From Coyote to Corona

coyoteThere is a coyote stalking small prey in the backyard.  The animal’s fur is a combination of grey, white, brown and black, perfect camouflage to blend into the shadows.  Except it isn’t trying very hard to remain undetected, perhaps from hunger or disease, it lets us see him watch us through the window. 

Little Legs thinks it’s a dog and barks at it and bangs on the glass with a toy car.

“Daw… daw…daw…” he chants.

He would like to have a pet, but this is not the right one, with its possible case of rabies, baby-biting tendencies, and definite infestation of fleas.  By the looks of the mangy mutt, the coyote wouldn’t mind carrying off my sweet boy to snack on like a meaty Now and Later.  Something about the way that it stares at us is off with the same level of derangement as an escaped convict, and then I see it lick its lips, or at least I think that I do.  Staying home day after day may be impacting my cognition, or plain and simple, the coyote wants to eat us. 

“Well, we aren’t going out there today,” I declare knowing that we will still go outside after lunch.  

Mentally, I go through several scenarios of Little Legs luring the coyote close enough to touch when my back is turned and me chasing it off with a stick or going into hand-to-paw combat with it or running after it with Little Legs on its back like a circus performer riding a lion.  I set my resolve to get a weapon to protect us during the day, wanting a bb gun for the first time in my life.

“A bb gun?”

My husband is incredulous when I tell him what is needed on his next trip to town and the reason why.  I show him the picture that I took as proof of the problem and to support my request.  A part of me expects him to ask me to fill out a requisition form and send it to the finance department for processing…so Amazon, it is.    

“You don’t need a bb gun, you need a shot gun and we can load it with buck shot; you don’t have to be accurate that way.”

I don’t take offense at this because he is obviously unaware of my sharp shooting days from a past life and that this is not something that I just want.  It is something that I need at a time when it feels like we are under attack from all angles with the corona virus wreaking havoc on multiple fronts of our world, living under quarantine and now a coyote in our backyard.

What I want and need is a sense of safety for my little boy and the one on the way.  I need to feel secure taking them out to swing or to play in the dirt or to gather dandelions and not worry that a coyote is watching us and waiting for his dinner opportunity.  With wild things all around us that threaten harm, I want to feel some control in protecting the ones I love, but it doesn’t seem like any amount of waiting, money or weaponry can provide the kind of security that I need.  

Aside from hand sanitizer.  And a bb gun.

The Search for Sugar

It’s been about a week since Sugar’s visit.  We remain under a shelter-in-place order which gives us ample time to observe the comings and goings of the neighbors.  Sadly, our favorite neighbor has yet to return to her rightful place in the backyard across the street barking at birds and digging in the mud.

When Sugar came to visit, we thought it was a part of a short-lived tour de freedom instead of what now appears to have been the kick off to a much longer and possibly permanent trip away from the backyard.   

We still take walks through the neighborhood, while cautiously respecting the social distancing imperative, and peek into her fenced area.  I am hopeful that we somehow missed her homecoming and will find her there one day, smiling and barking and as dirty, as ever.  

Little Legs also looks for her.  He strains his neck trying to see her through the fence and raises his hands in question when only untrampled grass meets his gaze. 

This is the only loss that he has felt during quarantine.  He doesn’t miss playdates or enriching field trips to museums or hands-on discovery centers, he doesn’t care that all of our meals are eaten at home or that he hasn’t seen his grandparents this Spring.  He just knows that his friend, Sugar, is missing.

As a new parent, I didn’t anticipate the need to deal with issues of loss or grief this early on in our journey. However, we take the challenges as they come, fast and unexpected.  It’s a lot of improvising and fly-by-the-seat of one’s pants work to meet the needs of our curious and sweet little boy.

So, the last time he threw his hands up in question about Sugar, I gave the best explanation I could.

“Sugar is on vacation for a while, probably at the beach, and we don’t know when she’ll be back.”

He accepted this without question and toddled down the road, picking up rocks and worms, happy to know the truth, at last.

