Losing a pet to a wild predator hammers home a hard lesson

David Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

If you don’t want your beloved small pet to become the main course for a hungry wild creature, don’t let them out of your sight outdoors for a second. That’s how long it took for some nocturnal creature to spirit my little Yorkie, Noah, away, never to be seen again.

I let my two schnauzers, Queenie and Butch, and Noah outside about midnight recently for a what I thought would be an uneventful few minutes. Then tragedy struck.

I was near the kitchen back door when I heard a few barks and what I now realize to be a death scream from Noah. I ran outside to see what was happening, but only Queenie and Butch were still in the back yard.

Because coyotes live in the woods near my home and prowl the prairie at night, I blamed them for the mishap at first. I couldn’t imagine how a coyote got into the back yard, but it seemed the most logical explanation at the time.

I went into the pasture with my big police-officer-style flashlight, but I couldn’t find him. I stayed up all night and at dawn began to search for him in daylight. Despite my trek through the pasture and into the woods, I never found a trace of him for burial.

Since then, I’ve learned that a large owl has been observed carrying off at least three grown cats nearby. Obviously, a little Yorkie weighing less than 10 pounds wouldn’t be a challenge for the owl at all.

I’ve never seen an owl here before, but I know there are many creatures roaming the country that I never see. From what I understand, we have everything roaming in the dark with the coyotes, including wild hogs, skunks, bobcats, possums and you name it.

No matter where you live — be it in the country or in the city, especially on the edge of wilderness — your small pets are at danger from wildlife. Owls and hawks exist just about everywhere. In most of the South, there are alligators and who knows what else that I haven’t even considered.

It’s not unusual to hear news stories about wild animals appearing on busy streets and even entering stores.

From what I understand, it’s been extremely dry lately, and that always leads to a shortage of food for all wildlife. That hunger and an increasing comfortableness with humans, coupled with a realization that two-legged creatures can provide food in a variety of ways, will lead wildlife to attack domestic animals.

It’s a lot like the cliché of “shutting the barn door after the cow got away,” but I’m now taking steps to protect the two companions I have left. I turn on the floodlights at night, and I step outside with them.

Many people in the LGBT community never have children, so our pets are like our children. And for people who love animals, their pets are as much a part of the family as the humans in it.

Nothing will bring Noah back, and at this point only time can heal my heartbreak. Even Queenie and Butch seem to be depressed and perhaps a little scared.

And if the owl indeed was the culprit, I’m not mad at it. What happened is just a part of the cycle of nature, but I’d like to think I’m wiser and more prepared to protect my pets in the future.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for more than two decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.