Our Coy-dog, Smokey
Smokey learns to sit and shake in just a few moments, at 7 weeks old
Into our Den
One of older children had called us one morning with pictures of this cute little guy who looked too young to be away from his mama. She was first on the list and begged us to take him. I sighed. We were waiting for a Golden Retriever. Definitely believed we were done with the years of rescuing domestic, wild and feral creatures.
Smokey looked just like a shepherd as a puppy at 5 weeks. As time went by, we started seeing traits that intrigued us. Our vet was very interested in him from the beginning and encouraged us to DNA test him and so finally, we did. His giant ears were growing much too big for a Shepherd and all his sneaky/tricky antics had us too curious to pass it up. The result answered all the questions about his quirkiness not typical of any dogs we've had, or known.
He was found on the side of the road by himself... probably got out of his den. We surmised his mother is the coyote half of him, though who really knows. Smokey lopes like a coyote, grew tall and very sleek. He's shed his shepherd black face and muzzle. His legs are thin looking and long. He definitely is strong and can gnaw through a beef bone in no time flat, but he prefers to hide them away and sneak them out to chew when our other dog [Pyrenees-Lab] isn't lurking, as if that were possible. Cork loves to eat and bones are top of HIS list. We sometimes lovingly call him the "big white dope," though he is very very bright and proven to be the farthest from being a dope at all. Cork is a big thick boned guy and it's a good thing, because Smokey has the ability to take a man/dog down effortlessly it seems-looks. He does a scurrying type of run which you can barely hear and nips the ankles pulling on the tendons. You can't help yourself when you're going down. It is so weird. It looks very graceful and not at all difficult, or clumsy. He started doing this to Cork when they were really young, but anymore, Cork can hear him coming and holds his ground. He has learned to be on alert at all times, poor guy. There is nothing he would rather do than chill. Though Smoke is a very good companion and a part of our "pack," he is still very much Coyote genetically. He is always looking for an in to do what he needs... what he yearns to do.
Things Smokey likes to do without any order, or preference:
- Steal toilet paper rolls
- Shred toilet paper rolls
- Steal soft toys and take them outside
- Hide shoes
- Dig under the fence
- Lope in neighbors backyards and sneak back
- Nip Cork's hind legs
- Hump Cork to show dominance
- Yip at Cork when Cork takes him down
- Yip-Yap-Howl talk to people and animals
- Take his meat from his bowl and eat it under the table
- Steal tools
- Chase cats and hold them
- Jump (up to 6 feet high)
- Play "take-down" (nips Cork's ankles causing him to tumble
- Play run by "fruiting" ( darts in and out and nips at feet and unprotected body parts, such as the thigh or torso)
- Run at full speed in figure 8's (never looks exhausted when he's done)
- Be in the center of the family
- Gnaw bones
- Bury Bones
- Dig Bones Up
- Wrestle Cork INCESSANTLY
- Yip next to Cork's ear
Sit & Shake
The Head of the Pack
My husband is his REAL master, but he does let me be in full charge when Ron is not about. He wants to be next in line to the sub-boss [me] but Cork's weight and smarts, keep him submissive. He will roll over and do all the submissive gestures his Coyote self cannot forgo, such as wanting to open his mouth for you to put yours in [which we don't do and Cork has no idea why anyone would]. I too, have to constantly remind him of his place. He will do his run by "fruiting" as we call it. He bites my feet or nips my side when I lay next to my husband on the sofa, or sometimes just standing, or sitting at the table. He never does this to the little children, but the adult kids are fair play. Smokey is just having fun with us most often, however it is a game that is instinctively predatory by nature. I am entering his territory when it comes to Ron. Ron will instantly put a kibosh to this display with a grimace in a loud aggressive shout/bark. This might be taken wrong if you were to witness it, but it is necessary. He is Coyote, for all intense purposes. The relationship between the two, [Ron and Smokey] is nothing less than perfect. Ron never strikes him and Smokey is bonded to Ron so that he has never, nor does it appear that Smokey is ever looking for an opportunity to challenge Ron. Ron means what he says, takes a dominant stance with him and Smokey understands this. It is not humiliating and never intended to be without reason, or purpose. Smokey instinctively submits to him, asks for permission from Ron and waits for the invitation. He displays all the submissive behaviors, i.e, laying back his ears, tail between the legs, rolling onto his back and looks slant ways at him until it is okay, or Ron reaches to pet him. He will drop any food he might have, or relinquish a bone. He will remain idle when Ron is looking at him. It is all very interesting to watch.
