Wild animals: better on television

Note: This column appears in the 9/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/2 issue of the Peoria Times

After four years of blissful enjoyment of my outdoor desert surroundings, it was bound to happen. Last week I came face-to-face with a coyote.

Granted, our faces were about 25 yards apart, but still. I had just finished a jog around the neighborhood, and was cooling down by walking around the cul de sac near our street that overlooks a barren desert that should have been developed years ago (thanks, economy!) when our eyes met.

It was very similar to that time I was viciously attacked by bears (don’t know what I’m talking about? Buy the book!) in that I felt extremely vulnerable. He—I didn’t think to check the genitalia from afar, so let’s go with “he”—sized me up. I have heard that when confronted by a coyote, one should make lots of noise and move menacingly forward as a means of intimidating the great beast. But we were far enough apart that I didn’t feel overtly threatened, plus I didn’t want to take the chance of screaming and approaching and having him charge me, at which point I would have turned around immediately and started running, thus sealing my fate. I know my neighbors wouldn’t have helped. Instead I maintained eye contact while sidestepping towards my house, and when he was out of sight, I booked it like Usain Bolt, minus the casual confidence.

Ironically, I began that day’s jog telling myself that I should really start carrying something on these runs in case of danger. Something light, of course. A knife? I later mentioned as much to my wife and she laughed, saying, “That’s too close!” She’s right. As if I could imagine some violent struggle between myself and a coyote ending with me stabbing the coyote in the heart. Who do I think I am? Some kind of bearded mountain man? I would need something that would allow me to keep a vast distance. Like a machine gun. Or netting that sprays out of my wrists.

The reason I had been contemplating protection was that our friend, who lives in the neighborhood across the street from ours, had recently experienced the pleasure of seeing a bobcat in her backyard. Not near her backyard. In her backyard, where her kids were playing. Not a cute construction Bobcat. The animal bobcat. Again, for emphasis—a bobcat. In her backyard.

Here’s the thing. We live in a development, and while I realize our Home Owner’s Association can’t feasibly be asked to contain the surrounding wildlife, it’s like, I mean … we pay almost $300 per quarter. I wouldn’t mind if all of that money went towards the bobcat/coyote protection fund. Pools? Parks? Pfft. Don’t care. Can you keep me from getting mauled by a desert animal? Cool. Here is all of my money.

This whole situation has also forced me to rethink everything about myself. I used to be like, “The environment! Save animals! This is their habitat!” which is an admirable line of thinking, until you are in a t-shirt and shorts and staring back at a coyote. Now I’m twitching during cartoons. “Winnie the Pooh will EAT YOUR FACE!” is something I screamed at no one in particular the other day while forcefully turning off the television.

Now I will not leave the house unless it’s behind a steering wheel. I’m not sure what to do. It’s either a treadmill or a gun at this point, and I fear either choice ends with me hurting myself badly.

Those treadmills are too narrow.

Dramatization of my encounter.