Sleepless In Fredericksburg

Recently and on several occasions our dogs uncharacteristically  and noisily have awakened us during the course of a night. When we have one of these disturbed nights, the number of nocturnal awakenings may run to five or six episodes. I might add it is impossible to ignore the high pitched, demanding yelp of a young Border collie. Two dogs then head for the back door and bound out in full attack mode. Only last night did the reason for their strange behavior and our resulting sleeplessness come clear to us.

Trudy and I were awakened last night by our six month-old Border collie, Bella, and our seven year-old Border, Buddy. For some reason Trudy went out into the yard with the dogs and observed them charging the fence, barking furiously.

It was then that Trudy heard what it was that had upset them- the yapping and howling of a band of coyotes. Indoors the coyote sounds are inaudible to humans, but our dogs with their acute sense of hearing must have heard them. Trudy estimated five to six coyotes although making estimates from their howls are often inaccurate.

So it went the remainder of the night with Bella and  Buddy demanding to go outside. Incidentally our third dog, Jack, of indeterminate pedigree (when asked what he is, Trudy responds, “he’s a small brown dog”) never left the comfort of our bed. Jack likes his creature comforts and is loathe to leave the pillow-top mattress short of his bladder nearly bursting. Suspect Jack heard the yapping and howling but determined that he would stay back and act as the rear guard. I imagine the impish canine thinking, well I’ll just wait here snuggled down in the blankets at the foot of the bed in case the coyotes come charging through the back door.

Fortunately coyotes have not been a common occurrence on our ranch. Once though shortly after moving full-time to the ranch, I was awakened in the wee hours by Bandit, our senior Border collie, howling back sounding just like a coyote. He had his head thrown back, his neck arched, and managed a convincing coyote howl and from a distance of not more than a foot from my ear. Needless to say, I awoke with quite a start.

I don’t worry much about our livestock and predators. Mama cows take good care of their calves and can fend off coyotes. Likewise horses protect themselves well and are safe from coyotes. Neighbors who raise sheep and goats have not fared as well. Last year twelve lambs (the entire crop) were taken by predators (most likely coyotes). Since then our neighbor rancher has invested in a Llama and a donkey.

I have another friend whose old Labrador retriever was mauled several years ago by a pack of coyotes. Floppy was torn up pretty good and had to visit the veterinarian. While coyotes usually are only 30 pounds or so, they are wild and fight in packs.

A few years ago we had watched the sunset from the other side of the valley and were sipping a bit of the grape when suddenly out of the darkness came nearby coyote howls. Our three Border collies who had been dozing at our feet immediately charged off into the dusk, giving us a very bad moment. As it turned out the coyotes fled before the three charging,  overly protective Borders; however, the outcome could have been much worse.

So at least we now know what it is that is disturbing the two dogs. Frankly their howls do not even appear to affect Jack’s sleep. Jack is the proverbial lump in the bed. If anyone has an answer other than me sitting in a chair by the fence with a rifle and a spotlight, please let me know. You see, I, like Little Jack, also appreciate my creature comforts.

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One thought on “Sleepless In Fredericksburg

  1. Paula Swenson March 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm Reply

    I am like both you and Jack. I can see u sitting out-of-doors with gun in lap, hat on head in ur pj’s.
    Your blog is delightful. Have read this one and the last entry re the pecking order. Will take time, as I can, to catch up on the past ones.

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