April 23, 2006


Postmodern Hank

We dogs aren't really much into Deconstructionism, unless you're talking about pulling apart the occasional cushion or leather shoe. But news of the coyote invasions of New York City have put me in a postmodern frame of mind.

Maybe you've read how, about a month ago, a coyote was seen wandering Central Park in New York City. Evidently, the 35-pound Hal - as they decided to name him - was viewed as such a threat by the urban hominids that they sent dozens of police officers as well as a helicopter to give chase. And terrified little Hal did indeed give them a run for their tax dollar. "Hal proved," reported the press, "quite adept at avoiding capture, jumping into the water, leaping over an 8-foot fence, ducking under a bridge and scampering through the grounds of a skating rink."

It made me a bit proud of my canine brethren, but then I got to thinking, "Why bother?" And why bother to report the strange story across the whole human world? I think maybe humans are fascinated by the story partly because coyotes put them in mind of the old Road Runner cartoons, where a coyote's chase of the speedy little bird proves as fruitless as it is relentless. "Poor little Road Runner" is a torment to old Wile E. Coyote, a kind of Tantalus of the tarmac. Traps and trains, rockets and widgets, bullet and mallets: nothing ever works for Wile E., as Road Runner endlessly evades.

Alas, the humans of New York City were not using some absurd, animated Acme flying machine to catch poor Hal, and so they succeeded. Hal couldn't defy gravity or disappear into painted tunnels. He was run down and tranquilized. Then he died. The humans blamed heartworms and rat poisoning, but you've got to wonder how an animal so feeble was able to leap so high.

Here's my impression when I start pulling the story apart (in the much same way I used to unhinge books from their bindings when I was a pup): I think people were so intrigued partly because of the "Super City vs. Wild Animal" angle and partly because, as I said before, it reminded them of a cartoon from their childhoods. And I think the RoadRunner cartoon was so popular because it dealt with an existential dilemma facing humanity.

The RoadRunner is a metaphorical represention of his fellow bipeds, the humans, who seem to defy all the laws of nature. With their technologies, they travel their roads at blazing speeds, they fly off cliffs without ever falling, they seem utterly unconcerned by their fellow beasts, who just can't lay a finger on them. Again and again, they defeat and bewilder the wild things that would consume them. Road-Runner Humanity is the unconcerned trickster, sticking out his tongue at Nature.

And yet...the humans are also Wile E., with all his frustrated chasing and striving and craving, with all his weird machinations that blow up in his face again and again, with all his superfluous and yet somehow endearing cunning. Yes, Wile E. is not just Nature red in tooth and claw but also High-Tech Humanity itself.

Oh, I know it may not make sense except in some pre-logical, dream-like way, but I'm sure that humans are both Wile E. and and Road Runner, a species ceaselessly and often hilariously divided against itself. Thus, in one of the hugest metropolises of the world, humans absurdly give chase to their own wild selves, tranquilizing and restraining that wildness.

But humans should never forget they they are the trickster Coyote as well as the infallible Road Runner. The Coyote is a dark, clever skulker that needs to live in the shadows of civilization, in the secret hearts of dogs and hominids alike. Humans shouldn't work too hard to subdue that wildness or they may destroy an essential part of themselves, leaving behind a poor poisoned corpse riddled and tortured by Heartworms.

i've tried to compose some sort of intelligent and witty response to this post of yours Hank - some way to build on or connect with what you've written.

but i have failed. so i'll just say,
really liked this post.

and add, that i wish now i was up at my friends' home in the north, listening to the coyotes howl.
A park should be a place for everybody, and every creature. It should be like you see in those "Peace on Earth" Christmas cards, with all animals happily living side by side. Unfortunately reality is far from that.
Woof! Woof! Hank. We couldn't agree more. As chihuahuas, we watched the CNN.com coverage of this story constantly.
This is a beautiful post.

As for me, right now, I feel quite keenly my Wile E. nature, as I try to get everything done seemingly without any tools not made my the Acme corporation!
We dogs know well that The coyote is a member of the dog family. In size and shape the coyote is like a medium-sized Collie dog, but its tail is round and bushy and is carried straight out below the level of its back.One of the most adaptable animals in the world, the coyote can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats,This time it was because of the humans.
One world, almost infinite number of views how close are we all to sharing the fate of the coyote? Or perhaps the fate of the human as coyote?

Hank, who knew you were so philosophical?! And so smart! I sure hope you (and my lab Sampson) still have a little bit of that wildness from your coyote brethren running through your blood.
Deconstructionism Hank? Well, there's been a lot of it lately at my house!!! There has been plenty of understanding the underlying basis of the ottoman, and the internal meaning of soft toys!! The Labradors have been more into " I make a mess, therefore I am"!!!! I like it too when they both win - and I don't mind the cleaning up so much....at least they're not coyotes!!! I will soon be into 'reconstructionism'!!!
Run Hal, Run!
Very nice post. One of your best.I enjoyed it a lot.
This was one of your bests ones Hank....I only hope that no more coyotes fall victim to the humans in the big city!
Where is the Sanctuary du Hank? I want to sign up and take a spiritual workshop. You're like the Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield of the canine world. (Mommy is back from Hawaii, we'll be updating the news soon) Aloha, Endo...
Hank! What a cool post! Made us all think.

But Simon (half black lab, quarter greyhound, quarter Queensland heeler) met coyotes in Tahoe, CA and I'm glad he's alive today! Yes a park should probably be for everybody, but when the coyote starts eating your cats and puppies, you might not be as pleased? Just as I have to be careful when I'm on the coyotes' territory. Tough question I think.

Keep intriguing us please!
Wow, Hank, if only all dogs could bedazzle me with their brains like you can! Did you go to the dog-department of Oxford University by any chance? Rumor goes they serve awfully good lunches out there.
Hi bird,

Thanks for saying so. I'd like to hear those coyotes howl as well.

Hi WoofWoof,

No, it's true, not many lions lying downs with lambs in real nature. In fact, I guess I'd be the first confront them if they showed up in my yard, brethren or no.

Hi Pink Chihuahua Princess,

I didn't catch it on TV, only read about it. Glad you caught a glimpse.

Hi Sam,

Yes, they are remarkably adaptive animals. You've got to respect that.

Hi Cal,

I guess I'd be glad if humanity eventually proves itself to be as adaptable as the coyote. It's possible, if the humans don't lose track of who they are.

Hi Katherine,

Thanks. I've think most dogs still have some wild trickster left in us. But that's another post.

Hi 2paw,

Yes, I enjoyed the example on deconstruction on your blog. We labs are quite often literal minded folk.

Hi Etchen,

There'll be no more running for Hal, of course, but maybe there are lessons for the rest of us.

Hi Guvnah,

Thanks. I'm thinking the officials of NYC may be sick of chasing coyotes unless there's a great reason.

Hi Endo,

No sanctuary yet, just the living room floor. Glad you'll be updating the news soon. Looking foward to reading it.

Hi Astrid,

No, never been a Oxford. (By the way, why aren't there aren't Dogfords?) But I did spend much of my younger years traversing a local college campus. Maybe I picked up some learning there, but all I really remember picking up were sandspurs in my paw pads. Ouch!
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