The incessant snow had stopped and temperatures had plummeted freezing the drifts of snow into the consistency of cement. Walking the well trodden pathway high above the Scarborough Bluffs, the snow crunched under our feet like breaking glass.
I had returned late Sunday afternoon from a visit with my daughter in Guelph and was now taking Lindsay for a late day run to burn off the accumulated energy of two days inactivity.
The sun was low in the sky and massive in size, a great red stop light staring us in the face as we trudged west along the crest of the bluffs. I tried my best to ignore it.
Tail wagging with glee, Lindsay was following trails of scent that would take her far off the pathway and back again, her distance covering three times my own.
To the left of us, the great lake was frozen beneath a thin layer of ice, the sun sucking mist from its waters that rose into the air like spirits rising from the dead.
I was lost in thought, replaying the visit to my daughter in my head, so I didn't notice the strange change in Lindsay's pattern of behaviour until I literally tripped over her.
"What are you doing, Lins?" I asked, realizing she had been walking closely ahead of me for some minutes, instead of ranging free like a rubber band shot into the air.
She looked up at me as if to apologize for being in the way, but made no move to run on ahead.
I trudged on, the brittle snow cracking loudly beneath my feet.
Lindsay would walk ahead of me a couple of steps and then pause for me to catch up before moving on another few steps. Her nose was high in the air, twitching to a scent that puzzled and alarmed her.
And that's when we came on the killing ground.
A three foot patch of the pathway was covered with blood and tufts of hair, all that remained of a raccoon.
Lindsay examined the patch hesitantly, scratching at the ground to release more of the scent into the air.
I clipped on her leash and pulled her away.
"Okay, girl, I think this is the end of our walk for today." I said turning back.
To find the pathway blocked by a large, scrawny, long legged dog standing sideways across the path about ten meters ahead of me. Its head slightly lowered, menacingly, it was as still as a statue. The thin puffs of steam that escaped its mouth into the frigid air, the only sign of life.
Lindsay normally greets other dogs with same the tail wagging enthusiasm she reserves for people. Now she stood rigid, the hair on her back standing up.
I thought about the kill zone behind me. The animal ahead of me was no dog, no pet used to human company. It had no collar, its long gray hair unkempt on its taunt frame, its eyes unwaveringly focused, not on me, but on Lindsay.
Lindsay who is about the size of a large raccoon.
The playful barking of a dog broke the spell that held us rigid on the pathway. Excited female voices shouted and laughed in the cold air of the late afternoon. A group of dog walkers were moving up the path toward us. At any second they would round the corner behind the coyote and he would find himself between us and them.
Lindsay growled softly at my feet. I glanced quickly down at her and when I looked up, the coyote was gone.
A boxer and two German shepherds broke into view, followed by two women in loud, excited conversation. Their dogs stopped at the sight of us, their noses picking up the scent of raccoon blood and the wild odour of coyote.
I told the women what I'd seen and their dogs ran past us to examine the remains of the raccoon. The frightened women rushed to click on their leashes and pull them away.
We walked together back to the car park, aware of the lengthening shadows and the deepening chill, all the dogs nervous and alert.
It was the end of the walk for today. And maybe the end of our walk along the bluffs for sometime to come.
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