spanish word for skulls; the county was reportedly named for the remains of Native Americans discovered by the Spanish explorer Captain Gabriel Moraga.

Calaveras County is in both the Gold Country and High Sierra regions of California.

I was excited when I got a house sitting gig outside of Murphys, CA. You guessed it! Murphys is in Calaveras County.

Murphys is proud of the county’s famous frogs, even though Twain’s story is set down the road in Angels Camp. Mark Twain lived in Murphys for a spell, which probably increases the civic pride.

Frog in front of the library

This frog lives in front of the Murphys public library.

I suppose “lived in” is a relative term. The guide on the free Saturday morning walking tour I went on explained that Mark Twain lived in Murphys for “88 days, less than three months.” I guess it would be less impressive for the town if word got out that Twain vacationed in Murphys or spent a season there.

The Murphys Historic Hotel (http://murphyshotel.com/history/) is proud to claim Twain at the top of their list of “notable guests” who stayed at the hotel “during its early years.” Apparently visitors can  view a copy of Twain’s  “original registration” signature in the hotel’s lobby, but the website is mum as to when and for how long Twain stayed there.

The town of Murphys (population 2,200) is proud of its county’s froggy heritage. I found three frog sculptures as I explored Murphys downtown. (All three are featured in this post.) However, I didn’t see any information about the artists who created the frogs.

Heck, Calaveras County is so proud of their frogs, they feature them on their recycling bins.

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I guess it helps to be known for something if a town wants to attract tourists.

I took the photos in this post.

(Guest Post) Cows & Boy Scouts

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Thank you to Blaize for allowing me to guest blog for her today.  We met Blaize while camp hosting in Sequoia National Forest this summer.  We (Jeremy & I and our 2 dogs Dakota & Crosby) traveled from Ohio to California and now are staying in Taos New Mexico.  We live in a converted school bus and are enjoying our traveling adventures!  I do not currently have a blog but I do write and the following is something from our stay in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff AZ. We camped there almost 2 weeks and most days we had a huge area all to ourselves…but not this day.

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Tent pitched too close to the author’s bus, viewed through the windshield.

I woke early.  The first up actually.  Don’t gasp!  It happens, regularly even since being on the road. I think I am still operating on Ohio time, or perhaps I’m more in tune out here.  Getting up closer to sunrise, going to bed early…not too long after dark. That, however, is beside the point. As I said I woke early. Usually I have my coffee and sit on our front porch, aka driver seat of the bus, and enjoy my three-sided view of the forest, scanning for wildlife in the growing morning light.  Not this morning.  This morning I have woken to the multitudes of squealing children. “Boy Scouts, why’d it have to be Boy Scouts?” I mutter in the spirit of Indiana Jones. I roll over. It appears we have been invaded by a family troop excursion.  Dozens of tents and pick-up trucks now dot my view. One in particular has set up their tent not 50 ft from the front of our bus.  Seriously? There are acres and acres of open space here.  He has set up closer to our bus than to his own group.  Camping etiquette folks: Give a camper their space!

The group arrived yesterday while we were doing “town” stuff.  I almost wish we had been here when they arrived.  Surely the barking of my dogs would’ve encouraged a respectful distance.  Maybe Crosby will pee on their tent which has so obviously been placed within his territory.  Actually that prospect is pretty likely. The thought makes me smile and consider letting him out and maybe not watching him too close for a minute.  A wave of guilt passes over me and then quickly recedes as a pack of wildings run squealing through our camp.  Boy Scouts always conjure up images of Lord of the Flies for me.  It’s unsettling.  In the woods they are downright frightening.  I’d rather camp next to a pack of wild coyotes than in the midst of a group of Boy Scouts.

Suddenly an angry low of a cow cuts through my thoughts and the melee of the boys.  If you don’t think a cow can sound angry you’ve not spent time around wild forest cows.  Out west cows roam everywhere, especially on National Forest land.  Around any given corner you can encounter a cow standing in the middle of the road.  Many of which have large horns…and attitude.  This one sounded very angry.  Not the gentle moo of a cow contentedly chomping grass, but an almost roar.  Think bear growl crossed with a moo.  This cow was seriously pissed.

Rounds of squealing Boy Scout ruckus followed the bellow, and then more angry moos.  I can visualize the wild pack of boys harassing the cow.  I can hear the cow getting angrier and angrier.  Oh this is going to end badly.  More squealing, more angry moos.  Suddenly a whistle blows long and hard.  Still squealing and angry moos continue.  Another whistle blow and the squealing abates.  Another angry moo or two.  Evidently an adult has finally stepped up to control the situation.  The whistle serving as a sort of code to call in the wildings. A dark side of me is disappointed.  The karma of a cow trampling through their camp seems almost appropriate. There are a few moments of silence and then the ruckus begins again, without angry moos. The cow must have moved on, probably as perturbed by her unexpected visitors as I am.

I pour my coffee and remind myself that the forest belongs to us all. Wildings, cows and buslife hippies alike.

