I was abruptly awake, laying there wondering what had waken me. My husband asked "did you hear that?" Then I heard it off in the distance, perhaps a block away on the next street down from us, a coyote. There is no mistaking the high pitched yelping of a coyote in the cold night air. The sound travels, sending shivers down your spine, only because I know what they are here for. It was loud and clear in our room as I lay concentrating on the audible sounds as was Luke. He sat up, his ears raised, listening intently. It is very clear that this was not the sound of any dog.
The first thing I thought was "thank goodness we have not given Jessie access to the dog door at night." Coyotes are common in these areas, I've seen them often. We've even seen them midday in the middle of the road and they don't seemed highly bothered by the humans around. When we first moved to Southern California we were told about the coyotes and that they could easily jump a 6 foot fence. From that day on Jessie has never been allowed out on her own. Coyotes regularly eat cats and they also eat dogs when they can get them. It is typically the small dogs but they will take a larger weaker dog if they are in a pack, scary.
I know of many cats that simply went missing; never to be seen again. Most people in the area keep their cats inside. I worry about puppies left outside, when they are young or small they are vulnerable to attack. Coyotes surely know the where abouts of young, old or sick dogs that they might take. Walking through the park with the dogs I often come across remains, mostly rabbits but not always. Leaving small, old or young dogs out overnight is risking the life of your dog. Aside from coyotes no dog should be sleeping outside, they all deserve to be inside with the family.
Coyotes have lived here a longtime, it is their right and we have to modify our lives to coexist. It is as simple as that and if you are very cautious about your dogs safety we can all live happily together. I was told by a woman one day as we chatted about our similar looking Jack Russells that she'd had a tug of war with her little dog and a coyote. She was at the park, her dog was on an extension leash and as the dog went over a hill the coyote was waiting on the otherside. It was only because of the fact that she had a leash on her dog that she got it back, but the coyote had not given up easily. They'd struggled back and forth but the woman was not letting the coyote take her dog. It finally dropped it and ran off. Another couple I knew had their very old Brittany Spaniel sleeping outdoors at night, a pack of coyotes entered their yard and took her. This is horrifically sad and avoidable.
Several years ago I was doing a photo shoot with a couple of gorgeous Kuvasz. I was looking for a very intense look that these dogs can possess. They are a natural guarding breed often used to keep coyotes and wolves away from their flocks. During the shoot we worked hard to obtain this "look," when suddenly a coyote showed up at the field. The intense expression on their faces showed that they knew this was not just a dog in the field. It was amazing and I was able to get the "look" shot which made the cover of Dog World magazine. It was a very cool moment.
As I lay there listening to the coyote communicating to others I thought "pretty impressive that there are wild coyotes here in Southern California." Pretty cool indeed.