So the kids are back in school. Which means I’m getting up at 5AM again, but instead of running on the treadmill, I’ve taken to running outside.
In the dark. With the dog. Which is pretty much how you’d think it would be. If I could fit the dog on the treadmill for my long runs I would, but on that path lies madness. Best just to get out the door, take my lumps, and haul ass through rain and whatnot.
Predawn. Mist rising off the athletic fields at the middle and elementary schools. Miss B trots along beside me, unsure just what we’re doing at this Godforsaken hour, but she’s got her backpack on and it’s obviously time to work, so she’s down for it. (There’s none of this “I don’t want to get up” bullshit from Miss B, oh no. The instant I stir in the morning it’s a cold wet nose to the face and a “SOHAPPYTOSEEYOU, MISSEDYOUSOMUCH, WHATWEDOINGNOW?”)
Nobody out except us and a few people driving to work, and the morning bicycle-riders. (CRAZY. You couldn’t pay me to do that. To each their own insanity, though, right?) The only sounds are my breathing, the jingle of Miss B’s collar, the pounding of my feet. The usual dogs on our route don’t know what to make of us this early; it will take time for them to realize we’re just out running and they can relax.
So, it’s fairly tranquil. Except for (you knew there had to be an “except for”, didn’t you?) the killer bunnies.
You see, someone’s pet rabbits escaped. And, as rabbits will do, they went feral and started breeding. They’re not a neighborhood plague–not quite, not yet. But they’re fluffy and cottontailed, and very fast.
Miss B would loooove to catch herself some rabbit. Mind you, she probably wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do if she actually did get one. It’s one of the Great Unfulfilled Desires of her life, kind of like Catching A SUV or Fitting Underneath The Alpha’s Bed, or even Getting Her Nose Up The UPS Guy’s Bottom. She’s a herding dog, so she sees something bolt and every circuit in her head fuses. She takes off, dead silent, and the only thing stopping her is the leash tied around my waist. Now, she’s about forty pounds of dog, and I’m *mumblemumble* pounds of human, so those are fun times. Let’s just say that the leash is slip-knotted for a reason, and that I know how to drop my center of gravity and keep going.
Yet another lesson I am very grateful to bellydancing for.
Anyway, when I had the bright idea of running outside before dawn, I hadn’t thought about the fact that right before sunup is when the little vorpel bunnies were going to be out and active. So half of our morning run takes place around an elementary school playing field that is, coincidentally, Grand Bunny Central. It’s like an obstacle course, and also sharpens my night vision. I can tell I’m about to become very adept at bracing myself right before Miss B lunges after Peter Cottontail, who pauses to give her the finger before laughing, sticking his bum in the air, and taking off at warp fifteen.
But I don’t mind. Because of Phred.
So this morning we hit Grand Bunny Central, we’re about a mile and a half in, things are warmed up and going nicely. Miss B starts acting a little funny. I can’t quite tell what she’s getting the scent of, but apparently it is FANTASTIC. If her tail wasn’t naturally docked, it would be wagging itself right off her rump. In any event, she’s trying to wag so hard her back end is skipping around, which usually means she’s seen another dog and wants to make friends. I don’t know how she can run an 11.5-minute mile while her back end is doing the Funky Chicken, but some mysteries are not meant for mortals to solve.
There’s a tawny-gray flash out of the corner of my eye, there and gone. Miss B is almost hysterical with joy. Something is in the neighborhood, running roughly parallel to us. It veers away through a passage between two houses, and I forget about it. Maybe a stray, maybe a cat, who knows? It was too big to be a bunny, that’s all I could tell.
We make the hard left turn into the park near the elementary school, and Miss B is unwontedly eager. Still, we haven’t hit the three-mile mark, which is when she usually calms down. So we’re going along, and all of a sudden there’s that tawny-gray flash again. Four legs, running low. It stops, ears perked high, and Miss B pleads to be allowed to go make friends.
ME: Huh, that’s odd. It’s canine…pretty small to be shaped like that, though, wonder what breed–
MISS B: NEW FRIEND! NEWFRIEND NEWFRIENDNEWFRIEND!
ME: And that’s a strange color, too–HOLY SHIT GET IN THE CAR IT’S A COYOTE!
MISS B: CAN WE PLAY NEW FRIEND NEW FRIEND, OH PLEASE OH PLEASE–
ME: NO IT PROLLY HAS RABIES JESUS STOP IT LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!
PHRED THE COYOTE: Chillax, you guys are scaring the rabbits!
Yep, you read that right. A coyote. In the middle of the neighborhood. He probably comes down from the hills to hunt wabbit. I don’t know if Miss B has ever seen a coyote before. She certainly wanted to make Phred’s acquaintance, in a big, big way. No barking, but that back of the throat ohpleaseohplease whine she uses when she just wants to play with another dog. And me, grimly running onward–Miss B and I, we could probably take anything short of a pack of hyenas, but she is looking like she’d be no help. Plus, if Phred is going to put a dent in the rabbit population, he’s welcome to go about his business.
See, I love crows and coyotes and seagulls. I love the omnivorous trash animals, the ones that creep around the corner and do Nature’s dirty cleanup work. They’re usually smart as hell and interesting to boot. So as long as Phred keeps to his bidness, we’ll keep to ours.
He just better not come a few streets over and start messing with cats instead of bunnies. Because then, shit will get real. I will sic Neo on him.
Speaking of Neo…but that’s tomorrow’s story.
See you then!