Old Dog

Old Dog’s coat was clumped in spots and thinned away to the flesh in others. The browns and rusts were muted, greyed like the grass at the end of summer. The other coyotes came to him sometimes yipping of their troubles and the pups they’d lost. He hung back some days, others he was braced, and sometimes untroubled. They were all lost and a need to tell him how it was for them, and he listened. He laughed at himself with them, sometimes grinned embarrassedly. “No one better mess with Old Dog,” they said. He mostly lived on the meat they brought him, plus the manzanita berries and mouse or old squirrel that he could catch. He moved slow. On days he was silent, Coyote left him alone. Other days, they talked, and they developed a keen friendship.