The vet clinic is closed on Saturday afternoons and the vet on call is sick in bed himself (sinus infection), but I had to haul him out anyway. My nine-year-old standard poodle, Fleece, was attacked by a coyote this afternoon. She was bleeding impressively from two deep punctures where the coyote's jaws had closed on her left hind leg, and I didn't know how to evaluate that kind of injury well enough to wait till Monday.
I live on a hundred acres of recovering farmland in Anderson County, Kentucky. The place is teeming with wildlife, including coyotes. I'm happy to have them here. They're the only large predators around, and the ecosystem needs them. The farmers shoot them as vermin, but I'm not a farmer. I do, however, have two dogs (see userpic), and I've been aware since we moved here that the dogs could not be allowed to run loose without supervision because of the coyote presence. Even a fairly large domestic dog is no match for one of these big eastern coyotes; they're the size of German shepherds and grimly serious hunters, especially this time of year, when there are pups to be fed. Pets get taken all the time.
I'm still happy to have them here, but we've all had a scare. What happened was this. The dogs and I walk every day to the end of a ridge path about three-fifths of a mile long, that I keep mowed with my trusty DR Field and Brush Mower, one pass up and one pass back.
About halfway to the northwest corner of the property, which is where the mowed path ends and we turn around, there's a check point. Fleece walks on heel that far; I keep her brother Feste, who's never learned to heel, on a short lead. At the check point we stop, I unclip Feste's lead, and the dogs get to run ahead to the end of the path and wait for me there. This arrangement keeps them under pretty good wraps while still giving them a chance to stretch their legs.
There's a bluebird nest box on a pole at the check point. Today I had released the dogs and stopped to look in on the resident chickadees. I had just closed the box when I heard Fleece scream, looked up, and saw Feste running for his life, a streak of black lightning, with a much larger yellow-brown top predator hot on his heels. I yelled and yelled and yelled again--at that distance, about all I could do--as they passed out of view. An instant later Feste was running lickity-split back toward me and the coyote was nowhere to be seen.
By this time I'd caught up with Fleece. I saw that she was shaking all over, but didn't immediately realize she'd been bitten, since Feste had seemed the intended target and was unhurt. When I saw she was bleeding we walked the half mile home is tight formation--Fleece in a kind of daze, Feste looking over his shoulder every few feet--and I called the vet.
While he was stapling Fleece back together, we tried to reconstruct what had happened. Why did the coyote take off after Feste when he already had a grip on Fleece (quite a strong grip; those were pretty good puncture holes). The vet's suggestion seems right: Feste must have attacked the coyote, distracting or irritating him or her enough that s/he let go of Fleece and took off after Feste. I've noticed the two of them packing up when they play with other dogs; he actually might have attacked instinctively when he realized Fleece was in trouble. Feste has a knee problem he takes prednisone for, but terror has a way of dampening mere pain; I've never seen him run so fast. A good thing too. A very good thing the two of them were together, that I was close by, that the coyote was impressed by my frantic yelling, that the bite didn't hamstring Fleece or otherwise do more damage. Make no mistake: it was a very close call. She was just that close to being killed.