Category Archives: Animals! Animals! Animals!

Brave Dog

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Reggie was a big dog–part German Shepherd and, judging by the black spots on his tongue, part Chow–but he was a gentle beast. He was calm, hardly barked, didn’t jump. He did what he was told and was an all-around good dog sitting client.

Reggie’s great joy in life was going on walks. Most of the day he lounged around the house on one of his beds or in the sunshine in the side yard, but when it was time for our morning or evening walk, he got super excited. He’d do a sort of prancing dance with his front paws while looking at me with a glimmer of excitement in his otherwise placid brown eyes.

On our first walk together, I discovered the yards of the neighborhood were populated with barking, snarling, growling dogs who foamed at the mouth and leaped onto the fences keeping them in their yards and out of the streets. Reggie did nothing to engage these neighbor dogs. He didn’t bark or growl at them or try to move into their territory. If he pulled on the leash, it was to go to the opposite side of the street and away from the neighbor dogs. If he made any noises, they were more whimpers than barks. The other dogs seemed to distress him more than antagonize him.

One day I asked The Man if he and his dog Jerico wanted to go on a morning walk with me and Reggie. They did, so we took off together through the neighborhood.

Jerico is a good dog, but he’s not calm, and he’s not quiet. Part beagle, Jerico is a talker, a barker, a howler. He’s got a lot to say. He also pulls against his leash and zigzags back and forth in front of the person walking him.

Reggie was super excited to be out on a walk with his friend. There was a lot of prance dancing on Reggie’s part, and a lot of tangled leashes caused by the two dogs running around and cutting in front of and behind each other.

Jerico is not timid. Apparently, he’s not afraid to take on any dog who wants to fight. When we came upon the first group of barking, snarling, growling neighbor dogs, Jerico didn’t back down in the least. He certainly didn’t slink off to the opposite of the street and whimper. No way! Jerico joined the barking chorus, and he would have been right up on the fence engaging with the captives had The Man not held him back. I’ve known Jerico for a while, so his behavior didn’t surprise me.

It was Reggie who surprised me. Gone was the whimpering, timid dog I’d been walking for the last week. In his place was a brave, bold dog. Reggie didn’t try to run to the far side of the street. Instead, he stayed next to Jerico and even barked a little while looking over at the neighbor dogs.

I don’t know if Reggie was showing off for Jerico, showing Jerico that he too could be bold. Maybe he felt as if Jerico had his back, thus making it safe for him to be brave. I wish I understood what dogs think. In any case, Reggie was a whole new dog while his friend Jerico was by his side.

 

Another Horse

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Since I wrote about a horse yesterday, I thought I’d stick with the theme and write about a horse of a totally different kind I saw in Truth or Consequences, NM.

I was house and dog sitting in a neighborhood near the hospital. One morning while walking the dog, I went down a street I hadn’t explored before. I looked over and saw a horse…a metal horse.

The sculpture was located in a fenced area between two houses. The fenced area was more of an empty lot than a yard. The fence was of the hurrican variety, so the horse was entirely visible. While the gate was open, I didn’t go into the enclosed area. I thought that might be a little too much like trespassing. Thankfully, I was able to aim my camera up and over the fence so I could get an unobstructed view.

There was no plaque to go with the sculpture, nothing about the artist or the medium or the technique used to create this creature. Maybe it’s a piece of yard art like I sometimes see being sold in tourist towns. Even if it is “just” yard art, I still like it. I like the horse sculpture in general, but especially the mane and tail. I like the jauntily raised hoof and the three-dimensionality of the piece. This is not some flat cutout! This horse has heft.

One of my favorite parts of house and dog sitting is exploring new neighborhoods and discovering their character. I like the spirit this metal horse adds to its block.

I took the photos in this post.

Horse

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It was still early in the morning when we left Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area. We were on our way to New Mexico, ready to hit the road and experience the next part of our adventure.

I was driving the van, and we hadn’t gotten far from the recreation area when I looked to my left and saw a horse! I brought the van to a stop in the middle of the dirt road and pulled out my camera so I could take some photos of it.

