August 5, 2011
The fact that we live surrounded by wild things again is forced on me by a coyote attack on a neighbor’s dog, which caused her death two days later. Gracie, their Australian Shepherd, whom we babysat when she was two months old for a couple weeks, and have always been fond of, went out at 5:30 a.m., as usual, and hadn’t come back by 10. One of the other dogs in the family made a huge commotion from the bottom of the deck steps, not visible from the house, and my friend went out to see wh
at was the matter. Gracie, her eight-year-old pet, had collapsed on the ground, bloody, with dry mud on her fur. She must have been there for a couple hours, unable to make it any further before she collapsed. They immediately brought her to the vet, who anesthetized and shaved her, finding and treating over 100 bites all over her body, with some larger skin tears, especially around her tail. She stayed in hospital the first day, night, and the next, when she was walking a little. The vet let my friend bring her home the second night, her last. She brought her back to the vet hospital for her IV antibiotics and pain medication the next morning, after Gracie had walked down the steps, done her #1 and #2, and looked as though she was recovering. Within two hours the vet called. Gracie’s temperature was dropping, she was in organ failure, and he was sure they were losing her. They did, very soon afterwards. She wandered widely, was a friendly dog, kept my own old Aussie company sometimes, and we’ll miss her.
This has been a huge incentive to repair our pasture fence to get the electricity back on, a challenge in s
ummer with weeds and vines growing faster than we can keep up with them. Woven wire five feethigh is a strong protection, but the extra ”insurance” of having hot wires inside it gives any animal pushing out that outside fence a strong ZAP that sends them sprinting away, barking in alarm, tails down. We have a perimeter fence around our front acre as well, of plastic electric mesh fencing to keep the sheep, and our own Aussie, in the yard, and wandering dogs out. My own Aussie has these ”protective issues” which have cost us several hundred dollars over the years in vet bills when she thought I was in danger. Not my husband–it’s me she needs to protect!
I have known coyotes were out in the woods for several years, but they don’t come near the houses, usually. Gracie had probably been about 1/4 mile away, from the mud on her coat, at a pond where she often goes. This is too close for comfort. I’ve put out an email to our neighbors, as well as to our local knitting group, to please come and hunt coyotes out here, if they want to practice their aim off-season. Vermin are always in season. I understand coyote pelts make a good warm coat, also, and were prized historically. We have two miles of woods in all directions from here, and foxes, lynx, bobcats, and black bears have been seen here, as well as wild turkeys, possums and raccoons. The vet said this had to be a large pack to do Gracie this much damage, when Aussies are strong and fast. I’m feeling more vulnerable than usual out here, only 30 miles from the capitol city.
I also feel vulnerable because at 67, I can’t move as fast or as accurately as I used to. If coyotes came up to our fence, my Pyr would probably frighten them off. If I had a gun and could shoot well, I’d feel better about it. But I haven’t shot a gun since Dad took me up on the side hill in CT, when I was in grammar school, to shoot his rifle 200 yards into the huge bank that stopped his bullets in back of the target. And then there’s the risk of collateral damage. People walk their dogs along the fire trails out in those woods, and some neighbors’ dogs roam out there. I wouldn’t mind as much if I clipped coyotes or the wild dog packs of ”dropped-off dogs” who survive in the woods and interbreed with the coyotes.
Steamy weather continues. Most days it’s a heat index of 100-110º. Opening the door is an experience like having a heavy, hot, wet towel slap you in the face. With animals living outside, providing whatever comfort I can for them is high on my list–it even beats gardening, which now amounts to turning on the soaker hoses twice every day for a few minutes, so we don’t empty our well. Mulch covers the soaker hoses to keep scarce water on the roots. Sheep get ice blocks in their water bucket at the hottest part of the day, and Emily, our Great Pyrenees, has her own water dish with ice block. She stops everything to drink long and deeply when I give her fresh ice water.
Our sweet old sheep graze early in the morning, and sometimes in the late afternoon, although since that’s ”predator time” they’re uncomfortable away from the barn then.