3:18 am: Jer sat up in bed, “Do you hear that?” My stomach sunk with a heavy thud in an instant. I heard nothing, but it’s never words to wake to out here in the dark, dark countryside under a full moon. We both cocked our heads to the window and the outlines of sound started to trickle through until suddenly it’s all I could hear. The guard pups were barking at the furthest corner of the goat pasture. It was a frantic, angry sound. I’ve never heard them like that before. I’d never heard them so far from the barn at this hour of night.
Without thinking I threw on a robe and ran towards the mudroom, skidded around a corner, grabbed a flashlight as I fumbled my feet into flip flips. Then I ran out into the 42 degree morning. The pups growled and barked ferociously. Jer was on the back porch, “They’re back in the corner – what’s going on?” I sent the flashlight beam towards the barn where the goats always, always tuck in at night. No creature was there. I called six names as I ran to the barn. All that answered was the howl and yip of a pack of coyote from the spot where my dogs barked. The pups sounded panicked. The coyotes were hunting. We’ve heard that sound before. We’ve heard how it ends.
“WILLY! PEARL! JOLENE! BOSS! BRUUUUCCEEEEE! BETTTYYYYYY!!” I was screaming now. Where were the goats, where were the goats – the blood pounded in my ears. Finally – above eery howls and yips, tinkling out between panicked growls and barks – I heard Willy. Such a faint and distant bleating I was sure he was injured or worse. In seconds the forest started to part under the hooves and paws of six beasts making their way home through bushes and trees. They pounded back to the barn, and I quickly counted bodies. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. ? 5? Then finally the 6th – Jolene inky as the night – I missed her in the crowd.
It’s cold outside at 3:20 on an October morning. It’s dirty there on the floor of the barn where the animals putter about and curl up to sleep. But there in my nightgown, wearing flip flops, I went through the gate and sat down amidst the dirty hay and goat berries and gathered them all together.
In the middle of the night, coyotes are nightmares come prowling out of dreams. They’re always awake when we’re sleeping, and they’re always hunting. So far – my dogs have earned their keep tenfold.