Bone appetit

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.

-Missy Votel




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