Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beauty & Brutality in OC

I was walking through a park at the top of a hill just a few blocks from my home here in Orange County on Monday evening at sunset, when I took this picture with my phone:
It was a lovely sunset on a cool evening, in the lower 60s, with almost no breeze.  I'd just finishing talking to my best friend Ryan on the phone who I've known for almost 35 years as I walked around the neighborhood.  We spoke about our mutual distaste for country music, why all proper dragons should have 4 legs while wyverns have just 2 (take note, Peter Jackson!), and then he had to bathe his adorable baby daughter before bed, and we said goodbye, when I clicked "end", and then took this image.  As I hit "SEND" to show Dr Desert Flower (who was still at work, down in the valley below) the sunset from the park near our new home, and finished "add from recent calls" I heard a vicious GRRRROWLING and RRRRREEEAR-HISSSSing over my right shoulder.

I usually walk with a quarter staff (actually, it's a buck a quarter quarterstaff, but I'm not telling him that!) to fend off any stray dogs, rabid raccoons, gang members or hooligans (when we were in Arizona) that I might encounter during a walk.  But Monday night I headed out sans-staff, so I was caught "off guard" and unarmed.  Through the dwindling twilight of dusk, I saw what looked like a big German Shepherd sized dog, attacking a black cat who was trying to climb a very large trunked tree.  The cat was putting up a Big Fight, but the "dog" had gotten ahold of at least one leg and shook it off the tree.  "Hey! Is That Really Necessary!?!" I shouted towards them, and began walking the 40 or so yards that separated me & the park bench from the vicious battle I was witnessing.  The cat broke free and headed rapidly towards me... 'probably a domestic house cat' I thought, 'who is seeking the protection of a human against its attacker'.  But it was too late.  The attacker pounced, grabbed the black & white cat by the spine, and SHOOK it violently side to side, the whole time the cat's crying out pitifully, now 20 yards from me.

'I could kick it, if I got close enough, but what if one of them is rabid and attacks me?' Rabies shots suck... but I had broken out into run towards the melee.  I'd seen my buddy Matt's German Shepherd mix dog named Spapoop ("doodads", upside down) shake a squirrel to death 20 years earlier as I looked on from his apartment balcony, and didn't want to see this cat suffer the same fate.  Then I noticed the "dog's" white tipped tail, its Really Big ears, and the grayness of its coat. This was a hungry coyote.  The coyote noticed me too, and having stunned its feline prey sufficiently by the violent shaking, it turned, cat-in-mouth, and bounded away from the approaching human (me) and down the steep hill, undoubtedly to its den to feed its cubs.  Sadly, I could hear the pathetic moaning cries of the doomed cat fading into the rustle of the leaves as the coyote dashed down the hill.  Having recently lost a 17 year old feline member of our family just a few weeks before, seeing this made me very sad at first.   Then I remembered naturalist Rudy Mancke from South Carolina, and how when he would see predator successfully take down prey, he would comment in his South Carolina accent "well there she goes, turning domestic house cat into coyote, it's how the food chain works".

I took a deep breath, and headed for home to go pet our 19 year old surviving cat.  Along the way I encountered a lady in her 50s walking a Very Alert, smooth & shiny coated, leashed German Shepherd down the path.  I asked her "do you see many coyotes here?".  She patted her dog and said "She's been telling me the whole walk up here that there's a coyote nearby."  I leaned down and petted the well behaved canine and let the dog sniff my hand.  The lady added "Usually right around this area we see a black and white cat..." ...I cut her off "Not anymore. That cat is being turned into coyote now, down the hill" and I pointed to where the coyote fled.  When I got home, I petted my elderly cat for a solid 10 minutes and let her bask in the attention.  We'll be keeping her inside.

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