Posted on December 14, 2022

Cholla's Christmas Dinner - Gebo's

Cholla was a coydog. Not a “coy dog” – it’s one word. For those unfamiliar with the term, a coydog is a hybrid between a coyote and a domestic dog. Although not all that uncommon, they usually only occur in the wild. They’re often sterile (Cholla was) so can’t carry on as a species of their own.

I acquired her from an acquaintance whose German shepherd disappeared for a week and came home pregnant. When the pups were born, he had no idea who (in this case what) the father was. I had my suspicions as soon as I saw them, and as Cholla grew her lineage became more and more obvious.  That was fine with me. I’ve always admired coyotes.

Not long after I got her I took a job managing a fishing camp and Cholla and I moved into a small trailer on the property. She grew into a wonderful pet – very intelligent, fiercely loyal, and mostly obedient. The mostly part was that I was unable to break her of one bad habit: stealing food. She was never aggressive about it, but relied on stealth and patience. Anything edible that wasn’t closely guarded she considered her rightful prey. People think raccoons are artful thieves, but let me tell you they couldn’t compare to Cholla. I had to put hasps and padlocks on the refrigerator and cupboards. I’d often find well-chewed Tupperware containers in the yard, the results of unlucky fishermen leaving their lunches unattended.

One Christmas Eve, I was out repairing a fence when I noticed Cholla had wandered off. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. She often went off exploring on her own and always rejoined me or went home. As I topped the hill overlooking the trailer, two things were immediately apparent – she had arrived  there ahead of me, and I had foolishly forgotten to lock up the food.

The entire snowy yard was festooned with scraps of wax paper, plastic wrap, and other packaging debris. Besides the loss of our own food, some of the Christmas gifts for my family were among the casualties.  A gift box of fancy cheeses and Summer sausage – devoured. A package of smoked salmon fillets – devoured. The Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons among the other trash stood as mute testimony. And there on the front steps lounged Cholla, looking both guilty and smugly satisfied.

Angry as I was, I was also concerned for her well-being. Among the amazing quantity of food she had managed to scarf down there had been a very large (and expensive) bag of individually foil-wrapped chocolates. I’d always heard that chocolate was toxic to canines, and I feared that my best friend's life was in danger. What could I do? Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, the nearest veterinarian two hours away, and me practically broke from holiday shopping.

I kept careful watch on Cholla throughout the night. With the exception of more than usual trips outside to relieve herself, she seemed fine. Maybe it was divine intervention and maybe it was coyote genetics, but the chocolate didn’t appear to effect her at all.

As time passed, I pretty much forgot about the incident (except for becoming overly cautious of locking up the food).  But one sunny February day, I was reminded of it again, in a spectacular way.

When I was returning from my weekly supply trip to town, I was met by an incredible sight. For several yards all around the trailer, the melting snow had revealed what looked like hundreds of sparkling jewels. Gold, silver, green and red and blue glinting in the sunshine. Closer inspection found them to be the remains of dog droppings – each one liberally studded with bits of foil in the same bright colors as the expensive chocolates I bought for Christmas. Cholla struck again.  

Not long after that, we moved to a different location. Cholla continued to thrive -- and steal food -- for many more years. But she never again had a Christmas dinner to compare to that one.


Written By Jim Harris

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