Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:33

Strange Wild Things

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We have some interesting wildlife here in New Mexico. Lizards run everywhere, Bears nudge around in our trash, Cougars sometimes stalk Deer in the night, and Coyotes sing at the moon. Most of us have learned to be careful with our smaller pets—keeping them away from predators like Coyotes, but also including large birds like Eagles, Falcons, and Ravens. Being a wild animal (as Ravens should be) they will attack and carry off an unprotected small “toy” dog or cat that only weighs ounces. However, Ravens are very intelligent. Someone once said that the only ones who ever really knew what was going in the world—were the Ravens—perched on the windows of closed-door meetings.

Ravens love golf balls. There have been many games interrupted by Ravens who swoop down, snatch a golf ball, and then fly up to deposit it in a tree or a nest. One golfer decided to throw off the bird by first hitting a very old ball off in the direction of one Raven who had been vexing him for several months. The Raven flew down and snatched the used ball and flew off with it to a high tree nearby. Smugly satisfied, the golfer pulled out a shiny new ball and hit into a real golfing direction. When the ball landed, the same Raven flew down with the old ball in its beak and swapped it with the shiny new one. He then flew high up in his perch in a large pine tree. The bird watched the reaction of the golfer and cawed loudly (sounding more like laughs and giggles than bird talk). The golfer jumped up and down in frustration and cursed the bird profusely on the green grass below.

Then there are the ground-dwelling creatures.

I once heard that a teenaged girl had an argument with her boyfriend in Santa Fe. The girl refused to ride in his car any longer, got out, and walked home to Pojoaque. It was late afternoon when she started and she arrived home well after dark. I would not recommend this for anyone, but what happened, happened. Along the way, the young girl reported that she took several shortcuts instead of walking near the road. She reported that a large wild canine followed her most of the way home. The dog kept a wide distance from her, but steadily walked at the girl’s pace. She said she felt “safe” and was sure that the dog was protecting her. The canine might actually been stalking her, waiting for an opportunity to happen. The girl had a naturally long stride and made good time and luckily, she did not break into a run—which would have possibly triggered the dog/coyote/wolf creature’s predatory instinct—especially when she passed through areas devoid of people, noisy cars, and motors near the road.

I once had an experience in Los Alamos in my own front yard. Being an insomniac, I suddenly heard something very heavy run across my front lawn about 3:00 in the morning. It sounded as heavy as a horse, but there was also a sound of something like a rattling dog chain. I opened my front door and saw a large dog-like creature looking back at me from a curb about 50 feet sway. It had a body as big and thick as a healthy German Shepard but it had definite Coyote ears, legs, and tail. The tops of its ears were probably at about 4 feet high. At first I thought it was just a nuisance dog that jumped it’s owners fence and was out for a late night hoot. The monstrous dog looked at me straight in the face—completely unafraid—challenging me to walk closer to it. It never wavered its gaze at me and it seemed intent—as if it were about to attack. I abruptly realized it was some sort of hybrid creature. I had started to walk toward it, to shoo it away, then I realized it was just standing there—waiting for me to make that mistake. When the canine saw me backing up, it reached down and picked up a very large dead cat in its mouth and quickly loped off into the dark. The chain I had head was the cats’ collar just as the canine had killed it in a surprise attack in my yard. Later I would find out that a previous neighbor (disliked by the rest of the neighborhood) had purposely bred large dogs and coyotes. Perhaps this was a product of one of those breeds and the mysterious canine felt comfortable in its own surroundings—and that is why it appeared as it did. Thankfully, I have not seen anything like it for the last fifteen years.

In the 1960’s, I remember how dogs often ran wild and in several different packs. This was before the days of widespread concern about animal control. One pack of feral dogs (all white in color) were known to run wild around the banks of the Rio Grande in Española near several downtown locations. My friend used to exercise her horse by the river and would tell me how she would see the footprints of an entire pack which would then narrow down to only a few dog prints and then finally only one set of paw prints. These prints would seem to morph into two paw prints—as if the dog were only walking on their hind legs. Eventually, the stride would become wider—like that of a human step. Suddenly, the prints would disappear altogether—and change into a naked human footprint. At that point she always said, she was too afraid to follow the prints any farther. She claimed this happened quite often.

One morning an extreme fog bank passed through Pojoaque—quite unlike the weather we are normally accustomed to. I had made a quick stop at a drug store and on my way out everyone was looking outside at the unusual beauty of the unexpected fog.

Playfully I said, “Gosh, this is good weather for a werewolf!” I was thinking about the old Lon Chaney film “The Wolf Man.” In the movie nearly every frame had a heavy fog scene that almost hid the actors.

Thinking nothing more about it, I opened the door and started walking toward my car. A man about 25 feet away was jogging and his dog was obediently trotting along beside him. As soon as I walked out the door, the dog saw me and started for me—and not in a friendly way. I dashed for my door, knowing I could just make it inside the car before the dog bit me—if I was fast enough. The jogger saw what was happening, called the dog, and broke the dog’s intent toward me—long enough for me to get behind the metal and glass of my car. The jogger apologized profusely, and acted as bewildered as I was about the dog’s behavior.

I will admit that I am not necessarily a dog person (I’ve even been brow beaten by Chihuahuas). Even if the canines have the manners of a duke or duchess—I can enjoy them only if they are some one else’s pets. I’m just a little cautious about the hungry “wolf” part that resides in all of them.

Also, I’ve heard it said that you should never have a talk with a dog . . . because they might answer you back.

 

—Raven DeVille

Read 1594 times Last modified on Saturday, 15 February 2014 13:19
Raven Q. DeVille

Raven was born in the extreme SE corner of New Mexico, lived in the 4-corners region for 11 years, and has spent the last 50 years in Española, Santa Fe, and especially in the city of Los Alamos. She writes of her own various first-hand experiences, second-hand tales of friends, and various theories regarding ghost stories, legends and general oddness of Enchanted New Mexico.

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