Out here, past the “official” commuter belt, the hazards are a little different than you find in Albuquerque. I live on a few acres in a little valley backed up to the Ballinger ranch with its eleven thousand non-subdivided acres of piñon/juniper/grasslands that are range to a few cattle. It’s peaceful, practically idyllic. When I hiked through snow (or mud) in the winter, mine were the only deep (or sloppy) footprints in the area; the ranch usually doesn’t get much human traffic.

Recently, however, I’ve heard tell of cattle theft, fence busting, elk poaching—the rise of which were blamed on the recession—and then I heard that the ranch caretaker had to shoo a couple guys with uzis off the land. (What kind of hat do you wear to shoo off guys with uzis?) I should be disturbed, at least mildly, but unless I’m at Mike’s Friendly Liquor in Moriarty getting gossip and sandwich fixings, people (and people-with-guns) are not usually what I’m thinking about.

I think about coyotes. About rattle, milk, and pine snakes. About turkey vultures, horned toads, great owls, nighthawks. About javelinas, wood rats, and bear (when I see scat). And lately I’ve given a fair bit of contemplation to porcupines—I had to. This year there must be a bumper crop because three times recently my pit bull has pressed his face into a quill pig. (Smooch.)

I rationalize that my dog Uhthoff (named for a historic and presumably smart doctor) is not a dummy, that instead his three encounters were merited by a healthy dose of inquisitiveness into a true variety of spiked rodent: all by himself, he scouted out and located three distinctively different sized spines to display in his muzzle (and tongue).

The first time he got five broken 4-inch quills to pierce the flesh under his jaw while protecting my yard from the intruder at 3 am. When he came in, we pinned him down and used a needle-nosed pliers (yes, that’s what it takes) to pull one black-tipped spine out every half hour—we had to give him a break between pulls. The ordeal was exhausting; as soon as we’d let up, he’d hide under the purple desk. Lying there, his orange-lashed amber eyes would get heavy and his head would bob and begin to drop... but then a quill from his jaw would strike the floor and he’d pop back up all vigilant again. (Finally, belatedly, he realized he could sleep on his side.)

The second time, midsized white quills ended up all over his tongue and the roof of his mouth. That was a no-brainer: anesthesia, a few hours at the vet and a few hundred bucks.

The latest encounter, a few days ago, resulted in three little tiny spines in his upper lip. His kiss is still a prickly one. And my car is busted. So we’re both stuck for a while, soaking up the sun and the fresh.

Views: 25

Comment by Benny the Icepick on May 30, 2009 at 1:51pm
Oh, your poor puppy! When I was younger, my parents took our dog with them to my grandpa's house. He managed to find a mouse trap (he always was a fan of peanut butter). Needless to say, every time he was at grandpa's house for the rest of his life he was right by Mom and Dad's side the whole time, tail between his legs.

Good to see your pooch is a tad braver and more inquisitive. It's when he gets the same kind of quill multiple times that you'll have to start wondering.
Comment by neal copperman on May 30, 2009 at 3:56pm
Are there javalinas out that way? I didn't realize they lived up here.
Comment by lisa gill on May 30, 2009 at 5:45pm

Yes javelinas too... one got confused by the fencing around my place and horse coral and ran up and down my fenceline for like an hour (it wanted to go forward)... they root up the yuccas too... I used to find whole fields full of upturned yuccas.
Comment by cc on May 30, 2009 at 7:31pm
In Navajo the word for dog is thLay-chah-ee - and it means poop eater. Does your dog ever like to go roll in a carcass or poop? Long time ago my old dog Baya would do that. UMMM Ummm. I bet your dog would have plenty opportunity for that out in those wonderful hills.

Man, uzis. Yes, what kind of hat would you wear?
Comment by cc on May 30, 2009 at 7:41pm
Oh and want to add : Thanks for this report! Hope you have enough dried beans stocked up for being stuck. And I got a possible reason why your title pic says air ... but I will keep it to meself.
Comment by Dick Chingadero on June 1, 2009 at 9:15am
I lived out in the Edge of the Woods for several years back in the late 90s. It amazes me still how different the east side of the Sandias is, despite being so close. It's an entirely different culture.

Uzis?! Jayzuss!!
Comment by Richard Malcolm on June 4, 2009 at 2:08pm
My dog (a Keeshond/Malamute/wolf mix) had her first porcupine encounter while we were backpacking in Northern CO many years ago. A couple of days' hike from anywhere, she showed up with (mercifully) three quills, and couldn't figure out why it hurt every time she greeted me with her usual press-the-nose-against-my-leg routine. She'd yelp and jump back and look at me like I was doing something to her.

Out of the blue, some Swiss hikers came along on a side trail, and they had--of course!--a Swiss Army knife with needle-nose pliers. I did the horse-collar-grip with one arm and used the pliers with the other hand while she struggled and squealed bloody murder . . . it was awful to inflict so much pain! But when I got the last one, she shook herself off vigorously, came back and sniffed me, wagging happily, and seemed to have forgotten the whole thing. Fortunately, I didn't encounter anyone with Uzis--no one else at all the rest of the trip.
Comment by Lee on June 4, 2009 at 4:18pm
I had a pit about ten years ago that couldn't resist catfish bait (beef blood), she got away with it a few times straight out of the tin, the third time she tried to take it off a fishhook while I was otherwise occupied. Got her right in the lower lip. I'd scolded her to stay away three or four times, so when she was caught on the lip I have to admit being frustrated enough that I figured she deserved at least some of the pain. But even then she made me feel bad for feeling that way, calmly looking up at me, trusting me to work it loose from her lip with barely a struggle. Dogs... gotta love their attitude.
Gotta love it outside the city, and yours sounds like a nice place to be !


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