Spirit Animal

It’s not uncommon that I see a coyote during a run, but it’s still infrequent enough that I get excited when I see one. I usually see them trotting in the other direction, nonchalant, having already seen or heard my heavy footsteps, not sprinting off scared, more of a saunter, an “I’m faster than you, and I don’t want to be too close, but I don’t need to run very fast either” retreat. I’ll watch as they disappear into the bushes. And even though it takes seconds for me to run to where the coyote left the trail, and the brush isn't very thick, I usually can’t see them, as if they were never there.

I have seen coyotes rip apart a house cat in seconds, then drag it away when they sensed me watching them.

The coyote I found in the middle of the trail was young, and small, about half the size of my dog, who I’m nearly certain has some coyote in her. She walks with the same tall, stiff rear legs, and her face and bushy tail shares something wild with the coyote.

I wasn't sure if it was dead, so I cleared my throat loudly as I approached, and it just lay there, motionless, but no apparent injury that I could see, no blood, except for a worn part of its leg where the ants were starting the decomposition process.

Its eyes were open, and there were no bites, no scratches, no sign of a struggle, just a young dead coyote in the middle of a trail. I made the sign of the cross over it. I’m not religious, and I wasn’t sure I got the order right, so I tried to remember the rhyme about spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch, or was it watch and wallet?

In my head, I thanked the coyote for running the trails, for creating new ones for me to follow, and I apologized to the dead coyote for paving over its trails, and for building houses in its hunting ground.

I ran on, pushing hard up a hill called the Whiptail Loop, and towards the top I saw another coyote, just the head and ears off to the side of the trail about 30 feet away, and I sped up to try to follow it, but by the time I ran to where I had seen it, the coyote was gone.

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