Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Midnight visit in suburbia

At 11:45 pm Sunday, I wake up because I hear a dog barking outside.  My dog, Peanut.  Now I will admit she is a bit of a barker, warning anyone who dares to walk past our house to walk faster.  But that is during the day.  At night she is generally curled up on my bed with Angel and Rags. 

So I go downstairs to see what the problem is, Angel and Rags running ahead.  I flip the patio light on and see Angel and Peanut with their noses to the ground, following a circuitous route through the back yard. 

Great, I think.  There's been a cat in the yard.  I hope it isn't still here.

Moments later, Peanut makes a beeline for the back wall, barking loudly.  A raven is standing on the wall, unconcerned, looking at her.  I hush her and stand within a foot of the raven.  It is a small raven, probably one of the three babies that were born in the nest on the electrical tower behind my house.  I talk to it.

"Don't you think you should leave?  It isn't exactly safe here."  The raven blinks, but doesn't leave.  "Shoo."  It shifts its weight, nearly falling off the wall, and I see that it has an injury to its foot. 

Cat, I think again. 

Peanut won't take her eyes off the raven.  Rags is starting to growl, preparatory to barking, and I hear another noise near the front of the walled-in yard.  Not wanting any midnight barking, or any cat and dog fights, I hustle Angel and Rags into the house and close off the doggy door.  Peanut won't come, so I pick her up bodily.  The dogs stand at the patio door staring out at me. 

I hear another noise up front.  It doesn't sound cat-like and I wonder if one of the raven siblings is also stranded, maybe injured.  I walk up front, in my pajamas, the street light my only illumination.

At the front of the yard is a slatted double gate.  Where the block meets the house, I have a wheel barrow propped on its end.  The corner is completely in shadow.   As I near the gate, I hear a canine warning growl.  I stop cold, wondering whether it is safe to move away.  Will the canine in question follow me, attack me?  I slowly turn around and walk back to the house. 

Now, I can't leave the animal in my yard.  My dogs will need to go outside someday.  And I suspect, since it is a nocturnal canine capable of jumping a 6 foot fence, that my guest is a coyote.  This is both good and bad news.  Good because I haven't seen any coyotes recently.  I had worried they had all been chased from the area.  Bad because, well, because in a battle between a dog and a coyote, I think the coyote would win.

I grab a jacket to cover my pajamas and a flashlight and go to the front of the double gate.  I shine the flashlight into the yard and the coyote looks at me calmly through the gap.  I see an eye and a nose, but nothing else.  I am not willing to get close enough to see more.  I don't want to frighten it.  I need a way to get it out of my yard.

The padlock on the gate isn't latched.  It's just slipped through the hasp.  Keeping an eye on the spot where the coyote is, I reach my hand over the gate.  I have a vision of it leaping up and grabbing my hand, but it neither growls nor moves. 

I can't reach the padlock so I move a large decorative rock closer to the gate.  Standing on it, I can reach the lock.  I slip it from the hasp and loosen the latch. Since the coyote probably came from the retention basin side of the  property, I also go through the house to the back yard.  I unlock the gate to the basin and prop it open with a watering can. 

Then back to the front to make sure the gate had swung open, as it generally does. But didn't this time.  So I carefully walk over and open the gate about 6 inches.  Then I hightail it back into the house.  The dogs and I go back upstairs.  Looking out the front window, I half hope to see the coyote exit the yard, but I am sure it will wait until it feels safer.  I have trouble getting back to sleep, wondering what to do if it is still there in the morning.

Awake by 4, I dress quickly, grab a flashlight and do a complete survey of the back yard.  Thankfully, the coyote has departed.  I let the dogs out and get ready for work. 

Later, as it starts to get light out, I see Angel and Peanut leaping at the wall, trying to get the raven still perched there.  They can't reach it, but it is making an odd hissing sound at them.  That sound alerts mama raven and she starts cawing and circling overhead. 

Fearing mama will attack my dogs, I approach the small raven. Again it doesn't move.  I lightly touch the back feathers and it hobbles along the fence.  I encourage it across the property line onto my neighbor's wall, out of sight of the dogs.  When I leave for work fifteen minutes later, it is back on my side of the fence sheltered under an overhanging tree branch. 

I sigh and hope for the best. When I get home from work, the raven is gone. I can't tell whether or not it is back with its family in the nest.

The whole adventure reminds me of the beginning of a bad joke - A raven and a coyote walk into a yard …

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