|"The Yellow Barn" ©Mary Montague Sikes|
Several weeks ago, I saw an unfamiliar animal sitting near the little yellow barn that houses our riding mower and other lawn equipment. We consider the large expanse of woods we own between our house and the creek to be an animal preserve. Most of the year, a herd of deer lives there. We have a fox, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, possum, and the annoying red-headed woodpecker, that destroyed our redwood deck, all residing at various locations in our yard.
When I saw the unknown animal, I pulled out my binoculars to study it more closely. Although I never got a completely clear view, I could see a white chest and gray markings.
Could this be a coyote? I wondered. Coyotes had been spotted in other areas not far away. The pictures of coyotes I found on the Internet had a remarkable resemblance to this animal. At least, from what I could see with binoculars.
I was intrigued.
However, this animal behaved strangely for a wild animal. And it stayed close to the yellow barn.
It was cold, and the heat from the sun was warming the metal barn, I reasoned. As the coyote returned day after day, I decided the animal was using heat reflected by the metal to stay warm. But even on cloudy days, the animal stayed near the barn.
This went on for more than a week. I thought that the coyote would eventually go on its way. But, it didn't.
Then one day, I looked out the window and noticed the animal making its way up the hillside toward our house. That's when I realized it was not a coyote after all.
It was a dog, a very thirsty dog, that started lapping water from a container we keep outside. I knew it must be very hungry, so I opened the door to call to it. The animal didn't notice me at first and didn't respond to my calls. When it finally did see me, it darted away through the woods toward the yellow barn where it disappeared.
It was late afternoon. I didn't know where the dog was, so I didn't call animal control. But all night long, I worried that the dog was cold and hungry. The next day, I went down to the yellow barn to see if I could find the dog. I stood near the barn and called out, hoping it would come to me. Nothing happened.
In the afternoon, I looked out and was happy to see the dog once again leaning against the side of the yellow barn. My husband called animal control. An officer came right away, but she could not catch the dog and made plans to bring a trap the next day. After she left, I took food out and the dog pressed tight against the yellow barn but didn't run away. I put the food container down a few feet from the animal and backed away. It approached the food, grabbed a piece and rushed back to the barn wall.
On my way back up the hill, I encountered the dog's owner and her little girl. The animal control officer had found her. She was thrilled.
"There's a little yellow barn in the back of our yard," she told me in passing. The dog is deaf, I also learned.
Later, as she headed for her car holding Gracie tightly in her arms, she shouted out in happiness and delight.
|"Gracie" ©Mary Montague Sikes|