Have you ever heard of the movie, The Grey? The basic premise is that Liam Neeson fights for survival as he faces a pack of starving wolves that hunt him. A few weeks ago, I had a similar experience while walking through the timber at dusk. I knew how Liam felt with just a couple exceptions:
- It was coyotes, not wolves.
- I ran like a chicken. We’re not talking ‘it’s time to go, and your mom just used your middle name’ kind of hustle. I ran as if I’d just realized I was a red shirt-wearing extra on Star Trek.
If you’ve ever heard coyotes howl, you know it can raise the hair on the back of your neck even if they’re a mile away. Well, this was a pack and they were only 40-60 yards away…and they weren’t howling. They were on the trail of prey and closing in quickly with excited yelps.
Nado, my old dog, bravely stepped between them and me, snarling his fiercest warning. He held his ground with hackles raised. Well, he held his ground until the human holding his leash had sprinted to the end of the rope’s slack and practically yanked him off his feet as she fled, dragging him with her. In fairness, I was yelling, “To me! To me! To me!” the whole time, but apparently he couldn’t hear me over his snarling or the coyotes yipping. The jokester part of my brain (it seldom shuts down) harassed me, “That a way. Call the coyotes to you.”
Nado is old and not used to running at night, so he kept tripping over roots and sticks. Just as I was about to hoist him over my shoulders, we burst out of the timber and into the lighted edge of the nearest farm. The coyotes suddenly shifted direction. I was relieved until I realized the cabin I was staying in was in their path, and I’d left the door open with only a screen between my cats and them.
I’m a rational person, and I grew up with coyotes howling in our timber and pastures. Even as my feet were flying over the ground, my brain was trying to make sense of coyotes attacking a human and dog at a time of year when other prey was still abundant.
Rational or not, I opted to ask for a ride back to the cabin where I was staying—telling myself the whole way that there was no way the coyotes would risk breaking into a home this time of year just for a couple of cats. To my horror, they started the hunting yelps again at exactly the wrong timing. When I made it to the cabin, the cats’ dilated eyes looked as though it had been a bad day at the optometrist’s office, and they jumped into my arms the moment I came through the door…but they were unharmed.
The next morning, I went back to where I thought I’d initially heard the coyotes. They were, indeed, just about 40-60 yards away when they started the chase. They had been crashing through the timber and gaining on us too. With a closer look, it appears that the pack startled a deer that just happened to flee in the exact same direction of Nado’s and my walk. When Nado and I made it out of the timber and into the light, the deer saw us and shifted direction back through the timber and toward the cabin. The coyotes must have temporarily lost the deer, and then picked up its trail several yards below the cabin. Nado and I were probably never in any real danger except for tripping over a tree root in the darkness.
The moral of the story: Exercising with others really can motivate you to push yourself harder.