Picture and words by Dave Reichert
"I was 40 years old when I got my first dog. That first one, Fish, was a coydog (a coyote-dog hybrid) that we found in a campground at a lake where I was fishing. I got skunked that day, so she had to take that name—I wasn't going home without a fish.
"She was a wonderful dog—smart, loving, protective later of our newborn daughter, and a real character. She used to love to play with the bears. Many nights, I found myself running outside in a bathrobe, with a flashlight in one hand and a revolver in the other. Fish would have a bear treed, and I'd have to fire the gun to scare it off. When it got to the bottom of the tree, she'd bark and nip the bear's butt, then chase it off into the woods.
"Fish lived to a ripe old age of about 13. After years of diabetes, with daily insulin shots, she developed cataracts and lost her sight. Eventually she went deaf, and the day came when we did what we had to. She was a special dog, the standard by which I've measured every other dog."
Words and photograph © 2014 by Dave Reichert, all rights reserved
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Featured Comments from:
Richard Khanlian: "Fish sounds like a wonderful dog. When we lived in the foothills of the southern Rockies we had a golden retriever named Leo. At night he'd sometimes run out through the dog door when he heard a coyote pack nearby and come home the next morning looking quite pleased with himself. We used to imagine him sitting in a circle with the coyotes, swapping stories comparing life in the wild with life among humans. Maybe he even fathered a coydog or two."
Mark Hobson: "A beautiful picture of a cherished companion which, over time, will no doubt incite many pleasant memories. However...the chances that Fish was a coydog are slim to none, simply because an abundance of recent peer-reviewed DNA research—for instance here and here—strongly supports wolf-coyote hybridization and virtually no evidence for dog-coyote hybridization. Here in the Adirondacks, the coydog myth is alive and well as it has been throughout the NE where the Eastern Coyote is abundant. This coyote is much larger and slightly more aggressive than its Western relative due to wolf (Canadian Red Wolf)-coyote hybridization which occurred during the Western coyote migration through Canada to the NE. It was the size difference alone which led to the mistaken belief that coyotes had mated with dogs.
"Caveat—don't know why I get so worked up when I hear/read the word 'coydog' but, in any event, like it or not, I seem to be on a mission to eradicate the very idea of dog-coyote hybridization."
Mike replies: I think that's known as a "pet peeve." Not uncommon! And, thanks for the information.
Thomas Turnbull: "Wonderful picture and a touching story. What really arrested my attention, though, was its synchronicity with a PBS program that I saw just last week: 'The story of the mysterious coywolf, a mixture of Western Coyote and Eastern Wolf, premiered Wednesday, January 22, 2014, on PBS.' Very well done and definitely news to me! (Don't know anything about their going to the dogs, but the Coywolf, at least, isn't any Fish story….)"
David Brown: "In spite of Mr. Hobson's pet peeve, I owned a coydog as a child in the 1960s. 'Fluffy' (I am not making this up) was an intentional breeding of a domesticated coyote and a German Shepherd. She was a bit bigger than a coyote, but had all the markings of a classic shepherd. I miss her still."
Mike replies: I wonder if dogs and coyotes have different numbers of chromosomes, rendering their offspring infertile like most mules and hinnies? That would account for lack of DNA evidence for coydog lineage in the wild, but allow for single-generation mixes such as Fluffy. IANAE!