I used to think that the English cornered the market on pets and total devotion to animals. Since living back in the USA and specifically in the desert, it seems that the pet of choice is canine in nature. Man’s best friend is not just for the multitudes of retired folks who live here either. The modern wild west may still have a lot of wildlife, coyotes, mountain lions, et al, but dogs are overflowing in this huge open world litter tray. Australian comedian and actor Paul Hogan used to have a bit in his act where he poked fun at the average Brit for their love of all four legged creatures.
“You have more wildlife preservation societies than any other country, but you’ve got no wildlife!” – Paul Hogan circa 1982.
While the British are barmy about animals in general, they are almost obsessive about training their pets. Dogs in the UK are, for the most part, well behaved. Owners, apart from the odd cretin who refuses to subject his neighbor to the stench, clean up after their pooch.
There are exceptions to this, there were at least one or two areas in Kesgrave, Suffolk, where I lived that reeked of dog poop to the extent that it was unwise to walk down that particular stretch of the pavement (sidewalk) in summer. Certainly this little desert community of older folks share the English people’s love of animals. Walking around town there may just be more four legged mutts roaming the sidewalks than people.
Crossing through the desert, and by the side of the road later the same day, I was accosted by two different types of dogs, both well-known for their savagery. A group of pit bulls, whose owner assured me were harmless although one multicolored one’s teeth could be heard clicking on empty air each time he leapt for my arm, and an Alsatian aka German Shepherd who came bounding up to me so fast I only had time to grab my pepper spray.
The latter incident did feature an animal who seemed glad to see me, the owner was beside himself with annoyance at his dog’s decision to visit me and the chap told me repeatedly that his pet only wanted to play. This was in complete contrast to the pack of pit bulls who appeared to be intent on taking a good sized chomp out of my arm or leg. In that instance, the owner had no effect on their behaviour and had they chosen to attack I’d have become a large portion of Kibbles and Bits.
Doggy snacks aside, even the homeless desert rats have pets. These animals all range in size but most are mid to large in size and cannot be cheap to feed. These folks must have a desperate need for company, no matter how smelly or hungry. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals, dogs and cats usually like me as well.
But animals smell when they are not bathed regularly. I’ve heard claims that the desert rats are also a bit on the “rank” side, as well as possibly dangerous, but I’ve yet to meet one whose odor registered with my senses and most seem friendly enough. Granted, I’ve not met one on the desert away from civilization but if they did decide to be aggressive, they might be in for a surprise.
Since moving out here, I’ve been caught out after dark several times on the journey back from town. Each time I walk the streets of the tiny community outside the town limits, dogs can be heard barking or at least growling as I pass each house.
Last night, and a couple a nights before, coyotes were yipping in the street. They travel in packs around the area, although most locals reckon “not as much as they used to.” There is nothing quite like being woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of every pooch in the neighborhood howling in sympathy to the chorus of coyotes serenading the night.
The wild animals sound as though they are right outside the RV and are loud enough that they can be heard over their domestic cousins. At this point in my stay here in the Arizona desert, it seems the barren yet beautiful wasteland is full of dogs. Man’s best friends, barring the pit bulls, are not limited to the plethora of retired folk who gravitate to this location. I believe that there are enough of these four legged creatures, wild and domestic, that I have no business in increasing the population.
On a brief side note before signing off, I have not forgotten about the hippie population in Quartzsite and will be adding them to my short catalogue of desert life.
3 February 2015