Ever since the first time I took Annise for a walk and we were attacked by another dog, I have carried a walking stick. It is just in case we run into another poorly trained or poorly controlled aggressive dog, or perhaps coyotes.

The stick is solid, sturdy wood about a foot shorter than I am with a leather strap at the top.

Autism Dad suggested I get a retractable aluminum walking stick, but I wasn’t sure of my ability to quickly pull it out and get it extended in a crisis.

I am fairly confident that I can distract a dog with my wooden stick, relying on my fast pitch softball batting skills of yesteryear. Keep your eye on the ball…

So far we have not encountered more aggressive dogs, though we have seen coyotes. I have heard stories of coyotes taking cats and small dogs, jumping over walls and fences and snatching small pets within feet of their owners. 

Annise is too big for that kind of grab and run, and I have not heard of single coyotes attacking a dog the size of Annise. Packs, however, have attacked and killed dogs.

When living in close proximity to wild animals, it is good to be prepared. When we have seen coyotes on our walks they usually lope away, keeping their distance and a wary eye on us.

Yesterday when we walked, there were a lot of other people walking too. It has gotten cold again and I am guessing that the folks we were seeing would have been out earlier, but didn’t want to walk in 18 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s -8 for the Celsius folks) at dawn, and waited until the sun warmed things up.

One walker with a dog ahead of us kept turning around looking behind her and I wondered why. We were so far behind her we couldn’t be a problem. Then I realized she was being followed. A lean grey-brown figure was trailing along behind her.

It wasn’t keeping up with her though, which meant that Annise and I were getting closer. Soon it saw us and turned, paralleling the path we would be walking.

I stopped and assessed the situation, Annie quivering in excitement about the other “dog.” Annise was half again as big as the coyote. We were almost home and the path forward would get us there in 10 minutes. Or I could turn around and go back the way I came, extending our walk another 30 minutes.

There was a marshy area between where the coyote was and the path Annise and I would walk. If the coyote wanted to get at us, it would have to cross reeds, mud, and icy water and then face my walking stick. I decided to keep going.

We watched the coyote as it walked ahead of us. Then it stopped on a rise and lay down in the sun. We watched it as we walked past. It casually watched us. It was not bothered by us.

I was more tense than the coyote.

It was one of those middle ground situations, where it wasn’t entirely without risk but it also wasn’t enormously dangerous. I thought about how I would teach the Navigator to handle this kind of situation, how to calmly assess the level of danger and proceed or not based on his analysis.

I almost wished he had been there so that I could walk him through what I thought about in deciding to keep going and get his ideas of what to do, too. 

The more he can practice assessing danger and deciding what to do, the better and more comfortable he will be at it. It is just another kind o of problem-solving.

Maybe we can go for a walk over the weekend and pretend.

Assessing Danger