By Mike Jaynes
About three years ago, I was two years into a commitment to be a vegetarian and an animal rescuer. Having a history of adopting dogs that were considered aggressive or violent, I felt I knew my way around the canine mind. One day a friend found a medium sized small brown dog staggering near the back wall of a gas station, knew my commitment to animals, and brought him to me. He was rangy, near starvation, completely terrified of humans, and had a look I couldn't quite place. I had seen plenty of pre bred American muts before; all I have ever adopted have been mixed breeds. He had an intriguing grace about him, even in his near starvation state. Long snout, downward pointing skinny tail, beautiful brown color. I was at a loss. I had never seen a Coy Dog.
After some weeks of living skittishly in my garage away from my other rescued dogs and cats, he finally came around and warmed up to me. The first thing I noticed was an extreme aggression toward two of my other dogs. He was friendly with the rest, but two of them really rubbed him the wrong way. I took necessary precautions and chalked it up to the fact he was an intact male and my other two were extremely territorial. Taking him to my vet for his initial "look see" she gives all the dogs I rescue, I was soon surprised. She told me she couldn't be sure, but she thinks he might be a Coyote-Dog hybrid, commonly called a Coy Dog or a Dogote. She told me they can be very dangerous and I should proceed with much caution to see how he socializes. Coy Dog, I thought. I was fascinated.
After some internet research, I was disheartened. Most of the sites, journals, and veterinarians I encountered recommended against keeping Coy Dogs as companion animals, and plenty of them recommended immediate euthanasia for human safety. I read their information, kept him closely segregated, and watched. After some months of observation it was apparent my small beagle mix was much more violent than he. As I observed him over the months, I continued my research.
I live in a portion of Tennessee which is seeing coyotes more frequently enter into subdivisions and the realm of humans. I am also sickened that they are often killed or maimed by ranchers, farmers, or ignorant persons. Understanding the need for human and companion animal safety, I think we should understand what is driving coyotes further into suburbia. If humans would work on conserving their natural hunting grounds and being more eco-friendly, perhaps hunger and need wouldn't drive coyotes into suburbia to find food.
I will be the first one to point out that I am not an expert on the indigenous aspects and predation habits of coyotes; however, I do feel animals are equal to us in suffering and need and if we can be more mindful of them and their habits, we should. A coyote on the wood line inspires fear and paranoia in many people. It does not necessarily guarantee the killing and carrying off of your companion animal or child, but it does signify the need to study these creatures and see what we can do to help them.
Alas, I did not euthanize the Coy Dog that made his way into my life.
After neutering and several passing years, Cave - his name - has become the sweetest of all my rescued companion animals. I am down to a cat and three dogs: A beagle hound, a Chihuahua mix, and Cave the Coy Dog. Surprisingly enough, if one is to read the currently circulating literature, Cave is the least aggressive and the biggest cuddle monger.
Allow me to clarify, all Coy Dogs are different and I do not believe anyone should put their animals, children, or person in true danger. However, if one is willing to be patient and work at helping a coyote hybrid feel safe and comfortable, euthanasia becomes only one of many options, and hopefully the last one. It is my hope more people will at least take the time to research these animals and understand humans are called to be compassionate to the animals at their mercy. Simple dismissal and eradication is not an action of the most sentient species on Earth.
Coyotes, Coy Dogs, and other wild and semi wild animals need our understanding and patience. Though theories abound, we do not seem to know why they are leaving the wild for more frequent excursions into suburbia. It may very well be our fault. Moreover, they need our intelligence to help understand what they are going through. They need our understanding and our goodness. Quite likely, they also need our help.
Mike Jaynes teaches English and Women's Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an animal ethics and animal advocacy writer and speaker focusing most closely on the topics of elephants in captivity and ocean life. His current book project examines the stories of performing elephants who have died in American captive environments and who have largely been forgotten.