Just Giving Smokey a Hard Time
He's a Bit Quirky
We aren't afraid of him whatsoever. We can do anything to him and he will not show aggression. He is easy to teach and does anything you tell him... if he wants to. He smiles when he's happy and will howl-yelp-talk to get our attention and pull us by our clothes into the kitchen. He will show you what he wants and he will yelp which is as close to a bark as we're going to get, if you cheat him, or ignore him. Smart as whip or smarter. He looks sneaky and he's a weirdo all the time, but a good boy.
He does have a protective side to him when it comes to safety and he can look a bit eery at the door, or behind the gate and especially in the dark. Most people are put off by him at first, because he is different. He has never hated anyone or attacked anyone. He would rather make his get away as if a coward, but really, be careful "bad-guy" because he is lurking and not at all run off. He prefers the shadows and glowing eyes will be the only thing that gives him away. He is very stealth.
We have 6 children, whom he includes in his safe circle. The 2 youngest of the bunch had brain surgery and suffer chronic issues due to their Chiari. He seems to be very very in tune with anything that is going on with them. We were contemplating [before the dogs] the idea of a Special Needs/Assistance Dog for our kiddos. He took care of that from the very beginning and attached himself to them. He's proven himself in emergency situations without any Assistance training which our vet has vouched to get him certified once he passes the tests. I wonder how they assess that in a non-emergent setting??
Happy to Be Home
Photos from the Craigslist Ad/Smokey in their homeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Shortly before adopting Cork, Smokey had disappeared from our 6 foot fenced yard. Our teen and adult children were out on foot and in cars, along with Ron who was very very upset about it. It seemed more than I gave him credit for.... We searched Craigslist daily and put up flyers, went door to door, ran ads in paper and on Craigslist more than a few times to no avail. On the 4th day, we opened Craigslist and there he was in full pictures. He looked distressed. They claimed he was their newly adopted puppy [he was 5 months old at the time] and gave their phone number. He had disappeared from their yard. I called and blurted out, "You had our dog." It wasn't what I planned to say, or what I should have said, but he gave me his location anyway. He said the 'dog looked too skinny and he was crying so we took him.' I wanted to ask him why and how he couldn't have noticed the bazillion flyers in his neighborhood, around his neighborhood going into his, or the Craigslist showing Smokey just below his ad. I didn't give him any validation for Smokey's appearance, though I could have told him he is slender because he is Coyote and he cannot bark because he is Coyote. When he is happy, he yelps. When he is unhappy, he yelps... He yelps to speak. The day you took him, he probably was yelping at you because you are a stranger to him.
The sightings placed him right in line with the "nappers" and our home, about 15 blocks away. He had made a beeline toward our home. How he knew the direction, we do not know. He was "Coyote-napped" by car. The neighbors about 4 blocks away, had seen him and called to him. He went right to them nervously and they leashed him. When our oldest boy, Cody saw him, the myriad of calls went round. He and his girlfriend were barely out of the car when Smokey saw them, broke free and whimpered all the way to the car. He lapped at them and leaped in the air. We all had a good cry. He has been leery of strangers walking up the drive even more so since then.
A Part of Every ExperienceClick thumbnail to view full-size
Slinking in the Dark
The other odd habits he exhibits are not limited in any way. When he was younger, he slept mostly during the daylight. If not crated, he will keep us up all night. He incessantly runs up and down the stairs, out the doggie door and sleuth around. When he's being a somewhat cool coyote, he will curl up in a ball with his ears perked and get as close as he can to Ron... often on top of Ron's legs. Being crated at night, we sleep better and he is forced to do the only thing he can... sleep. This makes for a better boy in the day and a happier family in the morning.
Recently, Smokey and Cork were introduced to Baby Rosie, a 2 month old Bull Mastiff who belongs to our good friends. He just loves her but for whatever coyote reason, he runs from her throughout the entire downstairs on these romps. She just loves this! Cork isn't sure what to make of it. This Coyote business has Cork copying his counterpart, as he has been corn nibbling her which really does smart a bit. Rosie is brave and commanding. One day, her eventual 140 some pound baby-ness will resolve the whole deal in question. She will have respect.