Quarantined on a Rainy Day

The sky is nine depressing shades of grey and the air is cold and damp.  It feels like a typical Indiana spring day, but we are in Tennessee and have already experienced a string of warm days in the 70’s.  This drop to the 50’s feels mean and cruel.  Mother Nature is in a bad mood, and needs some alone time.  

However, we need a change of scenery and with the ongoing shelter-in-place order, we have limited options.  It’s basically inside, outside or a drive to the store.  

We sneak outside after lunch before the next rain shower is expected to deliver yet another soaking.  Little Legs feels the cold and his interest in an outdoor adventure suddenly disappears as he scurries back inside of the protective covering of the garage.  I pull the hood of his red sweatshirt up over the back of his head, and for once, he doesn’t fight me.  He lets the hood remain in place, a clear sign that this fair-weather friend is cold.

“Let’s check the mail,” I try to cajole him out of the garage where he is banging on the side of the car with a wooden toy that he found along the way.   

He ignores me and continues banging on the car.  The temperature hasn’t changed and he isn’t changing his stance on this outing.  These two facts make it difficult to move forward in a compromise thereby requiring the bodily removal of Little Red Riding Hood.

“You need the fresh air and it’s not that cold out,” I reason with him as I carry him out, very much against his will.

It’s like trying to rationalize with a donkey, it only makes him kick at my chest as we head towards the mailbox.  He’s tricky to hold onto when he resorts to the squirm-kick but I manage, thanks to muscles that I never had before becoming a human taxi.

“Do you want to walk now?” I ask when we are halfway down the drive way. 

This seems like a reasonable distance to walk on his own in the cold-not-so-cold elements.  He has settled into my arms and is no longer a stiff-armed spider monkey trying to crawl onto my back and shoulders rather than to be carried like a normal toddler.

“Ssss,” he nods his head in agreement. 

I have an understanding of this early language and this is a definite yes.  Plus, no involves a shaking of his entire head and body.  Gently, I lower his legs to the ground and stand him up, proud that he has come around and wants to be independent.  He gets it, I foolishly think.

“See, it’s not so bad.”

He looks up at me with crooked grin, catches a cool breeze that lifts his hair up in a chilly surprise, and takes off for the garage.  It is a trick.  Although his legs are short, they are quick and take him right back to the side of the car, where he resumes his work banging on the door.  

We will try again later, or not.  The mail will be there tomorrow if we don’t make it today.  It’s the season of the quarantine and anything goes.

Sugar

A pair of dark eyes surrounded by a face full of white fur peered into the window and gave a friendly bark, not too deep, not too loud, but a bark that was just right to get the attention of a little boy playing on the other side of the room.

“Uh, babe, what is that?”

It was shocking to see this large creature looking in at us like a spectator at a zoo, curious and anxious for interaction.  In fact, so suddenly did it appear that my husband was unable to register the nature of the drooling visitor.  However, I knew exactly where the fluffy voyeur was from, further confirmed as it continued to peer into our living room, waiting to be acknowledged by someone who was still making his way to the window. 

The animal’s name was Sugar, she lived across the street, and was most often found covered in mud, racing around the perimeter of the yard barking at birds.  We learned her name just a few days ago, but had visited her through the winter and spring.  She was a living landmark on our walks, a touch-point during our travels that indicated a successful road crossing.

It appeared that she was simply returning the favor in her first moments of freedom.  We were her touch-point from a successful road crossing in the opposite direction.  

“She came to find Little Legs.”

At last, Little Legs made it to the window and shrieked in delight.  He dropped his Tonka truck which landed on my foot with a crash and a cry of pain, from me, as it was an old hand-me-down toy that was on the verge of being unsafe with metal and hard, moveable plastic bits.  Little Legs grabbed onto the window ledge with a grin that was made of the same combination of drool, teeth, and a hanging tongue as his visitor and pointed at the door.

He was ready to go out and see his friend without a window or gate between the two.  Sadly, it was a desire that was not meant to be for these two besties.  An invisible breeze blew the scent of something too juicy to ignore past the dog’s wet nose.  Sugar sniffed the air, gave another bark and took off at a full gallop, determined to spend the rest of its freedom doing dog-things from its to-do list, now one item shorter.

It is nice to have friends, isn’t it Little Legs?