Electric races lightening fast through my nerves around 9:30 p.m. A pack of coyotes starts yipping and barking. They are close. Very close. Right on the edge of the densely wooded ravine next to our log home.
My heart thumps hard in my chest. The eerie sounds of the pack grip me as I stand with Rose and Baker on our front lawn under the star-studded sky.
If able, I know where dour dogs will go.
But here in the country, we keep our dogs leashed, especially at night. Our smallest dog, a 15-pound Yorkshire terrier, is never off-leash. Our vet has warned, “Baker is coyote bait. They’ll take him down in a heartbeat.”
Even our 65-pound yellow Lab could be killed because coyotes are very intelligent, luring their prey away where the pack can surround and down even large animals they’ve chosen for their meal.
Hearing that high-pitched, dog-like vocalization so close, Rose and Baker begin barking, pulling hard on my hands. They want to be free. They want to go into the dark ravine.
I strain to hold their leashes. I stand shivering in the slight night chill. The image of possible slaughter makes me shudder—that our dogs would willingly be lured to their death but for the leash.
As soon as the dogs do their duty, I bring them inside, turn off the front porch lights, and lock the door. We are safe within the confines of our walls.
After a few minutes, the coyotes quiet down and we all fell asleep in our own beds, humans and dogs.
Then, at 1:30 a.m., I hear terrified screaming under our bedroom window.
I bolt out of bed and run down the stairs as fast as I can, my heart thumping in fear, my mind racing.
The coyotes are after one of the cat!
One of our barn cats would not come into the barn for protection before I closed the doors for the night. Even then, he could have climbed up and over the horse stall doors. But he didn’t. Be wouldn’t.I flick on the front porch lights, grab the flashlight, tear open the front door and run outside, barefoot. I see no animals, though I can hear a cat growling mad far above my head. I can’t spot him with my flashlight, but he’s there on some branch, alone. I try to coax. He won’t budge. He doesn’t meow. Just sits there, probably terrified.
I flick on the front porch lights, grab the flashlight, tear open the front door and run outside, barefoot. I see no animals, though I can hear a cat growling mad far above my head. I can’t spot him with my flashlight, but he’s there on some branch, alone. I try to coax. He won’t budge. He doesn’t meow. Just sits there, probably terrified.
Though I hate leaving him in the tree, I don’t know what else to do in the dark so I pray for his safety and head back to bed.
My alarm sounds at 5:00.
It’s still pitch black. I venture outside again, this time in my slippers and robe. I shine the flashlight up the trunk of the honey locust tree and see two eyes reflecting back at me through the yellowing leaves.
It’s Stein (his buddy Frank—I know, I know!—is in the barn where he belongs).
I speak gently, coaxing him to come down.
Come here sweetie! It’s ok, Stein! You can come down!
He starts meowing. I can even hear him purring. But regardless of my coaxing, he won’t move. I go back inside and wait.
Two hours later, when light overcomes dark, I hear him meowing at the front door. It’s Stein!
I take his buddies out on their leashes for the happy morning reunion of two dogs that actually love felines—that love to lick, rather than bite to kill.
In no time, Stein’s furry back is wet with saliva. The dogs are tail-wagging happy and Stein is purring loudly. I am relieved and thankful Stein made it through the night, alive—this time.
I wish I could warn Stein to stay in the barn the next time it’s dark—where he’s safe from prowling coyotes.
I hope he has learned his lesson about how to stay safe from the jaws of death.
But I know his heart is prone to wander into dark places.
Exactly what will it take for him to learn?
Exactly what will it take for me?
Just like coyotes and cats, I can be the hunter or the hunted. I can take down and kill in thought, word and deed.
And I’m better able to take down in a pack of group-think.
What kind of danger lurks in the dark, waiting for me?
Surely, coyotes are not the only dangerous packs. Even the lone wolf, at the right time and place, can create carnage. I’ve seen it.
Copyright 2015 Heather MacLaren Johnson
Am I ever safe? Are you? What can we do?
Maybe it IS time to pray.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1