Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Life around here changed this week when my neighbor texted me a photo.

“There’s a coyote roaming around outside your fence,” she said. “Looks like it might be teen aged.”

Now, I don’t know what a teenage coyote looks like or how it might behave, but as I zoomed in on the photo, I could see it. That’s a coyote and that’s my property it’s walking on, and the combination of the two presented a new challenge.

“I think I better keep an eye on Smoothie,” I texted back.

I’ve been reading about how new development and construction are pushing animals out of their usual living spaces, forcing them closer to people. That explains why I’ve seen deer walking down urban streets. A herd of eight deer lives in the woods around my house, and I happen to love them.

A coyote, though? That’s something else.

A bit of research confirmed my fears. A coyote can jump a six-foot fence to hunt prey. My fence is no six-footer, and inside it is a smallish dog named Smoothie. Was the coyote just passing through on the way to someone else’s property? I’ve not seen the animal myself, but now that I know that somewhere nearby a coyote is hunting, I can’t pretend my property and my little dog are safe.

Until I saw that photo, Smoothie and I enjoyed carefree days: I would work in my office while Smoot would spend the day in the fenced yard, watching the birds and the chipmunks. He’d bark when he wanted to come in, and I’d check on him every so often, but otherwise we each did our own thing.

Would a coyote come after Smoothie? Who knows. Coyotes have been known to attack even dogs on leashes. And while Smoothie may appear to be plump and delicious, he is mostly fur; a coyote would be deeply disappointed in the take.

But I would never take that chance, of course. And so Smoothie has a full-time escort. During the day when the weather’s nice, I sit outside with him. At night, I put a jacket on over my nightgown and follow him with the flashlight as he makes his rounds of the yard. Last night, as Smoothie headed for the back of the yard to do his business, he turned to look at me as if to say, “Can I have a little privacy, please?”

I don’t mind the escorting thing right now, but winter’s coming and it will be less comfortable to go out there in the cold and snow. I have thought about what I would do if a coyote were to jump the fence while I’m out there with Smoothie. Should I make myself big and shout at it, like we’re told to do with a bear? A friend told me to get an airhorn. I’ve put that on my list.

It has occurred to me that a hungry coyote might be more interested in the two fat and juicy groundhogs that live around the house. One of them wanders outside the fence. The coyote could go after it instead of hunting my dog, solving a few problems at once.

And maybe I’m underestimating the dog in this equation. Smoothie has been known to ferociously bark at his reflection in the oven door. Maybe he could defend himself if a coyote were to jump the fence, or at least alert me.

I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to find out. It will be Smoothie plus me outside from now on. Now that I’ve seen the evidence, I can’t unknow it.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at

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