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One September day last fall, it was spooky on the track when I arrived at 5 am. It was still completely dark. When I pulled up to my usual spot by the curb, I saw what looked like a husky-shepherd mixed-breed dog trotting out of the canyon, heading for the neighborhood across the street, where there is a little lane and two or three houses.
A Siberian husky used to live there, but this one didn’t have the same distinctive markings. He was fairly uniformly tawny. He paid no attention to me, but I waited until he was well on his way before I got out of the car. He was big and looked all business. He looked like a wolf. Well, maybe a coyote? I thought he must be a dog coming home from a night of mischief in the canyon.
The track was deserted, and on top of its being so dark, there was a Jack-the-Ripper mist. A crescent moon was just visible, and water lay in sheets wherever the ground was low. I could hear the deer at the edge of the ravine, hacking out their warning sounds. I watched the asphalt as closely as I could, thinking that it was a nice, cool morning for a rattlesnake. I have never seen or heard of a rattlesnake in our neighborhood, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have them.
On the second lap I was suspicious of a hurdle that I hadn’t noticed on the innermost lane my first time around. It bounded away as I approached.
A great horned owl sat on top of the high floodlight tower at the west end. I couldn't see him, but I heard him going "hoo hoo."
Owl feather from the Canyon Vista track.
Then I heard a new sound. It was a high animal cry followed by a squeak. The distress was palpable and cutting. It repeated several times. Then it died away. As best I could tell, it came from on top of the light tower, so I think the owl must have caught something and carried it up to his lookout for the kill.
A car pulled into the parking lot and sat there. It occurred to me that running by myself in the dark might not be the smartest thing in the world. A second car arrived. One more lap. Then out of the mist came two women jogging together.
I climbed the stairs toward my car and saw that I had been wrong about the “dog.” He slipped back silently from across the street and disappeared into the canyon.
Next: Close to Home
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The Year of the
The Year of the Night Animals