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The Noble Scavenger

While sitting at my desk I saw a coyote saunter by, nonchalantly, and just a few feet from the window. Why had he not smelled my dogs and run off? What insolence! When I stepped out the door and yelled at him he trotted off prudently and cautiously but not fearfully. He was smaller than Coffee Girl, my 40 pound Australian kelpie (similar to blue heelers). How would she would react to a close encounter with canid kin of the feral kind? I know how my miniature poodle feels about coyotes--he hates them and howls at them. How had that miniature poodle survived fourteen days of being lost on a high plateau in Colorado without running into coyotes and being killed? But leaving my concern for my dogs out of it, I've always had a sneaking admiration for old Wile E. Coyote.

One spring a couple years ago, near Silver City NM, a friend came over from the Arizona Territory to visit the wolf/dog sanctuary nearby.
On the way out to the sanctuary we asked for directions from a neighbor--she raised her hackles and showed us some tooth. Apparently she was no fan of her neighbor's wolf sanctuary. The day looked promising.

The driveway to the house and sanctuary was a dry wash. The woman who ran the sanctuary wouldn't even tell us her real name since she's always on the edge of legal problems. She told us to call her "Wild Wolf Woman." She had over thirty wolf/dogs. I was surprised by the white ones. Wasn't Jack London's "White Fang" a white arctic wolf?

Wild Wolf Woman actually sleeps on the ground with the wolves in summer. Just think of that the next time you watch the movie "Dances with Wolves." She has a remarkable dedication to her cause. But it must be burdensome, rather than glamorous, to take care of so many wolf/dogs on a daily basis.

As the tour progressed, I felt annoyed by my lack of interest in the wolves that I had come out to see. Perhaps it was because Wild Wolf Woman kept emphasizing their harmlessness to man or beast. If they were just big lapdogs with over-sized feet, why does it matter if they go extinct? Once we start to envision the entire animal kingdom as furry pets, it becomes less interesting.

There was a lone coyote who came and went as he pleased just by jumping the fence. He treated the other canids as his personal seraglio. So regal! He alone was Wild, and I was drawn to him more than the wolf/dogs that I had come out to see. Maybe it was the official and anointed status of the Wolf. Once environmental groups make a poster child of some photogenic or cute species, I lose interest in it. It becomes a mere icon, a photo cliche.

But look at the face of this coyote:

Wily, indeed! Here is nobility, intelligence, and self-reliance. RV boondockers should model themselves after him. How would you like to be the forest ranger who tries to enforce the 14-day camping rule on that coyote?