Invitation to Dance

The sweet early song of birds filled the morning air as I rinsed dishes, looking out the window above our kitchen sink. Fifty foot oaks and tulip poplars filtered warm sunlight into the stillness of our home with kids just off to school. 

The movement of an unusual animal drew my attention as it emerged from the woods and walked slowly into our backyard.

It had the appearance of a dog but it was lean with a mix of black and brown spots throughout its coat and a white tip at the end of its thin tail. I moved to a different window for a better view and it looked back at me, holding my gaze for several seconds. A clear and unmistakable message came to me from this mysterious animal—I knew and felt its message as if words had been spoken… help me it said.

Its hips had patches of missing fur with open wounds that were bleeding.

It was a coyote.

The next day, it returned and conveyed the same message to my daughter who shared eye contact through our family room window. 

A kind volunteer at the local Wildlife Rescue office said the wounds sounded like mange, a debilitating condition produced by a parasite that causes extreme itching under the skin—left untreated, the animal's health will deteriorate. She said she had medicine we could put in food for the coyote and provided her address in Alexandria, which was about forty-five minutes away. I longed to help this animal and began processing the logistics of a ninety-minute drive with our family's schedule for work, school and activities. In response to my delay, she said there was another volunteer in Tyson's Corner in case that would be more convenient. She was located two blocks from my office.

I smiled. There are no coincidences.

It's hard to describe how emotionally connected I felt to this unusual animal—it was like an invitation to dance with forces unknown, within a realm that was separate from our day-to-day experience in Northern Virginia. The animal had looked into my eyes and communicated with me in a way I had never experienced before—and I felt compelled to help it.

On my way to work the next morning, the Wildlife Rescue volunteer provided a vial of clear liquid, syringes and instructions. She asked if we had any dogs and said there was only one breed that could be harmed by the medicine: shelties. We had two dogs, a yellow lab and a small sheltie mix. It felt like a strange test being given by the Universe—concerns for our precious Tia competed with my desire to help the coyote and I fought hard to choose faith over fear.

For the next three Thursday nights, my children and I injected a dose of the medicine into a baked chicken leg and placed it in the woods behind our house. Each treatment night, we taped big signs to every door with a reminder for family and friends to keep Tia on a leash if she went outside.

On the night of the final treatment, a beautiful full moon floated in the dark sky.  I said a prayer asking for healing and comfort for this animal and then we placed the chicken outside. We checked the next morning and it was gone.

For several weeks there was no sign of the coyote. We were wondering how it was doing, hoping it had found the food with the medicine, sending prayers and wishes for its healing.  And then one afternoon, it was curled up in our backyard, sleeping in the sun next to a tree with new short hair covering the patches of bare skin that had once been exposed. Relief and gratitude replaced the concern I had been carrying. It felt like a loved one had returned after a long absence.

We continued to catch glimpses over the next few weeks as it traveled on a trail behind our home.  And then later that summer, I looked out the window before heading to bed one night and saw the coyote illuminated by the moon, curled up in the front yard, gazing peacefully at our house.  I felt a deep connection between us and longed to sit with it in the grass.  Instead, I stood quietly at the window and accepted the message it was directing my way—a loving and curious gratitude that I had accepted an invitation to dance.

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