When I was a newlywed, living in San Diego, my next door neighbor, Doreen, befriended me. She noticed I was home alone a lot, since my teaching job ended at 3:00, and my new husband didn’t come home from work until 7:00 or so.
Doreen invited me over for food and chit chat. Once, she fed me dinner when my hubby was out at a meeting. Her husband, John, was a herpetologist, so when mine worked Saturdays, they took me hiking to look for reptiles.
John and Doreen asked me to feed their dog when they went away for weekends. Teddy lived in a dog run in their backyard. He was half coyote, half ???. John had found him in the hills above their house when the tract was being built a few years before.
I was a little bit afraid of Teddy. He was bigger than my dog and half coyote! When I took him his dinner, I opened the metal cage door just long enough to stick in the food. Then I let him run around after he ate so he would poo, and then I locked him back up.
When I was seven months pregnant, and Doreen and her husband sold their house and needed a place for their dog to stay for two days before they left for their new state, they asked me to keep Teddy.
I reluctantly agreed and made a spot for him in the garage. I already had two dogs underfoot, and, as it were, I could barely see the floor. Teddy was allowed in the yard and sometimes in the house after I got home from teaching.
My husband was working late that night, yet again. I was lying on the couch, watching the Bill Cosby Show. It was dark out, and Teddy and one of our dogs were in the yard. Suddenly I heard crying right outside the living room window next to the couch, then scuffling, screams, and fighting.
I jumped up from the couch and looked out the window. It was black outside, so I went to the back slider and peered through the door without opening it. Teddy and my own dog, Tess, stood on the other side of the door, wagging their tails. They both had blood on their mouths.
My husband’s Beagle mix was inside and in his bed. I opened the door far enough to let my own dog inside but not Teddy. Then I called the owner and said, “Your dog just killed something in my yard. I think it was a cat!”
“What do you want me to do about it?” John said from his hotel room, laughing.
“Come get it,” I said. “I am pregnant. I can’t pick up a dead cat!”
“Aren’t you a farm girl?” he said. “What’s the big deal?”
The big deal is that your half coyote just mauled a cat and dragged my dog into it.
“I’m not a farm girl, and I’m pregnant!” I said. “Come get the cat.”
“I’ll be there in the morning,” he said, “in the daylight.”
I locked Teddy in the garage that night, luring him in with food. Then I waited for my husband to get home so I could tell him the awful thing that had happened.
“Why’d you have to take care of their dog, anyway?” he said.
I went to bed feeling horrible that my dog was a killer, that a cat was in pieces in my side yard, and that nobody wanted to help me.
I left to teach the next morning, and when I got home, the cat was gone. John had kept his promise. The day after that, the moving van came. John and Doreen came to get Teddy, and we had a strange good-bye. Maybe because I was pregnant, I expected an apology or something. Nothing. They said their dog was just being a dog.
I thought the nightmare was over until about a week later . . .
. . . I was sitting in my front yard, catching some sun and reading the mail after school one day when my other next-door neighbor walked up.
“Have you seen our kitten?” she said. “My three daughters are really worried about her.”
“The pool guy left the gate open, and she got out of the yard,” the neighbor went on.
“Uh, bad news,” I said, “I was watching the neighbor’s dog, and he killed a cat in my side yard a few days ago.”
“What? Was it our kitten? Where is she?”
“Gone,” I said.
“Where?” the neighbor said, the pitch of her voice rising. “I want to see if it’s her.”
Oh, no you don’t.
I called John. He had dumped the cat in a dumpster behind a liquor store.
“I am so sorry,” I said. “The cat is gone. Their dog is half coyote.”
“My poor daughters!”
“They moved away and took the dog,” I said. “No more Teddy.”
The woman went home, and I continued to feel bad. Should I have lied and said I didn’t know anything?
Seven years later, in a different house in a different town, I was raking up a pile of dead leaves under a bush in my back yard on a hot summer day. I raked out a nest of baby mice, pink, hairless, and suddenly exposed to the predators swooping above them.
I screamed and ran in the house. Once again, my hubby was not home. He was off doing something on a Saturday while I was with the kids. Why was I so upset to have disturbed the mice? Little did I know it, but I was six weeks pregnant.
When I came back outside with a broom to push the tiny pink babies back under the bush, they were gone. Had the mother carried them back? Had a bird snatched them for a tasty treat? I will never know. All I knew was that I had a life inside of me, and I wanted to protect their little lives, too.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
I can kill ants and spiders without batting an eye. But mammals are a different story. They are sentient creatures. My daughters and I won’t eat mammals. It just seems wrong.