Last winter, Franklin and Artemis and I decided we would try to hike up to the pass on the west side of City Creek Canyon for a bit of sunshine and a view. The trail must have been snowy, because it was January. And I remember that once we got the 2 miles to the top of the trail I decided that we should keep going up the steep hill in the snow drifts because the sunshine and snow just felt so good.
We were knee-deep in drifted snow, going up a steep hill, and I thought, “We can push just a little farther up to where if flattens out a bit, have a rest and enjoy the view before we head back down.” Franklin seemed to be in agreement with this plan, and was following close behind in my footprints. I got my phone out to take a couple of pictures of the dogs because everything was just so beautiful and we were all so happy… when I looked up to find that Artemis was no longer in front of us.
I wanted to hurry up the hill to the top to see where she had gone (and how far), but the going was a bit rough in the deep snow and I didn’t want to leave Franklin behind. Franklin and I made it to the top about 5 minutes later and I looked across the hills to see three dogs running across through the snow, about a mile or so away. Two gray “dogs” were in the lead, headed towards the cliffs, and one blonde dog was hot on their heels. Coyotes. Artemis.
I had she shock collar on Artemis and initially I think I just hit the recall “beep” button to let her know that I was calling her back to us (in the event that she couldn’t hear my frantic screams). I still think back to that day and wonder if there were other people up there hiking around hearing my screams and wondering who was in mortal danger. “Oh, just my dog, chasing a couple of coyotes across the foothills. And they are probably leading her into a trap in those cliffs over there so that they can brutalize her, and I’ll likely never see her alive again.” Those were my thoughts. I soon switched the shock collar over to “shock” mode, and was shocking on full power, wondering if she was ignoring the shocks, couldn’t feel the shocks because of the adrenaline running through her body, or that perhaps she was simply out of range and my attempts to discipline were futile.
I turned around to find Franklin at my side, looking up at me as if to say, “Why would she do such a thing? Doesn’t she know that you are the one who feeds us our kibble twice a day?” Silly dog indeed, but I was trying to suppress the panic that I was starting to feel. Shouting into the wind, I felt that she would never hear me. I feared that she would get tired and the coyotes would take her down. I wondered if she she somehow survived a coyote attack, would she perhaps work her way downhill to the gated community, and would I be able to explain to someone, anyone, that I needed to somehow get my dog back but that she was probably in their neighborhood that I couldn’t gain access to…?
I decided that the best course of action was to retrace our steps. Franklin and I started back down the trail (which was in the opposite direction from the one that Artemis had run off in) and hoped for the best. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to look for her, but the going was just too rough in the deep snow and there was no way that Franklin, who was weaker because of his age and arthritis, no way that he would be able to keep up.
We came around the corner from the pass and started heading back down the trail into the canyon, when a smiling yellow face came down the snow-covered slope.
“There you are! We were worried sick! Didn’t you hear me calling you? Didn’t you feel the shock collar? I thought those coyotes were going to kill you!”
She just looked up at me with those smiling eyes and I wrapped my arms around the thick fur of her neck and hugged her long and hard. I thanked her for coming back. I thanked whoever was watching out for her for not letting the coyotes take her down that day.
On the way back down the canyon trail, Artemis took off once again, bolting off the side of the trail towards a dead deer carcass. She started eating the hide and I shocked her on full power, wondering if the shock collar was even functional (it was: she just didn’t care). Her instinct and drive to eat a dead animal (or chase a couple of live ones) was just too strong. I scrambled down the slope through the melting snow and mud and shocked her not 3 feet away (no response). I yelled at her (no response). I dragged her by the collar away from the dead deer and had to pull the hide out of her mouth with my bare hands (gross) because the more I told her “No” the faster she wanted to eat it.
Artemis, the huntress, the goddess of forests and hills, had survived to hunt another day. She also showed me that she would never go hungry… she was willing to sacrifice her kibble for some delicious carion if she had to.