Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Passage from Hope Ryden's God's Dog

For the past few days I have been reading a wonderful book by Hope Ryden called God's Dog: The North American Coyote. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in these beautiful, intelligent creatures who mate monogamously for life. Here is an excerpt:

While speculating on these questions, I watched the greeting ceremony of the pair. Buff [a female coyote] scrunched down and waggled back and forth under the male's chin, puppy fashion. Each time she turned, she licked his muzzle and coquettishly brushed his chest with her hip. Then she seated herself squarely in front of him, raised her right foot, and pawed him entreatingly. She reminded me of a self-satisfied little dog who, certain that her behavior merits reward, actively solicits a response from her master.

And she got it. Suddenly the male broke into the most lyrical coyote song I had yet heard. For a few seconds Buff seemed rapt. Then she tilted her long nose in the air and joined in. Without repeating a phrase, they improvised a duet in which the two never sounded the same note. When the male inadvertently slid into a pitch Buff was holding, she instantly dropped two whole notes. And when she opted for the note he was sustaining, the male broke into a falsetto.

Although the two animals were so distant from me that when I was not viewing them through my spotscope they were barely discernible, their music filled the valley, bouncing back from so many directions that, had I not known where to look, I could not have located its source. If this magnificent duet had a natural purpose other than the pleasure it obviously gave its improvisers, it perhaps served to announce to Fang [a female coyote Buff had fought with] or any other potential rivals within earshot that a bond existed between these two animals.

Photos from the Flickr group Honoring Coyotes.


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