Later that afternoon I breathe a sigh of relief…they are packing up.  Just a one night trip.  We have our peaceful forest back, the cows are pleased.

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The author took the photos in this post.

Cats and Dogs

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I’ve been a cat person all my life.

My family had a few dogs during my childhood and adolescence. Though I liked them to greater and lesser degrees, they were all so stinky and slobbery and needy. I preferred the family cats who might sit on my lap, but never put their stinky breath right up in my face.

I was afraid of strange dogs for many years. Although I’d never been bitten, the big teeth and unpredictable ways of dogs made me nervous. I tried to avoid dogs as much as possible.

Then I became the co-owner of a puppy. I guess you could say I was the doggie mama. The relationship with the man ended, and I never saw the pup again, but I’d learned a lot about dogs. Canines don’t scare me any more, although I’m still cautious around strangers. If I want to pet a dog I don’t know, I ask the dog’s person first, and I don’t like any dog’s teeth (or breath!) right up in my face.

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I took this photo of two dogs in my care.

Yes, I recognize the irony of my situation as a house sitter who usually tends to dogs. How did I go from a gal scared of dogs to one who is quite popular with the puppies? Maybe it’s because I’m loving but take no shit. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a free hand with the (dog’s-person-approved) treats.

My theory is that dogs love whomever feeds them. When I sit with dogs, the first day and night are really difficult for the critters. They look sad and a bit confused. They mope around the house. They stare longingly at the door. By the next morning, however, when they figure out I’m going to put food in the bowl and scratch bellies too, they love me. They love me! They’re happy to see me when I return. They follow me with their eyes as I move about the house. If they are accustomed to sleeping in the bed with their people, they sleep in the bed with me. Maybe dogs are fickle. Maybe dogs are opportunists. Maybe dogs simply love easily. In any case, it does make more sense to lick than bite the hand that feeds you.

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Photo of Chiweenie taken by her person

And while love is important, feeding seems to be even more so. I recently met an old friend’s beloved Chiweenie. This dog was rescued off the streets of a major city and is a bit of a ruffian. My friend has done much work to socialize this doggie girl so she  can (usually) go on walks without attacking the ankles of passersby . Despite my friend’s warnings and best intentions, the Chiweenie jumped up and nipped my fingers as I ignored her (as directed) while crossing the threshold into her home. Damn! Apparently she doesn’t know that dogs love me. What won her over was treats, lots and lots of treats, so many treats. I first fed her through the slats of her kennel; soon I was able to feed her more directly, once she was allowed to roam freely about the cabin. In less than an hour, she was lying next to me on the couch, offering her pink hairless belly for rubs. Oh! The power of food!

Despite all this puppy love, I’ll tell you a secret. I prefer cats. It’s true. For one, they’re a lot less trouble. Although I do know a handsome Siamese who perambulates about town on a leash, I’ve never been asked to take a cat for a walk. Although cleaning a litter pan is not a fun chore, I prefer it to picking up squishy dog feces in a little bag which I then must carry around until I find a trash can. Although I am touched to see a dog get all excited when I return to the house, I’d prefer not to have a critter under my feet every time I move. I appreciate the independent nature of cats, their live and let live (and let’s mostly leave each other alone) attitude.

In my house sitting career, I’ve mostly cared for dogs. Maybe because they need more attention, it’s easier to have someone in-house to care for them. Maybe people with cats can more easily believe nothing can go wrong if someone just pops by once a day to feed and water the felines. Dogs just seem to need more supervision, so most of my jobs have been to care for canines.

I am currently house sitting and caring for an elderly cat. Although over twelve years old, this gal is healthy. I don’t have to give her any medications or clean up any unseemly bodily emissions. Mostly she sleeps in a bed on top of a chest of drawers in the main bedroom.

My cat related chores are very few. I clean out the litter pan when it gets gross. I ensure her bowls contain water and dry food at all time. I give her wet food in the mornings and evenings, as she demands by standing in front of her bowls and meowing insistently. When she wants to go outside, I open a door for her. If I close the door behind her on the way out, I let her in again when she demands re-entrance. I make sure she is inside between dusk and dawn. Easy.

The other night, a couple of hours after dark, I peeked into the main bedroom to check on Madame. She was not in her bed! What? I thought I’d made sure she was in the house before I closed up all the doors. Had I really locked the cat out on a cold, damp night?

I opened the back door, stepped out on the deck, and called the cat’s name. No response. I opened the front door, stepped out on the porch and called the cat’s name. No response. I ran back and forth a few times, calling her name and shouting, Here kitty kitty! No response. How had I managed to fail in this very simple task?

I thought maybe she was hiding in some other part of the house. She was not in the kitchen. She was not in the living room. She was not in the guest bedroom where I sleep, nor in the guest bath. I went into the office, not expecting her to be there, and turned on the light. There was Madame, curled up on the satellite TV receiver.

You heard me calling and just sat there? I asked her.

She didn’t even dignify my question with a response.

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I took this photo of the cat currently under my guardianship.