“Look at the puppy, Daddy!”
My just-turned-four-year-old-today stood next to my wife, Sarah, and a newly-erected porch gate in front of our house.
I stood there for a moment, dumbfounded, as I got out of my Volkswagen—with my mind trying to adjust to the new pet-owner contract my wife and daughter just signed me up for. It was medium-sized, with yellow fur and beady, slanted eyes. I couldn’t tell what at first, but something looked off about it. It just stood there, wagging its tail.
“I think it’s cock-eyed,” I said, while Sarah closed the gate behind her. She came up and hugged me. “Um, what is that smell?” The scent of burnt rubber wafted off of her sweatshirt.
“Hallie and I found him at the park, earlier,” Sarah explained. I cringed and sighed. Sarah gave me her guilt-scowl, “You told her that she could get a dog.”
“I was hoping we could…” talk about this later, I was going to say, but Sarah cut me off.
“Well, Hallie likes him, and we’re not buying a dog, Sam. We’re adopting one, and this one likes us.” Then, Sarah gave me the pouty-face, “Sooo…?” I looked up on the porch.
What the hell!?
“Sarah, Hallie…” I motioned forward, “You guys need to get away from that thing!”
“Sam!” Sarah yelled.
I looked into its beady eyes as I walked toward the porch gate and lifted the wooden latch, “That’s not a dog.” I grabbed Hallie’s hand, and motioned her toward her apparently clueless hippie of a mother, and trying to plant myself all father-protects-family between me and the hellhound. “That’s a coyote!” It sat, looking up at me with its head cocked sideways. Apparently, it was as confused as I was.
“What?” Sarah asked.
“Yeah, coyote.” I leaned down and cautiously put my hands on its too-low-to-be-a-dog shoulders, tilting its head—only to find the weird canine oddly complacent with my doing so.
“Yay!” Hallie exclaimed.
“No, not yay. This is a wild animal.”
“Are you sure?” Sarah rarely left the city. I was raised on a farm.
“Where did you find this guy?” I asked, as I finally figured out where the smell from Sarah’s shirt was coming from. “And…honey? It’s been sprayed by a skunk!”
“I know! Poor thing!” Sarah rejoined me on the porch. “He was just wondering around the park, and started following us.”
“In broad daylight? With people around?”
“Yes! And…honey?” Sarah gave me the pouty-face again. “I picked up some tomato tins from the store earlier. Can you give it a bath while I get the cake out of the oven? Hallie’s party is tomorrow, and I need to get presents wrapped, and…”
“We can’t keep it. It’s probably illegal.”
Sarah frowned, “Are you sure? Can you at least give him a bath?”
I sighed again, looked at the complacent mutt, shrugged, and gestured everyone inside.
It followed me in, as I sat my wallet and keys on the counter, and began running a bath. This is going to be fun, I thought. I’ll end up with rabies.
Surprisingly, the animal got right in the lukewarm tub, and I began scrubbing him with tomato and soap. Just when I thought things were going along fine between me and Cujo, a fire truck whizzed by outside, blaring its sirens. The animal immediately flipped out, turning into Cerberus: sprinting out of the tub, while I chased him through the house, hoping that I could catch him before he stained the carpet or turned Hallie into Bride of Chucky.
“Open the door, Sarah!”
She did, but before we could keep Wolverine from sinking his claws and teeth into a freshly-baked cake, smearing icing all over the place, and not missing a beat while he chomped down his fair helping of chocolate truffle.
The siren rang loud in the distance, while man’s-best-friend’s second cousin stopped to celebrate—letting out a deep howl in the middle of the street to resonate with the truck’s horn.
“Daddy, he’s singing!”
“Coyotes don’t know music, sweetie,” I explained.
“Because there’s no music in the woods.”
“Actually, I think that’s D-flat…” Sarah added. She elbowed me, “And there is so music in the woods.”
“Well, at least he got a bath. And…a meal,” I said.
“Yup.” Sarah grinned, “Coyotes are tricksters.”