Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Danger stalks the urban wilderness

Late last night—it must have been 11:30—I was driving home after a trip to Longview. Bleary-eyed, I came up Sunset Boulevard, made the up-hill turn onto 18th, climbed to 19th, crested the rise and there—square in my headlight beams—was a young coyote trotting across the road, before vanishing in a blink behind a neighbor's laurel hedge.

They're back! I thought.

I hadn't heard of a Hillsdale coyote sighting in six or seven years. My concern immediately went to our cat, Izzy, who balances a nighttime indoor sedentary lifestyle with his day job of outdoor neighborhood surveillance. All of which is good, nocturnal coyote-wise, though the dawn and dusk hours can be iffy.

When I got up this morning still troubled by my coyote sighting, Iz was nowhere in the house. I thought he might have gone out on dawn patrol when my daughter-in-law, who is living with us this month, set off for work. I had to leave myself, but wrote a note to my wife, Diane, about my concern that our Iz might have become a sacrificial link in some neighborhood feral food chain.

The "food chain" reference was my way of reframing and emotionally preparing myself for Iz's demise.

Loving cats came late to me, but these super-self-possessed creatures do have their ways with you. George W. Bush's 2004 re-election, or his election, or his managing to get the voting machines to work in his favor — whatever — sealed my admiration for Iz.

Our Iz, who slept through the network returns, was a like a rock the next day—utterly unflappable, even stoic about another four years of Bush.

I saw in his exemplary attitude an above-it-all nonchalance. I even tried to model my own reaction after his—until I remembered Cheney.

Still, in those terrible days, Iz demonstrated an admirable calm and insight into humanity in general, and Bush in particular.

So here it was dawn, hungry coyotes prowled the neighborhood and "the Iz" was nowhere in sight. I carried gnawing uncertainty with me through my day.

Much later, when I got back, there, of course, was the Iz, perched on the porch with that "where-have YOU-been" look on his white whiskered face. Indeed, he looked as though HE might have subdued a coyote.

Inside, Diane had left a note on the dining room table explaining that while I had been imagining the ghastly slaughter of our Iz, his catship, Sir Aloofness, had been sleeping on a folded blanket in our coyote-proof basement.

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