What We Pick Up


All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others.

Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?     Buddha

By Natalie Parker-Lawrence

The leathery anchor looked a little sick at the end of the evening’s news story from Ft. Worth, Texas. Evidently, he had not read it to its completion before going on air. The coyote puppy had to be euthanized. It was not the sweet finish of a girl-finds-puppy-behind-dumpster feel-good story. The young woman thought she was doing a good deed for a homeless and sick dog. And she was, cradling the quiet and confused creature in a blue blanket.

This girl, like many others, has made animal rescue a daily quest.

The news station, of course, did not broadcast that very last scene of her screaming while they wrenched the coyote puppy from her, just before they had to chop off its head to procure the brain tissue to test for the presence of rabies. Because that’s what health departments do. And because animal scratches can spread rabies, we know that the girl might have had to be tested as well.


Coyote pup. Photograph courtesy of wikicommons.

My daughter does not live far from that dumpster. She, too, would have picked up that coyote puppy and taken her home. Her dog, Mackie, is a found dog, or as the vet called her: the luckiest dog in the universe. Not remotely attractive, my grand dog is one lucky animal. It was a dark and stormy night. The dachshund and terrier mix, whimpering and hiding under a parked car, had to be dragged out. The next day, the vet began the process of ridding the sad beast of all kinds of worms for an exorbitant sum. But, to be fair, the dog has been her constant and loyal companion since she moved from Memphis to Dallas several months ago for her first real job. Her cat, Susie, an animal-shelter rescue, treats the dog with a cruel mixture of indifference and loathing.



So, last weekend, when Mackie was attacked (no need to read quickly to the end, the dog lived) by a much bigger dog off his leash on the way to the dog park (which, by the way, serves margaritas to dog owners while their pets frolic—who thinks of these things?), my daughter became a real parent. She screamed and beat the bigger dog in the head until he let go of Mackie. She took her home to wash and dress the wounds. She ignored Susie’s meows of self-righteous indignation. She took the dog to the vet. She paid the bill. She took the bill to the aggressor dog’s owner’s apartment. She left a snarky note about his aptitude as a pet owner. She cashed his check for the entire vet bill amount.

A happier ending, considering all the main players began the conflict being aware and following through on their responsibilities to nature and society with science and technology, protecting the weakest among us.

Coyotes are not the number one enemy in Texas when it comes to rabies, although a few cases have been reported. The number one enemy anywhere is irresponsible people: those who don’t take their pets to get their shots, those who abandon sick and old pets by the sides of too many roads, those who don’t spay and neuter their pets, and those who feed feral beasts that lure coyote families to urban buffets and their doom.


Urban Coyote. Photograph courtesy of wikicommons.

How many people devote time to their local animal shelter and search for homes for lost and mistreated animals? Millions of people volunteer their time each week and somehow keep from killing ruthless and soulless human beings who abandon and torture vulnerable creatures because they believe they are somehow above beasts who have no voice that will call their paltry asses to account.

My daughter called me last week to rant about people who leave their children in hot cars. She wanted to know how many children were left in cars that were not hot. A very good question. And maybe that’s when you know you’ve raised good children, when they begin to rant, when they notice that they must follow in the giant footsteps of those who speak up and take actions for those who cannot speak or bark for themselves.


Editor’s note: Coyotes are part of every urban landscape. While their threat to humans is low, human threat to the coyote’s habitat is high–and is the root of the problem. As Natalie aptly suggests in her article, dealing humanely with urban coyotes is as important as humane treatment of domesticated animals.

Here are some links to information on urban coyotes, their behavior, and how to live harmoniously with them in our cities:









Windows to the World



To survive we’d all turn thief and rascal, or so says the fox, with her coat of an elegant scoundrel,
her white knife of a smile, who knows just where she’s going . . .
                                                            — from Margaret Atwood, Morning in the Burned House

By Natalie Parker-Lawrence

            She was biting on her hind leg for what seemed like a long time to a church congregation who had long stopped listening to the minister. The fox, sitting, pondering, on the grass was not interested in the two hundred people behind the glass wall who look out upon the Mississippi River every Sunday morning. She (I surmise) was more interested in the river, the rain, and the brushy hedge than disturbing the Unitarian zealots in the pews. To be accurate, we are more radical about rivers and beasts than God; most of us find the divine in the serendipity of a foxworthy glimpse.

Having been the attention victim of many foxes and coyotes, some with their furry young ones, the minister knows that he must wait until the parade of creatures darts away out of sight. Then we can go back to listening to his sermon. But we are thinking of that fox. We are relishing that fox. We anticipate with all the joy in the universe when that fox (and it would be prudent to remember that over twenty-five years that I have attended this church that myriad generations of creatures have appeared and disappeared) will again appear with a longer tail or a brighter coat or three cuddly pups that we know need a safer home than the one they now possess.

The Mississippi River passes along the downtown Memphis river bluffs; therefore, this hairy creature is an urban fox that must contend with tourist traffic, tornado threats, lost musicians, barbeque eaters, flooding waters, basketball lovers, and festival crowds.

I bet she contends with the raccoons and their packs that dance through our city like gangs from West Side Story. The children of the fox and the raccoon are both called cubs, but a fight between them would not be pretty, their claws and teeth like switchblades.

She takes her delight in feeding herself, the husband, and the kids with park leftovers, not yet ravaged by pigeons or city rats. She gobbles up a pigeon or a squirrel while basking in the late-day rays of the sun setting over that big river water. She might find the divine in the flow of water or in that sun or in that rat. I believe in my heart that she finds, as I do, that squirrels are the henchmen of the devil; they are nasty rats with cute tails. Their marketing plan, however, has been too good down through the ages: humans tend to want to cuddle squirrels and shoot foxes, even if there are very few chicken coops around downtown.

To see wildlife in any city’s downtown, many believe, is an unexpected and joyful gift. Many people also believe that their spiritual life takes place at The Church of The Outside. Foxes, I pray, do as well.