Doing the My Buddy Butch show was a lot of fun. Many thanks to Jeff and Butch for hosting us and to all the exceptionally cool people who read the blog and post comments. One topic Jeff wanted us to touch on was the matter of the different wild creatures an adventuresome dog can roust in remote territories. It’s always a good idea to research the local fauna when traveling with a dog. The natural instinct of traveling dog owners is to want to organize a hike- because nobody can say dogs can’t go on hikes- even though some foolish people say dogs can’t go to art museums. (Which is absurd.) So nature calls, and we respond. But beware- the local fauna may be exotic and require special precautions. Raja has trail walked in the pug marks of many unfamiliar critters:
Chilean Foxes romped round Raja’s back door in the Andes. They're smaller than lower altitude foxes, so they’re about Raja’s size, and they don’t have fleas. They eat voles, not dogs.
Cuban Iguanas, aka Rhinoceros Iguanas, grow to be huge (seriously, 5 feet long) and they have become habituated to remote areas of Puerto Rico just where Raja likes to hike. (What lunatic decided to import them?!) They're omnivores- which might include Shih Tzus who are left unguarded. I’m not sure- and it’s a good sign that I don’t know first hand. Also Puerto Rico is home to packs of semi-wild dogs, but all the ones we’ve met have been highly sociable and gentle.
Rattlesnakes and Scorpions live in the hills and orange groves outside the Krishnamurti Center in Ojai, California. Raja took the lead on a hike there, but he had no encounters. (Thanks, Krishnamurti-ji.)
There is a Lynx habitat in Vail, Colorado right in the middle of the mountain. Yes, Raja was hiking there like a little appetizer in a snow suit.
Mountain lions have snacked on cross country skiers near Whistler, Canada. Fortunately Raja prefers the more dynamic and speedy get-away of downhill skiing at Whistler Blackcomb.
Black Bears live in the Sierra Madre Mountains of California … yeah, and more Rattlesnakes too. But, in the Sierra Madre, signs warn to keep a dog on a leash of less than 6 feet, to keep looking behind, and to distance yourself from your food and garbage.
Barbary Apes, as we discussed with Jeff, fled Raja’s approach in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco- and good deal they’re cowards, because they’re bigger and potentially fiercer than a Shih Tzu. They left the scene, scattering, um, scat. Camels also abound in Morocco, but they liked Raja and he liked them. Good.
Coyotes roam the suburbs of LA. I even saw one taking a drink from a lawn sprinkler on a corporate campus in Princeton, New Jersey.
BUT the ONLY actually dangerous encounter Raja EVER has had happened at 12:00 midnight in the clean, snow packed streets of Zermatt, Switzerland. Strolling out of a restaurant (the Swiss have it right), Raja stepped into the street and was attacked by a West Highland Terrier walking with his owner under the stars and off leash. The dog lunged and bit him on the flank. I grabbed up Raja and the Westie’s owner grabbed the Westie. He asked if Raja was OK, but ran off before I could answer, or ask if his dog had had rabies shots. There was a loud smack and a quick yelp in the distance. (Mean coward.)
Since Raja was bleeding and following the man would have been futile, we washed his bite for 15 minutes in sudsy soap and water- which is the treatment for dog bites. He’d had his rabies shot before leaving and he checked out fine after. The bite wasn’t actually so bad; Raja took off so fast that the Westie’s teeth only grazed him. (Raja was furious though and growled for an hour.)
The point is that it’s not the expected dangers that happen, so much as the unexpected ones. SO- if you want to be an adventurer with your dog (and don’t we all?), research and exercise caution. BUT, keep an eye out for fierce animals in tame places too.
(Maybe those Barbary Apes are still shaking in their tree tops talking about the horrible day the new animal passed through? Raja likes to think so.)