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Driving to a trailhead with sunrise blazing scarlet over cool mountain umber. See the profile, the ears, a coyote’s silhouette in a place you wouldn’t expect. Yes, there. Perched on a concrete barrier, rushing lanes of traffic on either side.
Stop the car.
Not natural, this posture, this poor choice of place for hesitation, yet eyes alert, paralyzed panic, adrenaline clenching muscle, the sinew tight hide barely covers bones.
Trucks, commuters whiz by.
Grab gloves, a sweatshirt from the back seat. Keep your face back. Mangy, matted, gray, tan, white, possibly rabid. He lets you wrap the shirt around him. Pick him up, bundle of untamed nervous, high frequency tremble. Smells like rot.
Into the back seat, let go, watch as the billowing tail disappears, compressing matter.
What do you do with a coyote stinking beneath the passenger seat of your 1995 Saturn, which isn’t even yours, it’s your partner’s, but she was asleep so you figured you’d go hiking, but now you have this, what do you do? Take him home to your partner who also happens to be pregnant? Doesn’t seem like a good idea, but that’s what you’ll do because that’s who you are. This wild spirit chose you, and even though you don’t know how, you’re going to help.
Your shepherd –lab mix doesn’t like the coyote. The coyote doesn’t like dog food. Your partner isn’t pissed, just watching you like a factory time clock on Friday. Like the coyote’s watching you.
Sniffs the air near the water, yellow eyes glare from another world, loping through aspens under moonlight, more free than you’ll ever be.
Tomorrow you’ll wake up, call a friend who does animal rescue, find out if she can take it. You’re reluctant, consider trying to make it a pet and then you remember how it felt when you held it, terror unimaginable coursing through its veins and you know that can never be, and then there’s the soon-to-arrive baby…
So the next day you put the coyote back in the Saturn, where he finds a space under the dash you didn’t know existed, and you drive to hand over the wildness you’ve now come to love and respect in a new way, a way not possible before.
The rescue person-friend will deliver him to the wildlife rescue center which will rehabilitate him, mend his infected, wounded leg that he kept hidden from you, and send you a letter three months later informing you that canine # 158329, an eighteen month old male, was fully rehabilitated and released in another part of the state.
Months later you’ll awaken from deep in the night, walk to the baby’s crib, watch for the rise and fall of his or her chest, listen for breath, and then you’ll hear autumn breeze whispering aspen, moonlight, and the coyote’s tremolo through the flimsy screen door.
Douglas Suano Bootes is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.