Scaredy Cat

Something frightened Isabel last night.

It was one of those nights anyway, when all the animals are on the move, inexplicably to humans. I could hazard guesses why. We had a good rain the night before, for the first time in quite a while. The rain brought welcome relief, dampening the dust and refreshing all the grasses and shrubs that had been curing for days and days in the relentless dry breezes. Not unlike a convection oven. Makes for pleasant weather for people, not so great for the natural world. Also, we’re at the new moon, so the night was dark and cool.

We noticed the animal activity in the evening. On our walk, we saw a young bull snake lying in the road, soaking up the heat. We gently chased it off the road, so it wouldn’t get run over by the people zooming home from work. Then, walking back up a different road, on the other side of the greenbelt, we saw an identical bull snake, also lying in the road. When a nest of snakes hatches, the young tend to radiate out in all directions, scattering to maximize survival of at least a few. We coaxed that one off the road also. Finally, we saw a Jerusalem cricket on the blacktop path. If you’ve never seen one, they’re seriously funky. I didn’t have my camera, but here’s a pic from That’s about the size of my palm, by the way.

Bizarre creature, no?

The evening passed without further incident, until I woke sometime around three in the morning to an odd scrabbling sound. I thought the kitties had brought a mouse in from the garage, via the cat door. It was a lot of loud scrabbling and I realized Teddy was curled up next to me on the bed, so I finally got up to investigate. But no, Isabel was sound asleep on the back of the chair in the living room. Following the sounds, I discovered that the dog, Zip, had trapped himself in my shower, where he goes when he’s frightened. By “trapped” I mean that he was behind the shower curtain, circling in an endless frenzy. Fortunately I had the power to sweep aside the silk curtain and free him.

Not always the brightest dog.

I get back in bed and may have fallen asleep. David and I both heard coyotes howling, which isn’t unusual. Then Isabel leapt on the bed, which isn’t unusual either, except that she wouldn’t lay down and vibrated with tension. She leapt off again. I heard her throwing up and figured her for hairballs. She jumped on the bed again, acting frantic and had some moisture on her, then dashed off again.

Half asleep – by now it’s four in the morning – I get visions of Isabel being ill and puking up blood. I finally get up again and search the house for her. I find where she threw up a bunch of water. No hairballs in sight. I finally find her in my bathroom (clearly the place to be last night), standing on her hind legs on my sink counter with her head under the little half-curtain that screens the window. When she looks at me, her pupils are so dilated the black swallows up all the color in her eyes.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

So I sat on the floor and she crawled onto my lap finally, curled up and purring. She settled somewhat, though the nictating membrane was covering her eyes to protect them from the bathroom light, since her pupils were still so dilated.

My best guess is she saw a pack of coyotes. She’s seen one at a time before. We know because we’ve taken photos of them on the porch. I love the one on top because I think it captures him throwing his head back to howl. And it reminds me of that scene from Jacob’s Ladder (which I know is a really old movie now, but it freaked me out at the time). Here’s a more clear shot of him.

Isabel finally settled down. We all went back to sleep, though David and I are a bit groggy this morning. I’m actually contemplating driving into town for a Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte. Probably a 45-minute round-trip. How desperate am I? Hmm…

Frankly, though I hated to see her so frightened, I’m not sorry that Isabel got a scare. She needs to be afraid of the predators. She tends to think she is a predator and forgets she can be prey, too.

Sometimes a little fear can be educational.


A new sighting on the wildlife camera! The rare literary lava iguana, also known as a LEEZard.

Yeah, okay, it’s a running joke.

The difficult thing about inside jokes is, they evolve over time and are thus difficult to explain to those who weren’t part of the (often punchy) process. And then, when you do explain, it’s usually not funny anyway.

But I’ll try. Because *I* think it’s funny.

It started when I first moved to Santa Fe a year ago. David got a night-vision camera and set it up to see what all wildlife was coming up on our porch at night. I was messing with him by putting up my little purple iguana beanie doll that Val brought me from Australia in front of the camera as a “sighting.” I thought I was SUPER DUPER funny and he erased the picture. I blogged about it, of course.

At this same time, I was spending morning writing time in the FFP water cooler – an online chat room where we gather to write. We write for an hour or half-hour and check in to compare word counts, cheer or commiserate. In this odd pattern, my internet would tank regularly sometime around 9 am, every damn morning, kicking me out of the chatroom. My critique partner KAK speculated that it was the lizard.

Really – it got to be very funny.

But it all peaked one night when KAK and I were IMing feedback to each other about our current novels. I told her I didn’t care if her heroine did have lizard-like scales, the biologist in me didn’t buy that she could swim in lava and not be affected. It turned out that she wasn’t lizardy at all, but more feline and I’d completely misinterpreted the descriptions. KAK accused me of lizard bias. I pointed out that felines were even LESS likely to survive a lava-swim. She told me I needed to tell the reader how to pronounce some of my bizarre words, which I find it awkward to do without breaking that fourth wall.

Hey reader! You pronounce it like this! You see my point?

But just then I saw an excerpt from someone’s published novel where the hero, Gunnar, tells the heroine, in his husky bedroom voice as he stalks towards her, gleaming and naked, “you pronounce it GOOnar.”

I know, right?

Oh, GOOnar, take me!

I shared, KAK started in on LEEzards… it was silly and punchy and might not be funny to you at all.

But she sent me a LEEzard for my recent birthday. It’s been out, running around and chewing up the internet lines.

Thanks KAK!

Wiley Coyote

This is our patio, for those who don’t know. We keep the feeder stocked and lots of birds come in. Ground feeders visit, too, packrats, mice and bunnies gleaning the spilled seed.

David has a night-vision camera with a motion detector. He hangs it on the near portal post.

This is what the area under the feeder looks like at night.

And here’s a bunny coming to visit.

In the classic cycle of nature, where there’s prey, predators follow. (Note coyote tail disappearing into the brush.)

After a suitable amount of time, the bunny returns.

What? You didn’t believe me before about the coyote? Couldn’t see him?

Here he is!

Wondering what that clicking sound is.

He hunts through the night. Leaving with dawn and the stirring of our household.

These two are from another night, but I like the sequence.

Last clear shot at 4 am.

And our dog, Zip, investigating the invisible evidence.