Wild dogs couldn’t drag me away

So there she stood, a female coyote, on a hill in full view at high noon, howling her toothy little head off. And all because I didn’t obey the orders of the National Park Service.

OK, so it may not be that big a deal for you, but for me, what can I say, I’m a dog person …

I had shown up at the campground in Death Valley at 5 p.m. on a recent Friday, confident it was going to be one of those weekends where it would be much nicer to be in D.V. (sunny, calm, 67) than in Reno (cloudy, quasi-Arctic, ’nad-freezing north wind blowing through your pants). I checked in, paid for my site and read the big notice on the bulletin board about how feeding the wildlife was bad and please don’t do it because it’s not pretty to watch a raven die from an overdose of Wheat Thins.

Ten minutes later, while biking around the campground getting a feel for the place, I saw the weirdo lady with big hair throw a chunk of stringy gristle to the coyote, the obvious queen of the campground beggars who was working a well-grooved circuit. I stopped my bike to look at her. The coyote, that is. She didn’t appreciate me watching and skulked away. But she could sense that I was, like Flounder in Animal House, worthless and weak, an easy mark to be exploited in the near future. Perhaps she sensed I’m a dog person.

She showed up the next morning, after I had absent-mindedly and slothfully poured some bacon grease onto the gravel in front of the trailer. The powerful porcine aroma, universally irresistible to both man and beast, had her approaching stealthily within a couple of minutes. Inside the trailer, I watched as she sniffed the greasy rocks, then licked them with gusto. Yes, I was in violation of the park rules, and yes, I was endangering this creature’s future survival in the wild, I suppose, because it’s big trouble if coyotes get addicted to breakfast pork products, but, well, heck, as far as national park wildlife encounters go, it was pretty cool.

Then I began to think of all of the thousands and thousands and thousands of coyotes that have been shot, trapped and poisoned over the decades by the federal government agency called Animal Damage Control, and how our overall behavior toward this clever, crafty (dare I use the term “wily”?) creature hasn’t been all that gracious or respectful, and before I knew it, before I could stop myself, I was tearing up pieces of bread and throwing them to the ground.

Because, you know, the dog person thing.

As I drove off, there she was, howling on the hill, striking quite the classic photo op. I don’t want to get all sentimental and anthropomorphic on you, but I’m pretty darn sure she was telling me to hurry back, and next time, bring steaks, baloney and a big ole cow tongue.