I’m a celebrity. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been written up and quoted in three local newspapers; I’ve been on the evening news of all three major television networks, NBC, CBS and ABC. Yesterday, the story was picked up by the Los Angeles Times, which printed a full article that quoted me, and had my picture in it; and now I find out that later this week, I’m going to be interviewed for a story in The Wall Street Journal.
I say my picture was in the paper, but truthfully, you can’t really quite see as me … well … that is really me there, holding Eloise, our Chihuahua, but … all you can see is my hand. It’s a very cute picture of Eloise, though.
Last November, a few days before Thanksgiving, our pet Chihuahua, Eloise, was snatched from my bedroom by a coyote. I got there just in time to see him backing out of my bedroom doors to our front garden and running off with a shrieking Eloise in his mouth. It’s a sight and sound I will not soon forget.
Because we were just one of many households in our town who have lost pets to coyotes, and since the problem was on the rise and getting worse, I decided to put my writing skills to work in a letter to the local newspaper in an attempt to bring this issue to light and force the city to do something about it. Well, my letter was printed, and the rest is history. Apparently, my story tipped the scale on an issue that was just waiting to be brought forward. Scores of concerned pet owners came out of the woodwork and we soon discovered the local police department was already trying to figure out how best to address the reality of 83 reported coyote incidents in just the previous few weeks.
Our town backs into mountains and canyons that are the natural home of a number of wild critters including possums, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, deer and even mountain lions. We’ve lived here for over 15 years, and learned to co-exist with the possums, skunks, and raccoons, as well as the occasional sighting of a coyote and abduction of a pet. (In the last 10 years we’ve lost a cat and another dog.) We’ve learned to be wary of the fact that they will come in from the wild if their natural food source is diminished. But this was different. This was story after story of coyotes becoming more and more aggressive — exhibiting no fear of humans — and now actually entering someone’s home.
What we found out, and what the police had already uncovered, is that these were in fact not coyotes from the wild, but third generation coyotes born and raised in town. This was a new breed of urban coyotes who are being taught by their parents to survive off our garbage and our pets.
So it has become a big deal, and the recent article in the Times and soon in the Journal is due to a city council meeting last week where the council voted 4 to 1 to appropriate funds for a trapping program as a last resort to try and at least manage the coyote population in town. An imbalance has been created because here in town there are no bobcats or mountain lions to keep the coyote population in check. And, as many of you now know, I was at that meeting to tell my story, and now am in the middle of a political controversy because of the animal rights group that is now joining the fight to oppose trapping. These are the people who argue that the coyotes have as much right to be here as we do — maybe more — because they were here first.
So there we are in the middle of this — me, or at least my hand, and Eloise— and who knows where it will end. But I can’t help but thinking of what I would have given to have had this kind of publicity in the middle of my singer/songwriting career. It’s just that no one is asking me about any of that; they’re asking me about my dog. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
It’s been a huge lesson in humility that of all the hours I’ve spent in interviews over my books and songs, and all the plans I’ve calculated to increase my publicity, it’s my dog that gives me my big break. Well, I can rest assured that, if they use the same picture, at least my hand will have made it into The Wall Street Journal.