Conall is still wary when we venture near where we heard the coyote crying in pain last weekend.
This morning, that wariness is compounded when we hear two rifle shots in rapid succession just as we leave the house on our way to the fields and woods. The sound comes from the same area as last weekend. Damn whoever is doing that. Has another coyote died a senseless death?
Conall’s tail instantly drops and he cowers slightly, prepared for danger. I hate seeing my normally confident and happy dog reacting this way.
Standing completely still, Conall listens. So do I.
Should we go back into the house? I watch Conall closely to assess how afraid he is. I’m willing to postpone our walk if Conall wants to.
After a couple minutes of listening, not hearing more rifle shots, Conall starts walking toward the road. He’s willing to continue our walk. Finn and I follow his lead.
It’s times like this I envy Finn’s near-deafness.
The sun is shining through gathering clouds. Crows caw from perches high in the trees, watching us, talking about us. A light dusting of snow overnight crunches underfoot, offering good traction on older, ice-covered snow. Last autumn’s field grass, brown and dead, peeks through where the sun has melted the snow away.
Conall made the right choice. It’s a beautiful morning.
We meander through fields and woods, farther than I usually go with Finn. With winter’s snow pack fast receding and lots of bare ground, he moves easily on his 14-year-old legs. He shows his joy by rolling on patches of snow and following Conall’s lead in investigating rabbit tracks.
As we turn back, moving through a long open stretch of fields with three ponds, I let Conall lead the way, wherever that takes us. He leads us past a newly-exposed large flat boulder jutting from a gentle slope near the outflow of a small pond. As I walk by it, I notice two hand-sized flat pieces of rock resting atop the boulder, a few inches apart.
An idea forms.
A cairn to honor the coyote caught and killed by the trapper.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I have a thing about cairns. I created a few in Idaho where I left some of the ashes of my beloved dogs Maia and Meadow, marking special places in the forest where we spent time together. They brought me comfort.
Finn watches as I create this new cairn, using those two large flat rocks and adding other, smaller ones, found below the boulder.
Conall checks under the boulder to see if anyone is living there.
After I take some photos, we continue on our walk, taking the long way home because it is such a beautiful morning and I don’t want to stop. To pique our interest and senses, the overnight dusting of snow provides a tableau of tracks left by several nocturnal critters. Hares, mice, maybe a fisher.
And a coyote, moving at a trot from one section of forest across our trail into another.
It makes me happy to see these tracks.
And even though this new cairn is a memorial, a reminder of the sorrow, frustration, and anger I feel over the senseless trapping and killing of coyotes, it offers me something positive. Whenever I pass by, it will also remind me of their strength and resilience.
Like the stones comprising the cairn, coyotes survive and endure.