It’s no secret that hunting
provides an economic shot in the arm to rural areas at
a time of year when tourism sags. There’s no doubt
that between licenses, provisions, lodging, beer and gear,
hunting has local coffers humming.
Everyone’s but mine, that is.
You see, I have a dog who has a penchant
for meat. Sure, most dogs do, but this goes beyond a typical
hankering for a juicy steak. My dog has devoted his life
to the pursuit of meat, and like a connoisseur of fine
cheese, the stinkier and more dank, the better. In fact,
he is so well tuned to the smell, that if you had a hamburger
last Tuesday, he can smell it on your breath. He also
has the uncanny ability to find any discarded bone within
a 20-block radius, a knack that had scored such prizes
as an intact turkey carcass and a deer leg (none of which
were allowed entry into the yard).
So when an enterprising hunter decided
to dump his gut pile in a local alley, it was positively
dog heaven around our house. Now I can’t claim to
be a specialist on hunting ethics, but I am pretty sure
that disposing of one’s animal byproducts in a residential
alley is frowned upon, if not illegal.
Granted, it’s a well known fact
that Durango’s alleys, particularly those on the
southside, are repositories for all manner of unwanted
items – from old shoes to rusted out washing machines.
So I guess this person figured a few rotting entrails
were no big deal. Perhaps it was his way of closing the
food chain and sharing his good fortune with the rest
of the town.
I first noticed the pile about three
weeks ago when, on our morning walk, my dog Bilbo disappeared
behind a trashcan and reemerged with what looked like
a remnant from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It appeared
to be some sort of organ – but whatever it was,
it was not coming home with us. Closer inspection of the
site revealed an impressive jumble of bones and carrion.
Much to Bilbo’s dismay, I ordered him to drop the
offensive animal part and made a mental note to avoid
the spot in the future.
A week or so after our visit to the
carnage pile, Bilbo was stricken with a severe, mysterious
illness. And although I have seen the dog through numerous
afflictions, including a bout with giardia and a possible
amputation, they pale in comparison. Suffice to say it
was a long few days and nights, and our white carpet will
never be the same. Granted a little g.i. distress in a
dog is normal from time to time, so I decided to ride
this one out. But when he snubbed his nose at a doggy
bag of New York strip, I knew we had a problem. The next
day, I took him to the vet, where a litany of x-rays and
tests turned up nothing. “Could he possibly have
gotten into something?” the vet asked.
My mind immediately flashed back to
the carcass. But his stay there was so short-lived that
he barely had time to lick his chops before I intervened.
Furthermore, given the dog’s meat- and wanderlust,
we had erected a 3BD-foot fence around the yard. And although
there had been some breaches in security early on, we
had long since shored them up. It was tight as a fortress.
Besides, given his robust appetite and an age of 63 in
dog years, he was less than svelte. Add to this a gimp
leg, the result of a car accident in his younger days,
and there was no possibility of him clearing that fence.
I shook my head no, coughed up the
$200 in vet bills and left, dejected. Meanwhile, the intermittent
losses of bodily functions continued, and Bilbo’s
limp, which had not given him problems for some time,
suddenly flared up. I looked at my sick, hobbling dog
and figured the end must be near – maybe an inoperable
tumor or some rare degenerative disease. I tried to make
his remaining days as comfortable as possible, leaving
him on his favorite spot on the front porch with plenty
of water while I went to work.
Little did I know I was playing right
into his ploy. Whereas I had long forgotten the gut pile,
my dog had actually marked its exact coordinates with
his canine meat positioning system. How a dog who can’t
remember eating two minutes after downing a bowl of dog
food can remember such a thing is beyond me. The lure
of rotting meat must be more than the human nose can comprehend.
And, in this case, it was enough to get a gimpy, old dog
over a fence three times his height and back in again,
all under the detection of his owners.
As much as I would have liked to have
caught him in the act, bellyflopping over that fence,
it was the astute observation of a neighbor that broke
the case wide open. While taking a casual glance out the
window one day, he spied the dog making his re-entry,
toting what looked like a femur, which no doubt was quickly
buried for future consumption.
So with the mystery of the bum bum
and leg solved, and Bilbo under house arrest, I guess
I can breathe a little easier. I can even seek solace
in the fact that, although not a hunter, I indirectly
did my part to contribute to the local hunting economy.
And in the meantime, I figure there’s
a year’s time for him to forget that rotting meat
pile and for me to make the fence about a foot taller
and consider topping it with razor ribbon.