The local paper couldn’t help but catch my eye with a large color photo splashed across the front page—it seemed exactly my dog, a white husky mix, chewing on a cell phone.
But this was an Artic Wolf at the zoo. A toddler had thrown Mom’s cell phone into the wolf exhibit. Zoo officials retrieved the remnants of the phone. “I was just worried the wolf would be hurt by the small parts,” reported Mom. The headline? “Call of the Wild.”
Not everyone is so concerned, even when owning the animals in question. On my way to the trails to walk my dog, I frequently have to stop for a pet pig in the road, the woman who owns it leisurely strolling out to retrieve it after a bit. Matter of time before one of the cars that speed along this road in the summer hit it—not to mention someone else’s geese just a quarter of a mile later, again, always in the road. People on another street made a nice sign for their ducks, “Please excuse us,” but again, people speeding along are going to take them out eventually. I remember a young employee at the local store who confided one day that she had unwittingly run down a neighbor’s chickens. “Why don’t you just slow down?” I asked. She just looked at me.
Animals in the road are hardly a surprise here. Deer, beaver, quail, turkeys, rabbits and more are a daily occurrence. A few weeks ago, I even saw four coyote pups. Cutest thing—they paused at the side of the road, the lead pup with one paw raised; as I slowed, it reconsidered and turned into the field, followed by its siblings. A few days ago, I could see road kill ahead as I approached the same spot, although it turned out to be a raccoon (raccoons don’t flee—they just stand there contemplating what’s happening).
I’m not naïve—deer and rabbits invade my garden and orchard, for example. Raccoons sometimes carry rabies, although that hardly means every raccoon is rapid. Coyotes rarely get rabies, the vet tells me (my dog strayed into coyote territory as a pup and got chased home), but people do have reason to otherwise view them with concern, as they can be bold and invade suburban neighborhoods. I live in the country, so coyotes are to be expected. I lost an outdoor cat once—it was always waiting in the driveway when I got home. But one day it wasn’t. Could be coyotes. She did roam—I once saw her and picked her up on my way home, two miles from the house. Could also have been a car. Could also have been the cruel teens in the next town caught nailing cats to crucifixes for kicks, or dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire. Maybe she was found and kept.
On my way home today, a pickup truck quite deliberately swerved into the other lane in a smooth curve for no reason other than to kill the woodchuck sitting there.