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When Nature Comes Calling, Its Best To Be Prepared
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Matt Keenan
Coyote sightings in the county may not be newsworthy, unless it’s in your neighborhood and you have pets that make a nice appetizer. Last fall, we saw a coyote running along 135th and Mission Road — a few blocks from our house — when I was coming home from work. The second I pulled in the driveway, my greeter-in-chief gave me instant reassurance everything was fine.
Still, that thought enters your head, especially, when, like us, you never have been a fan of fences. After all, Bernie, a dead ringer for the Shaggy DA, has the temperament of a toddler, but when she looks in the mirror she sees Rin Tin Tin.
ADT she’s not. In truth, her most threatening asset is her tail. When it moves, major weather patterns are influenced. The only intruders worthy of a muffled bark are the ones I wish she could actually repel — the UPS and Fed Ex guys. Memo to both: Our closets are full.
So the notion of a predator looking for lunch has been on our radar, and the fact that geese land in the soccer field to the south increases the probability of an interaction. Yet we were unprepared for the phone call from our neighbor three weeks ago: “Look in your backyard, do you see that coyote?”
Lori stared out the windows — nothing. But the next week around 10 p.m. we heard coyotes howling. It was both unnerving and a foreshadowing of what was to come. The only person unconcerned was Bernie, soundly sleeping at the foot of our bed.
So a recent Friday morning, I let Bernie out while I got dressed for work. It was 6:45. Ten minutes later I heard her barking at the back door.
What Bernie wants, Bernie gets, so I went to let her in. What I saw appear at the property line made my heart jump. A coyote. Bernie saw it a second later. She took off in chase. The coyote disappeared through the tree belt and Bernie was headed right behind it. I was in full panic mode. “Bernie!! No!!”
I was in pursuit. There were a couple problems with my advance, however. For one, all I was wearing was a towel, having just left the shower. Another complication: I was heading straight toward Prairie Star Middle<> School -- one of the largest middle schools in southern Johnson County. Somewhere on the property parents were dropping off their children, about to notice a man busting through the trees, running directly toward them. Later I considered the headlines. “Naked man arrested near middle school.” “Freelance writer fired.” “Bond set at 1 billion dollars.” “Wife files divorce papers.” “Dog sent to shelter.”
About three steps from the tree line, I did a 180, ran inside the house, screamed to my wife and daughter something like, “Bernie is fighting Cujo!” In the 30 seconds it took to throw on clothes, I imagined Bernie taking on Bigfoot, Alaskan wolves and African cheetahs. I returned with jeans and shoes and to my shock, there was Bernie, back at the door, waiting for me to join her. The tail was setting a land speed record.
“Bernie! Stay!” She darted. This time she stopped at the tree line to see if her BFF was coming, too. I reached down and grabbed her and carried her inside. By now wife and daughter were up, watching through the windows, and they quickly embraced the golden one. She was in celebration mode, the canine equivalent of a high-five. She saw the enemy and it retreated, saving the Keenan family.
Here’s hoping that if our visitor returns to our subdivision again, it’s not a school day.