We are leash-walkers these days. We don't have to be where we walk. I am blessed to live in an amazing place out in the east end of Ojai, above an orange grove. And the lovely orange grove owner person is gracious and has welcomed my brilliant and smart and gorgeous and always perfect Doberman onto his land for walks and sniffs and explorations of many kinds.
These were leashless walks up till recently because it is private land and away from cars and bikes and people and other dogs and so safe for us to be untethered from each other.
And so each, early morning and often a few times during the day and most likely in the early evening, too, my dog and I ventured out from my home above the land, separete though together, and made our way down our steep drive and into the sweet smelling orange trees and the beauty of the grove.
Often we were not alone.
Coyotes also love the orange grove and hide within the trees. I felt them watching us. During our frequent wanderings through the citrus landscape I was always on the lookout in case a solo canine - so alike yet so different from my sweet dog - would come upon us or beckon from a distance for my dog to venture near.
And often times I would see them, too. Sometimes from that beckoning distance but also quite close up. They are fearless. And interested in us. Well, in my dog, really, but we're a bonded so I'm including myself, too.
Once, about a year ago, we had a serious run-in with this different kind of pup. I wrote about it here. A female coyote came nose to nose with my sweet and innocent dog. She was pretending to play but really she was sent by her pack to lure my dog back up into the hills. It was quite scary, and you would think would have been the moment that I realized it was time to attach my dog to myself in more than just that deep love and spirit connected way. But still I insisted on walking through the grove leashless.
There is something so good about the rhythm of walking this way. It's the way that my pup goes off on her own but not too far away. And how she always doubles back around to reconnect, or stops just shy of moving out of view to look back and make sure that I am still coming along with her. It's how I know that if I call her name she will come running back to me. Because she loves me and needs me and is attached to me even without being leashed. And this makes me so proud of her. And fills me with such joy when, after reclaiming me with a nudge against my hand or a momentary pause so I can love her up a bit, she will venture off again. She knows she is safe because she trusts that I keep her safe.
And this is why we have become leashwalkers even here, in this place where leashlessness is allowed.
Because lately, the coyotes are here all the time. Not just in the early morning dawn or late afternoon when I expect them to be near. They are wandering the grove and the field right next door and the hills above my home in the middle of the day, too. With the sun bright and the air warm and full, they walk along the same paths we do. Sometimes they hide between the trees just watching us.
Other times they follow at a distance. And then, just the other day, a coyote invited my dog for a run across the field. And she, who always comes when called, did not return for almost five minutes.
I ordered a long leash on line.
I also purchased an extra bright flashlight.
It being winter now, our early morning walks often start before the sun; we need a light to mark our way.
And I bought this marine signal horn thing that I read was loud and would scare the coyotes away. I have not used it yet. I love the quiet of my morning grove experience. But I have this now, if ever I feel that I need it.
I am finding, as I get used to walking in this physically attached way, this it is ok. My pup is a good leash walker here in this place where she is used to being able to explore on her own. She has adapted the skills that she learned for when we are out in the world and settled them into her time here in the grove, too.
And I have adapted, too. Using the length of the leash to nurture her movements. Giving length when she wanders ahead and looping the leash gently around my hand once she stops to allow me to catch up. We are in a different dance now. A new kind of rhythm.
A safe way of walking.
And if all else fails, I have my trusty, ferocious tiger mittens to scare the coyotes away.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.