Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dog days of summer

I don't know why, but this morning I woke up feeling hopeful. Maybe it's a stupid move given the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but when I took off to the market this morning, everyone else seemed hopeful too: the men filling the potholes on San Rafael, the workers unloading furniture in Highland Park, the UPS man delivering packages on York. Even the chihuahuas in the neighborhood were busy being hopeful.

 a hopeful dog 
(photo credit: http://www.dogsindepth.com)

It was an all dog alert, with the little guys chasing delivery men, barking at small children only slightly larger than themselves and stopping cars with their antics on Ave. 50. It must be because it's June, I thought, the beginning of summer, a hopeful sign. Everything good happens in the summer (except jury duty): the kids are home, the neighbors are on vacation, the beach is within grasp. As the day progresses towards afternoon, though, I sense the feeling slipping away, but I want to remember it, not forget how good it felt... this feeling of hope.


Continuing with the subject of dogs, a few weeks ago I thought I saw two red foxes in the back forty behind my house, the hollow we call Red Hawk Canyon, an acre of steep hills with a gully running through it, overgrown with wild artichokes, black walnuts and dry grasses.

 Red Hawk Canyon

But foxes in L.A.? Impossible. A few days later Tom saw what I had spotted; two baby coyotes, not more than a foot high, with huge ears and tails that stood straight out, following their mother along the path, dipping into the wild underbrush as soon as they saw/heard him. 

I hadn't realized how much young coyotes look like foxes. My Peterson guide for mammals says that coyotes are larger than foxes but smaller than wolves (all under Carnivores: Dogs), and the illustrations vary only slightly in size, not shape.

 coyote and a swift fox

So, the other day I went looking for the baby coyotes, toddlers now, in the canyon. As I climbed around, slipping and sliding on the dry grasses, I came face to face with one of the babies crossing the path. I tried to take a picture, but slid backwards, ending up with this shot: a ghost? a fox? a young child with big ears?

Picture enhanced to see the image under the leaf: a ghost? a child with big ears?

Over the weekend, I went looking again, walking towards a particularly wild part of the canyon where I'd seen one of the youngsters disappearing. I hadn't been down there for more than five minutes when I stumbled upon one of the babies sleeping, just like a human baby, oblivious to the world. 

 Brilliant camouflage: a sleeping coyote toddler

He didn't wake when I walked within feet of him. When I made my next move, trying to get to another location, his ears began to twitch; he was so well camouflaged I could barely make out when he stood up, dazed, and then took off under the underbrush, moving noiselessly like a ghost. I went back yesterday but he had gone, a day older and wiser, probably forever avoiding this spot where he saw a human.


I'd like to end this post with a picture of another dazed baby, taken 22-years ago: my son with his pal Ernie, waking from a nap.


  1. how magical to come across the sleeping coyote baby and I've always loved that photo of dazed Mekko and Ernie.

  2. No wonder you feel hopeful, seeing all those funky little dogs and magical coyote babies. How utterly amazing to stumble on a sleeping wild baby like that! And I love your ghost dog photo. What a gorgeous post.