Public Access Training Day
Because the children rely on Smokey for physical assistance, we have never utilized public access. Errands are run by one of us usually. Otherwise, life is uncomplicated and we rarely take trips. Walks and days in the park are the puppies outings. When we travel to UCLA for the children, we have kept Smokey home with the rest of the family. Ron and I have always managed the children on these visits with their neurosurgeon, Dr. Lazareff. The trips involve lots of foot traffic in the airports, security check points and canine security as well. We always have to go through a huge ordeal when passing through the metal detectors. Once they know the children have titanium plates in their skulls, it doesn't change a bit. Off come the shoes and belts on all of us. They search our day packs and pad us down. We might be irritated by now, but Cian rather enjoys the whole routine. He feels like a spy-guy, he says. Adding Smokey to mix would be over the top.
But, today is different. Today is a special day for Smokey. He makes an appearance at the children's school for Kaelan's "All About Me" day. Part of the event includes providing a healthy snack. Kaelan had chosen apples for her snack. So off we went. Smokey and I journeyed 10 blocks to our nearby store on Kaelan's errand. He sat at every corner. He didn't like the "Audible Pedestrian Signal" which was a very high pitch beeping at one of the busiest intersections we had to cross and to be honest, was much too piercing, though it was a good test for him. Once at the supermarket, we walked around in front of the door several times, Smokey sitting each time we came to a stand still. He watched how the doors opened and closed automatically and the people who walked through them. He looked at me eagerly as if to say he was ready. He stepped in front of the doors, which opened widely for him and with confidence, he walked through. We stopped a few steps away so he could get the feel for the doors closing behind him, but he never faltered. His focus was on me. He didn't sniff the food at the end caps and waited patiently for me to select the apples we came for. During check out, he didn't respond to the cashier who tried to get his attention. His poise was to the task. Our walk home was as uneventful... all in a days work! Well done, Smokey!
Good Fortune, or Not
In a sense, we are lucky. Smokey has the appearance of a domestic dog/Shepherd and so he is more "acceptable" looking to the public. He appears domestic when he goes for walks. He takes commands very well for a Coyote hybrid. He's very intelligent and is very attentive.No alarms are set off in public, really.
Yet, even though he has even better than average domestic behavior for a hybrid, his disguised heritage leaves a chink in the chain. What hybrid breeders do not see as a fault, is very much a danger in the hybrids who do not fare as well as Smokey. Undetected posturing, or movement is interpreted correctly in coyote. We know we can not be seated below him, or he will clamor over us, interpreting our position as submission. Persons looking for that cool hybrid they can tell their friends about, who are ill equipped to handle the idiosyncrasies of the hybrid's wild heritage, often fail to recognize the correct form of training for their "pet." We are always watching Smokey. Partly because he is so genuinely odd and performs daily in the full bloom of his coyote-ness, that we enjoy his funny demeanor. All the while, our thoughts are to what is behind his behavior. Why is he doing this? Well meaning fun in coyote could translate to disaster.
Funny, no one has ever asked us how we can have a Coyote/Shepherd in a family setting. Even with as much support as we give and the watchfulness of the adults around him, there is that thought. We have already answered the question for ourselves and I suppose even if it is foolishness, he is better with us, than with someone who might hurt him, or turn him loose in a field where he will certainly find his way close to where he feels comfortable... with people. Quite accidentally, we adopted this Coy-Dog and quite purposefully, we will to keep our promise to him. Smokey is home with us. He is our boy.
Please remember that while we welcome and love our Coyote half-breed, we do not endorse breeding *Coy-Dogs, coyotes, wolves or any other wild animal. Smokey is a rescued animal in a safe environment with experienced handling.
Natural instincts remain and they can pose a danger to you or those you love. They are not always 100% trainable. Most often, hybrid dogs are misunderstood, mistreated, abandoned, killed, or given up for adoption for lack of experience and training, to specific groups who rescue them. They are not and cannot be safely released to the wild by "ditching" in the woods, forest, mountains, etc.
*Coyotes are difficult to tame, except when raised from a very young age, and even then, much of their wild temperament shows when they reach puberty. Coyotes have never been domesticated with the possible exception of the Hare Indian dogs, which may have been domesticated coyotes or dog-coyote hybrids, used by the Hare Native American tribe of northern Canada for hunting.