Friends and relatives were shocked — nay, stunned — when I e-mailed them that my wife Kathy and I, after 25 years of marriage, had adopted an 11-year-old daughter, Luna, who had been left to die alongside a road in Tennessee with a gunshot wound in her neck.
They were even more surprised the next day when I e-mailed them a photograph of Luna, the coyote.
Kath and I are both hikers, and every once in a while we park on Route 9D on the east side of the Hudson and follow the Appalachian Trail’s white blazes across the Bear Mountain Bridge and through the small zoo and beyond. The zoo is home for rehabilitated wild animals like Luna, many with injuries that limit their ability to survive in the wild.
On this particular day, one of the zookeepers was in a small cage practically hand-feeding a porcupine! I was astonished, and asked her how she was quite calmly — and safely — accomplishing this. She said the porcupine was used to her and associated her with food.
There were two coyotes in the cage next to the porcupine, and one of them was extremely agitated, pacing back and forth, making dog-like yipping/barking sounds. The zoo-keeper told us that she was jealous because she was paying attention to the animal next door. I asked if she had a name. “Luna,” she said.
I stood right in front of Luna’s cage, looked directly at her, and said, in my best talking-to-a-coyote low, soothing voice, “Luna, it’s okay. It’s okay.” Astonishingly, she immediately stopped pacing and barking and calmed right down. I had just had a “conversation” with a wild creature, a coyote named Luna…
We returned to the zoo a month or so later, and I eagerly anticipated my new friend Luna’s reaction when I again stood in front of her cage. She totally ignored me; c’est la vie…
We’d picked up a brochure describing how we could “adopt” one (or more) of the zoo animals. We talked it over, and soon had “officially” — we have a certificate, and a handsome 8×10” photo — adopted Luna.
Luna and her cage-mate Loki, a younger male — Luna was the Alpha female — were moved to a new, half-acre, fenced-in open-woods enclosure. There was a spacious “viewing platform,” manned by Melissa, a very knowlegable uniformed zookeeper. I asked where Luna was, and she pointed to two small grayish-brown “lumps” curled up in balls in the far corner of the enclosure. We probably would not have spotted them if Melissa hadn’t been there to point them out. She said Luna and Loki were both still “acclimating” to their new territory.
We returned to the zoo this year. Loki, along with two recently rescued, young coyotes, was friskily ranging around. Luna was clearly visible across the way, majestically surveying the scene. She looked fine, and healthy; I was pleased to see her again, and very proud of our adopted Alpha daughter.
Ralph J. Ferrusi is a freelance writer who lives on Stormville Mountain in Dutchess County with his wife, Kathy.