One morning about 10 years ago I got a call from one of my best friends, Brian*, who needed me to come over and help him move a body.
As the old saying goes: Friends help you move; real friends help you move bodies.
I walked up Brian’s driveway as I had hundreds of times before, as his house was more or less a hangout for us guys. What was different this time was the smear of blood that ran from the street nearly to his garage door. The source? What looked to be a dead dog.
Upon closer inspection, I determined it was a coyote, not someone’s pet. Coyotes are abundant in southwest Ohio, where I lived at the time, and the beast was hit by a car during the night while trying to cross the busy road in front of Brian’s house. It crawled up his driveway and took its last breaths next to Brian’s Dodge Neon. We used shovels to move the body to the shoulder of the road, and the carcass was gone in a couple of days.
Had we found a coywolf, however, we may have needed more than just two shovels to move it—and the damage to the stricken car would likely have been more significant.
What’s a coywolf, you ask?
According to a story I recently read, a coywolf is a mix of a coyote, a wolf and a large domestic dog breed, typically a German shepherd or similar dog—such as Katniss, though we aren’t 100 percent sure of her makeup. As wolves, my favorite animal, were nearly eradicated in the past couple centuries here in the U.S., surviving wolves apparently mated with coyotes and dogs, the offspring of those hookups eventually mated and all the breeding resulted in the coywolf. The beast is said to have a genetic makeup of about 10 percent dog, 25 percent wolf and 65 percent coyote.
I feel like Napoleon Dynamite when he rhapsodizes about ligers just typing the word “coywolf.”
“It’s pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed … bred for its skills in magic.”
Anyway, according to the article, “coywolves are now living even in large cities, like Boston, Washington and New York” because of their adaptability. Some readers commenting on the story claim to have seen them as far south as North Carolina. I bet they’re in Ohio, too.
Here’s what I’m wondering: Is the coywolf a new species or just a mutt? Coyotes, wolves and dogs are all different, at least in terms of appearance, but they’re remarkably similar, too, genetically. Like the coywolf, Katniss is likely not 100 percent German shepherd—she probably has at least two types of dogs in her genetic makeup; I’d bet your next paycheck on it. Does that mean she is an entirely new type of dog? Or is she really just a watered-down wolf? I don’t think so, but I’m not a scientist, either. When does a dog become a new breed? And how did we go from wolves to chihuahuas? Whatever the coywolf is—an entirely new animal or merely a mix like Katniss—I am completely fascinated by it.
Though it may be a mix of breeds like Katniss, I can’t imagine a coywolf would enjoy being referred to as “a daddy’s girl” or crawl into bed with me at night to snuggle like Katniss does.
*It’s strange as we get older how we measure our friendships in decades. I have known Brian since fifth grade, or about 25 years, and he’s always been someone I can count on and confide in.