While it’s always exciting (to me at least) to see an animal living its life while I’m driving by, seeing a horse near a highway is not exactly unusual. I’ve seen plenty of horses living their lives within view of a highway. Once on a road trip, my sibling and I saw so many horses over the course of 1,800 miles, we had a big discussion about how many horses have to be standing together to make a herd. We decided four horses are required to make a herd. Ansers.com (http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_horses_make_a_herd?#slide=2) says it takes six horses to make a herd, but I’m going to stick with four.

The horse I saw on that January morning in Arizona was different from other horses I’d seen over the course of my life. For one thing, it was alone. Where was the rest of its herd? Did it live a solitary life? Was it a lonely horse?

Also? This horse wasn’t standing in a pasture or near a corral, and we were nowhere near a highway. This horse was standing in the middle of a desert next to a dirt road. Was this even a domesticated horse? Was this a wild desert pony?

The horse offered me no answers, shared no secrets. It simply stood there, looked at me, occasionally turned its head.

After taking several photos of the horse, I knew it was time to go, although I was none the wiser about its life.

I took the photos in this post.

Coyote in Our Camp

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Coyotes live in the southern Arizona desert. I know this because I’ve heard them in the evenings and early mornings yipping, yapping, and yes, howling. It has been their desert before it was mine, and I’m not afraid to share the area with them. I don’t have any little dogs to protect, and I haved no fears for my own safety, as I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking an adult human.

I do, however, expect coyotes to keep their distance. What do I have that a coyote might want? I seldom cook meat–maybe a little seafood now and then–so there are usually no enticing odors or bones lingering around my camp. It’s a big desert, the friend I share a campsite with says, and it’s true. I believe the coyote and I can coexist there without getting in each other’s way.

I was surprised to see the coyote(s) skulking near another friend’s camp as the sun sank in the late afternoon sky. We were eating boiled shrimp, it is true (this desert isn’t so very far from the sea), but the coyote(s) displayed quite a boldness to get so close to the camp. I suppose the smell of shrimp was too delicious to ignore

(I’m still not sure if we saw one or two coyotes moving around the outskirts of the camp. I never saw two together, and I was unable to distinguish any identifying features, so I may have only seen one coyote changing its location.)

The friend I was visiting does cook red meat often, so I suppose his camp beckons to the canines with a plethora of enticing aromas. He doesn’t feed them, and he makes sure his garbage can’t be broken into, but still the coyotes come.

My friend suspects other campers feed the coyote neighbors, which is never a good idea. If wild animals grow accustomed to eating handouts, they’re going to hang around where people are. If coyotes hang around campsites or homesteads, one of them might snack on a cat or a little dog. If a coyote kills a pet, people will call for a coyote hide. In the desert, coyotes and humans should keep a respectful distance from one another.

But at least one coyote was close the night of the shrimp boil, hoping for a handout or an opportunity to snatch a delicious morsel. We offered neither.

A couple mornings later, I got out of the van and walked toward my campmate’s rig. In my path was a large pile of feces.

Look at this! I called to my campmate, who strode over.

I think a coyote has been here!

Are we 100% sure that’s not from a human? my campmate asked.

I shot her a look. We’ve got big problems if a person’s coming onto our campsite to shit.

She got her camp shovel, and we bagged up the waste.

Why would a coyote be in our space? we wondered. Then I spotted the five-gallon bucket set next to the firepit. Yep, it was full of water. The coyote was probably passing through our site to drink from the fire safety bucket. We dumped the water and agreed to offer no more drinking opportunities.

I can’t remember if it was that very evening or a few days later, but soon after, I was sitting in the doorway of my van in the late afternoon. I was making a hat, but some movement in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I looked up, and there was a coyote sauntering through the camp. It was on a trajectory which would bring it past where the bucket of water had stood, straight to the area where a coyote had left a poop deposit.

I didn’t even consider what I should do. I just yelled.

Hey! I shouted in my sternest voice.

The coyote froze.

Get out of here! I yelled as meanly as I could. I would have liked to befriend the coyote, but I knew we belonged to two different worlds. It was better if we didn’t try to meet.

The coyote turned tail and ran off the way it had come.

About that time, my campmate came tumbling out of her rig.

