Two close friends from Los Angeles, Janine Warner, who reported for The Point Reyes Light when I owned the newspaper, and her husband Dave LaFontaine, have been staying here for the Christmas holidays.

On Christmas Day itself, however, some even more exotic guests showed up.

Around noon Janine went out on the deck to enjoy the sunny Christmas Day and soon spotted a coyote in my field. Here it heads into some eponymous coyote brush.

Immediately I hurried inside and grabbed my camera. Before long, the coyote reemerged next to my parking area. It could hear us chattering on the deck and began staring at me while I took its picture.

The creature then looked down my driveway to make sure all was clear. Coyotes can be fierce, but they’re not foolhardy.

When it finally decided to leave, it started off at a brisk walk. Whether walking or running, coyotes are amazingly graceful.

Coyotes have a walking speed that sometimes tops 20 mph while their running speed can easily top 30 mph. This coyote, however, was just meandering. It took him almost half a minute to travel 0.2 miles to the bottom end of the driveway, where he then sat down to survey the area. Before long, he had disappeared without a trace.

Less than five minutes later — as if on cue — two bucks showed up outside our kitchen window. Both were good looking animals, but the buck in the foreground had an especially regal bearing.

Accompanying the bucks were two does. Like the bucks, the does were not particularly nervous — even when I went out the back door to get a clear photo of them.

Of course, these were not the only wild animals to visit Mitchell cabin on Christmas Day. Our familiar raccoon families showed up in the evening. We fed them slices of bread, but — to save money — we’re now supplementing that with dog kibble instead of honey-roasted peanuts.

Also showing up were our usual pair of gray foxes. One is comfortable enough around us to take slices of bread from our hands. The other, however, is sufficiently skittish that most of the time we have to throw slices to him.

Having a peaceful relationship with the animals around us is key to our having a decent existence, as most religions agree. “Life is dear to the mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not to die, so do other creatures,” wrote the XIV Dalai Lama in 1967.

“There is not an animal on the earth, nor a flying creature on two wings, but they are people like unto you,” proclaims the Qur’an. “Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected,” Dr. Donald Coggan, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, observed. “It behooves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain.”