Mom Rushes In, by Charles Wood

Monday my Los Angeles area coyotes were less congenial than on Sunday.  Mister showed up first and started barking.  Then Mom and Dad arrived.  I didn’t see any others.  Perhaps they acted differently for the three having time on their hands while waiting for the others

In the video, Mister first solicits play from Mom.  She refuses and Mister turns to Dad who also refuses.  Mister comes toward my dog Holtz and me.  Note that Holtz, sixty pounds, stood to my immediate left wearing his harness attached to a fully retracted and locked leash.  Mom joins Mister who steels himself with a stretch and a yawn and then comes closer while Mom and Dad watch from behind.

Holtz had been sitting quietly, paying more attention to his itches than to the coyotes.  A little late seeing that Mister was now close by, Holtz rises to bark.  Mister flinches.  On Holtz’s first bark, Mom set her left rear foot.  Mom might have ignored one bark.  To one bark, Mister might have replied with dirt scrapes and yips.  As it was, Holtz barked more.  Mom’s exaggerated run towards us was intended to give Holtz pause until she arrived in position.  Holtz’s excessive ruckus decided Mom’s course.

Mister’s course was decided after his parents refused him play.  Holtz didn’t notice.  Mister had reinforcements, yet Holtz’s position was superior to the three because Holtz had me.  Holtz didn’t notice.  Holtz was reactive.  In contrast, the coyotes were acting out a plan, a plan that allowed for the contingency of Mister needing help.  The coyotes wouldn’t have acted out a plan had I left when Mister began to bark or left when later they started to warn me with stares.  They see Holtz as a serial intruder into their home range and don’t want him around because they perceive Holtz as a potential competitor.  To a coyote, showing one’s self to a lingerer is supposed to be enough to cause an intruder to leave.  In fact, Holtz had wanted to leave well before Mister showed himself, having planted his feet and refusing to go with me towards the brush out of which Mister later emerged.

After Mom joins Mister her eyes follow Holtz.  Mister moves right, perhaps too soon.  Mom waits and continues to study before deciding to approach on our left.  She made an assessment and a decision based on how we were physically positioned towards her.  I didn’t notice what tipped her to our left.

Mister draws in behind Mom and they rush in.  Holtz barks and then whines in frustration at my restraining him.  Mom and Mister stop short and withdraw.  They meet up with Dad who comes to them from within the bushes.

Still King?

In the past, Dad has been the one to message Holtz and me in the way Mom and Mister did today.  I don’t know if Dad’s health doesn’t allow it or if the parents think it good experience for Mister.  If Dad is losing it, Mom is stepping in to fill his shoes.  It isn’t my experience of Dad that he hold back or prefer greetings, scratching and play to messaging Holtz and me.  My goal is to find him alone in order to better assess his temperament and health, to see if he still is the king I’ve known him to be.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

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