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Dance with Coyote
Dance with Coyote

by JoAnne Dodgson, Ed.D.

Coyotes have a mysterious love affair with the night.

Their compelling howls and echoing barks keep calling me out into the vast mesas surrounding our home.

I'm enchanted by these wild dogs of the desert. Like agile wispy spirits, coyotes move discreetly among the red rocks, prickly pear cactus and piňon pines. Blending with the land, they boldly fill the night sky with their mystical calls from places unseen.

With Jasmine, the beloved four-legged member of our family, we had our first close-up encounters with coyotes a few years ago. On a hike in the Oregon forest, Jasmine diligently out ran a coyote who was determinedly chasing her. Jasmine rushed back to find us on the trail, welcoming the safety of her pack. Sensing us two-leggeds, the coyote gave up the chase and turned around, disappearing into the trees.

A couple of days later, as we hiked along the same trail, the forest's stillness suddenly erupted into an outburst of high-pitched yelps. There was Jasmine, running with wild abandon through the sagebrush, enthusiastically chasing a coyote.

In their unique canine ways, an agreement was being made between our curly-tailed pup and the dogs of the wild. It had something to do with how they would co-exist and interact, how they would share the vital birthright to run free on the land.

This canine agreement still lives on here in New Mexico, honored across the passage of many miles and many moons. The other night I watched Jasmine and a young coyote play. They chased each other back and forth across an arroyo, distinctly marking their respective territories on either side of the dry river bed. The coyote barked and howled. Jasmine wagged her tail.

Attentive and alert, each dog held her ground in a fur-raised territorial stance until one of them spontaneously decided to start the chase. And so on it went, two dogs of different worlds playing in the dusky glow of the setting sun.

Coyotes are keenly attuned to their environment while guided by deeply-held instincts for self-preservation and protection of their pack. Several times, a single scouting coyote has appeared along the top of a ridge to monitor our movements along the arroyo below. I felt the coyotes checking out our presence in their homelands, determining the need for any further response.

I watched an elder coyote attentively watching me as she led her litter of young farther out into the mesas. A flowing river of puppies bounded over sandy ridges and dispersed in divergent directions toward the cover of trees. I sent out my greetings, honoring her ancient maternal ways and celebrating the exuberant beauty of her pack, letting her know I had no intention to bring harm to any of them.

Because we too are making an agreement--the coyotes and me--about how it is we'll co-exist and share in the potent birthright to be wild and free on the land.

One evening I climbed up a ravine and came face-to-face with a coyote watching over from the top of the ridge. There we stood, nose-to-nose, just a few feet from one another, silent and still, curious and sensing. I'm not certain what the coyote experienced, but I was thrilled by the unexpected crossing of our paths.

In the timeless expanse of those few precious moments spent gazing into the eyes of a wild dog, I reached out to create a respectful and knowing connection; a joining between our worlds shaped by love; a weaving of a web that would untangle us both from the well-entrenched legacies of wariness and fear.

Because the shared history between us two-leggeds and coyotes includes generations of concerted human efforts to eliminate them. Nevertheless these spirited dogs of the wild keep growing in number and expanding their territory, thriving in all kinds of climates and terrains.

Some consider coyotes to be tricksters. I consider Coyote to be a great teacher about tenacity--about the unyielding pursuits of potentials and possibilities and purposeful manifestations of dreams; about relentlessly reaching beyond survival to live fully, to openly flourish and thrive, even against all odds.

Coyote walks with the passion of the hunt, living fueled by the hunger to seek out and catch and take in and share what it is that abundantly nourishes life. Clearly unwilling to give up or give in or get caged by others' judgments and fears, the wild dogs of the desert are ingenious. The mystery and magic of their ways are held sacred in the red rock mesas and moonlit skies.

Coyotes have an exquisite love affair with life. I hear them calling me to join in the dance.

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