Is everything ok? she wanted to know.

I explained I’d just chased away a coyote.

I heard you yell, she said, seeming a little dazed. She obviously hadn’t known just how big my mouth and loud my voice are.

I used to be in pep squad, I explained.

Apparently the voice I once used to cheer on the football team works just as well to chase off coyotes.

 

Coyote at the Bridge

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I’d been away from the Bridge for a while. When I left in late October, I planned to be back in time for Spring Break, but plans change. By December, I’d decided I wanted to spend the summer working as a camp host. By January I’d applied for several camp host positions. By April, I was on my way to California.

I decided to head back to New Mexico when my work season ended. If nothing else, I needed to say good-bye to friends who thought I would only be gone a few months when I left. Of course, once I was back, I couldn’t resist the siren’s song of making a few bucks at the Bridge. Soon I was unfolding my tables and setting out my wares.

Many aspects of life at the Bridge were unchanged. A dozen or more vendors vied for the tourist dollars. Vendors still fought among themselves but showed each other kindness as well. I continued to arrive early to get a good spot where I could attract the attentions of shoppers. Of course, the scenery was still beautiful; the rugged high desert landscape surrounded by snow-peaked mountains always makes me stop and take notice.

There were differences too. Although still officially fall when I arrived, days were cold. I soon wore a comical number of colorful layers in an attempt to stay warm. Days were shorter too. While in the summer we had until seven o’clock or later to catch the sunset visitors, in October and November, daylight was gone by 5pm. Also, the number of visitors must have been less than half of what we saw in the summer.

This photo shows the wild coyote in the vending area at the Bridge.

My favorite addition to the Bridge community was the coyote.

During the many nights and early mornings I’d spent at the Bridge, first while sleeping in a picnic pavilion and later in my van, I’d heard plenty of coyotes. Sometimes there’d be simple, predictable howling, but often I heard the yipping and yapping I anthropomorphized as “partying”–as in the coyotes are really partying tonight. While I knew the coyotes were relatively close because I could hear them, I never saw one. For all the noise they make, coyotes know how to be visibly discreet, so I was surprised to see one skulking around in the sage on the highway side of the fence, pretty close to where the vendors set up.

I was excited to see the coyote, but other vendors were blasé . They knew this coyote; it had been coming around for a while.

Some of the vendors left food our for it. Early in the morning, when there weren’t many people around and food was available, the coyote would come right into the vending area. That’s when I realized the coyote walked with a limp, which is probably why it hung around close to humans who were willing to leave it food.

By talking to other vendors, I pieced together the coyote’s story.

Sometime after I had left the previous fall, the coyote’s foot had been injured. I don’t remember anyone saying what exactly had happened, but whether by trap or by gun (or some other way entirely), the coyote’s foot had been seriously hurt, and it could barely walk, much less run. The vendors saw it limping around and one of them (a great friend to animals although often causing strife for humans) started leaving meat out for the coyote. Her offerings probably got it through the winter when it couldn’t hunt.

The vendor who told me the coyote’s story repeatedly referred to it as “she.” I wasn’t sure if he could tell the animal’s sex by its size or markings or if he’d been close enough to check out its genitals. While I certainly never saw testicles or a penis, I can’t say I got a definitive look. Maybe because of the months the coyote had been around, the vendor felt confident in what he had and hadn’t seen.

While the coyote certainly wasn’t fat, it was by no means skeletal. I’d expect a coyote that was only living on human handouts to be bony and weak. This coyote was lean, but seemed healthy. I think the coyote was hunting again and only supplementing its diet with what the vendors shared.

Although the coyote obviously limped, it moved around well. It was still quick. It wasn’t difficult to imagine it hunting, especially if it used cunning to get the job done.

I had mixed feeling about the coyote hanging out so close to the vendors. I typically think wild animals should stay wild and humans should stay uninvolved in the lives of wild animals. I worried about how close to the

I worried about the coyote crossing the road, as it is doing in this photo.

road the coyote came when it skulked around the vending area looking for food. I got really nervous when I saw it actually cross the highway. I worried about what might happen to the coyote if it did a perfectly normal coyote thing like snatch a little dog for a snack. Now that the coyote could take care of itself, it was better off leaving humans behind.

