by W.H. Martin
The first touches of spring, the world rested wet and brown. From the vantage of the barnyard, I assumed that the white patch at the end of the hayfield was a shopping bag that had been carried by the wind towards the distant treeline. Walking in the gray dusk on proper ecological duty, it became clear that the shape was not of wrinkled plastic, but of soft fur. The beagle was on its back, neck bent at an awkward angle. Its legs were splayed with only a small tear of skin across the pink superficial fascia of its lower abdomen. No blood and guts—a clean murder. The wild canids who had killed it had not even bothered digging around inside. It was young, no more than a large puppy. The copper tag on its green collar bore only one word ‘ACHUM’—the Quebecois onomatopoeia for the sound one makes when sneezing.
It had somehow been set loose, escaping from its home with a primordial urge to find others of its kind, only for it to discover a severe difference of composition. The domestic beagle stood no chance against the quick jaws of the coyote. They often sang at night, barking and yipping for minutes at a time before coming to a simultaneous close. On occasion, the cacophony would be overcome by the drawn howls of those genetic hybrids colloquially referred to as coywolves. These animals are the persistent remnants of the Eastern wolf in southern Quebec.
European settlement necessitated drastic changes to the ecosystem and hence long gone are the days of virgin forests stalked by packs of chthonic beasts. In a secular repetition of the destruction of the pagan groves of the Old World by the Christians, the forests of the New World were brought down by settlers for economic ends. The ancient oaks, pines, and cottonwoods were felled, and the wolves and bears were trapped and shot. What exists in these regions now are forests of dense cedar regrowth that house the boundary dwelling canids. First recorded in western Quebec in 1944, coyotes spread eastward throughout the remainder of the century, largely thanks to deforestation and the elimination of competing predatory species. The Eastern wolves that survived into the twentieth century bred with their coyote counterparts, blending their genetic traits.
Looking at the dead dog’s serene expression, I see a naivety that mirrors that of our era—one of faith in being and method that has ultimately delivered an illusion. Entropy cannot be removed from the cosmos, and any attempts to do so are just temporary relegations. Where the wolf is direct in its threat, snatching sheep and children from the edges of farmlands, the coyote is elusive, the pain of its existence delivered through minor losses like the disappearance of a family pet. Efforts at expelling the wolf from its former domains are akin to all greater attempts at eradicating the unpredictable outcomes of the natural process. These attempts may be effective temporarily, but what is often understood as cleansing is in fact repression—a truth relegated to the brink and awaiting its time to return. The coywolf symbolizes the persistent violence of the wild; a trait that has its own reality in the realm of human culture.
I think about the dog and how it appeared as though frozen in some energetic wiggle. I think about coywolves; what is coming, what is deserved. Perhaps a stroke by the broken tooth and dripping maw of some wild source is the most true and dignifying death a castrated dog could receive.
Editor’s note: We’re not entirely sure what we think about this piece but we decided to publish it because Field Ethos will never be an echo chamber.