Last night, accompanied by my daughter’s boyfriend, Paul, the dog was taken out to the cemetery for her third testing session. The weather conditions dry but chilly, with winds coming out of the north/northwest at about 20 km/h, gusting to about 30 km/h to 40 km/h. In the interests of documenting the session more thoroughly, I brought my voice recorder and digital camera.
We began at the military section instead of the far north end of the cemetery. Though we still had quite a bit of daylight to work with, coyotes have appeared more than once at the north end, and I didn’t want to risk an encounter. However, because I allow the dog to lead during these testing sessions, we ended up at that section of the cemetery anyway.
During our time at the military section, the dog showed no attraction towards any specific plaque on the crematorium walls. Rather, she displayed an unusual and very intense effort to get away from the section. She seemed to be unusually agitated, pulling hard on her leash to get away from the memorial walls. I could not attribute this behavior to anything other than being unfamiliar with the area, and quite possibly, the presence of coyotes – which neither Paul nor I picked up on, but which soon affected the session.
As mentioned, above, despite not wanting to be at the far north end of the cemetery, the dog pulled us in that direction anyway. We arrived at a pergola, and after sniffing around, the dog did her business. Realizing I had left the cleanup bags in the car, I gave Paul my car keys and asked him to run back to the car and get them for me. No sooner had I done that, than we both heard the distinctive yip of a coyote coming from about 1/2 a kilometer to the west. Immediately, we stopped talking, looked up, and saw six coyotes going into formation. From somewhere more to the south, I heard the loud, close yips of several more coyotes. I told Paul we were done and began packing up the equipment. The dog was very agitated by this point, but she made no sound. She did not even whimper.
We began making our way back, but only seconds into the walk back, the coyotes began to call to each other again, from a distance of approximately 400 to 500 feet away. They were very, very close – and listening to the varied calls, I estimated that there were as many as ten forming a ring around us.
Calmly and quietly, I told Paul not to panic. I saw the dog was very nervous and somewhat fearful, even though she still made no sound. I took the equipment and the equipment bag and then handed Paul the dog’s leash. After making sure he still had the car keys, I very calmly and quietly said, “Run.”
Immediately, both Paul and the dog were gone like a bullet from a gun, racing for the safety of the car. I am unable to run, so after taking a deep breath and calming myself, I began walking. I know that showing fear will trigger an attack, even from a coyote, so I just kept moving, slowing my breathing to help me remain calm, while listening to the coyotes close in and yip to each other. Paul and the dog had made it to the safety of the car in about 12 seconds, so I wasn’t worried about them. But the coyotes had formed a ring around me, and they were still moving in – by the time I was about 3/4 of the way back to the car, they were only about 200 feet away. Oddly enough, without knowing how, I somehow knew that they would not attack me. Nonetheless, I held my pace until I was back at the car and safely inside.
Last night’s close call has shown me that while the coyotes don’t always show up at that location, it is not a safe location at which to continue the dog’s testing. So, our next test will take place at a location that coyotes and other predators do not, to my knowledge, frequent. At all times, whether we’re out walking, or whether I am testing her, the safety and well-being of my dog is always my first priority.
Depending on weather, I will be taking the dog out again either tonight, or before the end of the weekend. Stay tuned for updates.