On the other hand, I was glad the vendor had fed it when it was injured and couldn’t hunt. I’m glad she saved the coyote’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to see the animal up close too. Not everyone gets to see the beautiful independence of wild creatures. Even though the coyote was eating scraps left by humans, it wasn’t begging. One look at the coyote and I knew it belonged only to itself.

I haven’t been to the Bridge in over a year, so I don’t know if the coyote still visits with the vendors early in the mornings, but I think of it whenever I hear a coyote howl.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Book Review: Don Coyote

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Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned America
I’d never seen or heard a coyote until I lived until New Mexico. Until I was in my 4os, my sole experience with coyotes was Wile E. Coyote from The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show. But when I spent three summers and parts of two winters in Northern New Mexico, and heard coyotes and sometimes even saw them.

During my first winter in Northern New Mexico, I found a copy of Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned American Original by Dayton Hyde in a free box. I read the book and learned more about coyotes than I ever thought I’d know

One night, while reading , Don Coyote I had the pleasure of hearing real live coyotes yip, yap, and howl in the distance. I thought this book and that far off canine conversation might be as close as I ever got to a coyote.

Dayton Hyde has been up close and personal with coyotes. Don Coyote is the story of how he befriends a wild coyote, then has friends in the East send a captive mating pair to his Oregon cattle ranch. Hyde ignores the necessary coyote permits and finds himself in possession of eight coyotes when the female gives birth to a litter. Since his plan is to tame the pups “to the point where [he] could release them on the ranch and observe their everyday life without their being concerned about [his] presence” he snatches two of them from the parents before their eyes open. Days later, when the pups’ eyes are opened, he steals two more from their family and brings them into his human world where they stay until each decides to move on into the wild. (Strangely, from that point, he never again mentions the parental coyotes, and the reader is left to wonder what happened to them.)

By the end of the book, Hyde is a rancher and naturalist, but he was not always both. This book chronicles not only his fascination and love of coyotes (the ones he tamed to varying degrees as well as wild ones), but also how that love and fascination caused his transformation from a person who tried to mold nature according to his human whims into someone who observes nature and notices that often the natural way is the best way. As he stopped fighting nature, he began to feel more of a responsibility toward the earth and all nonhuman creatures.

Hyde writes, “What made me so different from my neighbors was that they figured we humans had dominion over the land while I felt we had a responsibility for it—for the soil; for every plant, bird, and animal that shared this planet with us; for the rivers, and for the air.”

Hyde’s writing style is accessible, although his vocabulary is sometimes of an age prior to the book’s 1986 copyright date. He’s a thinker and not just a doer, and his prose is lovely and evocative.

This book came to me via a free box, and I’m glad to have read it. It is a must read for every environmentalist and for anyone who thinks killing predators is a good idea.

(Guest Post) How to Travel with Your Dog…

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Today’s guest post is from Jenny of Here Pup dog blog (https://www.herepup.com/).

Traveling with a dog is possible, but it can be a huge challenge. However, if you don’t want to leave your furry buddy behind, the best thing that you can do is be prepared for the trip. This is also true if you are planning to dwell in your van, whether it’s full time or part time, or if the situation calls for it, or you want to experience this kind of lifestyle.

One of the first things that you need to do is make sure that there’s enough room for you and your pet in the van. You want your pet to be as comfortable as possible for the long journey ahead. Create a checklist of everything it needs and make sure you get them all packed. Some of the most important items to never miss are your dog’s medications, foods, favorite toy and blanket, leash, and crate.

Don’t forget to bring your dog’s medical record too. Do a research and get the contact information of the vets around the area of the places you are going to so you’ll have someone to call in case of emergency. Plan your route ahead so you’ll known where you can bring your dog for an enjoyable break.

There are more things to consider to make travel with your pet more fun and less troublesome. We prepared this great looking infographics that lists more tips for van dwellers and regular travelers alike who are traveling with dogs.

Be prepared on your journey with your best fur buddy with the help of this guide:

How to Travel with Your Dog without Going Completely Insane