A family of coyotes sang outside my window last night. They woke me up after midnight to serenade me. Eastern coyotes are part wolf, and you can hear that in their howls and see it in their face and fur. Sometimes these coyotes are mistaken for wolves, and vice-versa.
I came face-to-face with a coyote a few years ago. It wasn’t planned. Just before going to bed, I’d opened the basement door to throw a bag of garbage into the enclosed stairwell. A coyote was crouched over a bag that was already there. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised, but I screamed and he yipped, and we both beat a hasty retreat.
I followed his paw prints the next day through the snow before losing track of them in thick underbrush. They plotted a straight line, like wolf prints, but I knew it had to be a coyote. Wolves haven’t been spotted in Nova Scotia for years.
Eastern coyotes have learned to fear humans, and for good reason: We’re always killing them. Back in 2010, the government of Nova Scotia, after decades of “following the science” (which clearly indicated that culls are counter-productive), suddenly did an about-face and called a cull that lasted several years. Most of the fur you see trimming Canada Goose jackets and hats is the bounty of that cull. I’ve often wondered if the main reason for the cull in the first place was to supply that industry.
The coyote population has rebounded in NS since the cull ended. I was overjoyed to hear the family singing last night. I would never lure them to my house, but I would also never chase them away. All animals, whether footed, winged or finned, great or small, are God’s babies, and he doesn’t look kindly on those who mistreat them. Scripture says that God has given us stewardship over all of them, which includes the right to eat some of them, but we are to treat humanely even those we slaughter for food.
Culling is not humane treatment, particularly culling by trap.
In the first three weeks after arriving at the farmhouse where I am now, I made friends with a house fly. It wasn’t my first impulse to be friends with her. I kept trying to shoo her away, but she was very persistent and very affectionate, so eventually I just let her hang around. I called her Priscilla. She would sit with me at my laptop while I was working, and take naps in the little crevices between the keyboard keys. Sometimes she would chase the cursor around the screen, like my cat used to do with her paw.
She was a very petite house fly, one of the smallest I’d ever seen, but she was so full of life. I would watch her bathe, which she did nearly half of her waking hours. When people say that flies are dirty, they’re dead wrong. Priscilla bathed as frequently as my cat, Pumpkin, used to bathe, maybe even more so. And like Pumpkin, she’d start at her head and make her way down to her butt, leaving out nothing in between. She’d pay special attention to cleaning the top of her head and her wings.
I’d never watched a house fly bathe before. I’d also never watched a house fly take naps or eat. I started to share my meals with Priscilla – she had a particular fondness for hot chocolate and anything sweet. I’d put little bits of everything I was eating on a plate for her, but like a little kid, she still wanted what was on my plate, not what was on hers, even though they were the same things.
When she wasn’t hanging out with me at my work desk, she’d be in the kitchen waiting for me to cook up some more hot chocolate. She never tried to go outside, although I left the windows and doors open on occasion. She was a true house fly.
The night before she went home, we sat in the kitchen together and I told her about Heaven. I knew her time was coming, because she was getting slower in her movements. Wherever I was those last few days, she’d sit next to me and rest. I’d put my finger right up to her and almost touch her, but she’d never budge. She had no fear of me at all. That last night, I read to her from the Bible, after I’d told her about Heaven and the kind of life she would live there.
The next day she went home.
I’d never cried over a house fly before, but I cried over Priscilla. Even so, I was happy that she was home, and I know I’ll see her again, if I make it there, too.
A few months ago, I’d talked to God about getting a pet. But God told me that the life I would be leading from hereon in would make it impossible for me to keep an animal. So he sent me a house fly named Priscilla instead. And now he’s sent me a family of wild coyotes to sing me lullabies.
I know that wherever I go for the rest of my time on Earth, God will send his babies to amuse me and awe me and keep me company. Just like all the Earth and everything on it is mine by virtue of being God’s daughter, all the creatures on it are mine, too. I don’t need one particular pet, because I’ve got all of God’s babies, and he’ll be sending them to me one by one (or family by family), as the need arises. And from each of them, I’ll learn something I need to learn at that particular time.
God’s Kingdom isn’t only people – it’s all of God’s creatures, and they preach and teach the Word just by living their lives.