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A Coyote Guide

She and her dog were shown a new path, a new perspective–courtesy of an unlikely angel.

An artist's rendering of a coyote angel

Burga, my 50-pound Rottweiler, jumped out of the pickup truck when we got to Boynton Canyon in Sedona, our go-to spot for a late afternoon stroll. “This might be our last walk for a while, Burga,” I said as I led her to our favorite trail.

I was scheduled for foot surgery the next day and overwhelmed with worries. Would things be worse than the doctor initially thought? Would I fully recover use of my foot? Would the surgical staff be well rested before the operation? My fears were out of control!

When Burga and I got closer to our usual trail, we found a group of young worshippers gathered at the threshold, heads bowed in prayer. I didn’t want to disturb them.

“Come on, Burga, we’ll explore a new path today.” She hesitated. Burga was very sensitive to potential danger and was quick to alert me if she suspected any threat whatsoever. “It’s okay, girl,” I assured her. “We won’t go very far.”

My promise put her at ease and we headed off. I wish something could calm me as easily, I thought. I’d bowed my head many times in the days leading up to this operation, asking for God’s loving reassurance but so far, to no avail.

There should’ve been plenty here to take my mind off my troubles–towering red buttes, deep crimson cliff walls, desert gardens decorated with Agave cactuses and Arizona sycamore trees.

As Burga and I covered new territory, I tried to strip away the anxiety and enjoy the scenery. But today my worries had too strong a hold.

I’d lost track of how long we’d been walking when Burga stopped short.

“What’s the matter, girl?”

I looked around, surprised at how disoriented I felt. We’d never been anywhere near this part of the canyon before. I surveyed the area for other hikers, but we were all alone. I listened for road traffic. Silence.

The sun shifted shadows over the edges of the sandstone rocks. Night was coming. All kinds of wild animals lurked in the canyon. Bears, bobcats, coyotes…

Panic rose in me. Even my fears about my operation paled in comparison. We were lost!

“God, please guide us out of here.”

My first thought was to head back the same way we came, but we had changed trails too many times during our hike. I couldn’t fathom the way out if I tried. The sun was quickly settling behind the canyon landscape and crickets were tuning up for the evening. I had to act fast.

I took a deep breath and considered the forked path before us. I led Burga to the left. I hope this is the way out….

I took a few steps and patted Burga, reassuring her before I looked up–

Less than 15 feet away a coyote stood in our path, its eyes fixed on us. Burga and I froze in place. I averted my eyes from the coyote’s stare, not wanting the animal to feel challenged. I tightened my hold on Burga’s leash, expecting her to react.

I waited, gripping the leash with both hands, dreading an animal fight with no one here to help me. But Burga remained calm. Here she was, face-to-face with a coyote, acting as if she didn’t even see him. Was I seeing things?

I glanced over at the wild animal–untamed, in its natural habitat–undisturbed by Burga’s presence. Holding its position in the middle of the trail we were headed down, the coyote watched us closely, waiting.

I couldn’t believe these animals weren’t lunging at one another, and we weren’t going to stick around to find out why.

Okay…we’ll just go to the right. “Come on, girl,” I whispered. With my eyes steady on the coyote, I cautiously sidestepped toward the path to our right. I wasn’t sure where it led, but I knew it was safer than passing by that coyote.

As we moved right, the coyote moved alongside us. I drew Burga’s leash in. The coyote stopped and stared at us.

Now what? I questioned the wild animal’s motives, but in that same moment I felt compelled to fall in step beside it.

Walk with a coyote?

The idea seemed crazy but I did it, Burga at my opposite side. Dusk introduced the night, the canyon, quiet. I felt surrounded by peace, protected. The coyote beside us, but at a safe distance, glanced over at us every few meters, making sure we were still in step.

As we traveled together I looked down at Burga, then to the coyote. Each remained indifferent to the other’s presence.

Soon the quiet of the canyon carried the sounds of traffic. We were nearing the canyon’s entrance! All three of us exited the trail onto the hard surface road. I spotted my pickup truck in the distance. Burga and I broke out into a run.

Halfway to the truck, I looked over my shoulder. The coyote stood still in the fading dusk light, watching. It wasn’t until it was all over that I was able to fully digest what had transpired. Burga hadn’t seen that coyote.

My mind toyed with an idea: Was that really a coyote or was it an angel? An angel meant for only me to see? Years later I still don’t have the answer, but I know what I believe.

That walk in the canyon sent me a message loud and clear. No matter what fears I get lost in, God will be right there beside me, to guide me safely through.


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