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Archive for October, 2010

Snake in the Henhouse

I wrote about this at my other blog a few weeks ago, but I’m including it here to illustrate my ongoing education with the other inhabitants of this forest.  So, imagine if you were about to walk into the hen house to clean up a little, the dogs and chickens are milling around outside, and there’s a 4 foot long gray and yellow snake inside by the door, looking distinctly uncomfortable.  I guess I should know something about snakes by now, but I didn’t know if she was poisonous or not.  She didn’t look particularly aggressive, in fact, she looked like kind of embarrassed.  I didn’t think abut doing anything but getting the dogs out of there and maybe capturing her.  Not me, dummy, Edgar.  As you may recall, it was Edgar who grabbed the boa constrictor a few months ago when Lucy, Oso and OT were messing with it.  So I shifted the door on its hinges (it’s partly off) so there was a space by her head in case she felt like leaving of her own accord, and down the road we went to see if anyone more capable at snake handling than me (which is everybody) might be about.  But no.  When we got back she was gone.  Edgar told me later she was a ranero, (frog eater).  Maybe that’s why the chicken and dogs seemed uninterested.  Maybe I was lucky.  Because if the dogs went at her I’d have had to do something, heaven knows what.

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Edgar’s Farm

Edgar (you can just see him) doesn’t live here all the time, but he’s here almost every day, and sleeps here most of the time.  If you own a farm you can do whatever you want on it, build whatever you want, no regulations, no codes, no restrictions, no insurance, tiny property tax.  Water from the cloud forest is free, electricity is a couple of bucks a month, tropical climate, clean air, privacy, good soil, quiet, secluded, what else could you want?

Inside a couple of guests (who were rescued as tiny chicks from a fallen tree) enjoy squash.  They’ve been living at Edgar’s for five months and will be ready to fly off in another month or so.  Loras are all around here, eating the fruit seeds from these giant old orange and grapefruit trees around.

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The Amazing Lucy

Some experts claim that all animals possess an extraordinary intelligence beyond our comprehension, but out here in the wilds you can see how smart your dog really is.  Last week early one evening Lucy went down the road about 500 meters to the Chavez house in town to see her good friend Jose Luis Chavez, who when he came in later that night after being away for a month or more, found her lying there, her head on his zapatos. How did she know he was going to be there?  He shows up irregularly every month or so from working in Guanacaste. She went down the next night, and after he left she stopped.  She knew he was coming home, somehow.  And of course Lucy found the kitten she’s playing with above, and the exotic bird wounded bird we took to the wildlife refuge.  She sometimes sleeps with newborn calves over on Edgar’s farm: sometimes the mother will hide her newborn in the bush, and Lucy’s there protecting the calf during the night.  I’ve seen her stop a couple of incipient fights between some of my other dogs, putting her paws on their shoulders, and nobody fights with Lucy, or Sophie for that matter.

A month ago the dogs were trying to get one of Jose Roberto’s rabbits which had hidden underneath the bodega (storage shed).  Lucy went over to Edgar’s house, went up nose to nose with a big gray cat that lived there then, and the cat and Lucy went back to the bodega, the cat went in flushed out the rabbit, the dogs killed it and the cat ate it.  Lucy figured out the cat would be convinced to perform this little service in return for a meal. Edgar saw it all first hand.  The cat was blamed for the death and taken to La Fortuna, and Lucy’s role remains a secret.

I guess that speaks more to the ability of animals to communicate, which you wouldn’t believe, mainly because you rarely would have the opportunity to see the kind of interaction between cats and dogs in the country.  Unless you lived there.

Lucy’s father, Waldo, was an amazing dog.  Edgar says he would stare at a squirrel for an hour squirrel into falling off a tree.  He used to make a circuit every day of the entire farm first thing, and he would take Lucy with him, show her the ropes.  He was poisoned when some people left poison out to kill the stray dogs in the pueblo, a disgusting but common practice across this country.  Since then Lucy hasn’t made the rounds.

There are few animal shelters here in Costa Rica because its a poor country, so there are at least 1 million callejeros (street dogs) who live tough and short lives unless they get lucky and find an owner.  It seems they’re all looking. But if there’s too many in a pueblo they take care of it with poison, or drop them off somewhere.  Thieves also poison dogs to stop them barking at night when they’re out burglarizing.

Once there was a dog owned by an old lady here in San Francisco who slept behind the church and who accompanied all the funeral processions to the local cemetery and was much beloved by the people here.  Then the priest had the dog poisoned.  The people were so angry they tried to get him thrown in jail and kicked him out of the local church.

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The Swimming Hole

The dogs (Sophie, Smokey, Oso, Lucy, Raton, OT) and I go down to the swimming hole, courtesy of El Rio Burrito, every day.  It’s about a 10 minute walk.  And no one is ever in there the morning, so we skinny dip, I’m scandalized to say.  Well, of course no one cares about the dogs, but I’m sure they’d be upset if they saw the full Montie of yours truly.  Not that its that bad.

Actually only Lucy really swims, while Sophie and Smokey sit awhile in the water, then Smokey goes up onto his little grassy island and cleans up.  The other guys usually race across the river and take off down the other side, a big grassy place with some Tilapia ponds and tropical flowers and plants.  I don’t know what they go over there to do, maybe they visit friends, or maybe they just go exploring. Some day I’ll follow them.

As you might expect, the dogs quite enjoy this outing, especially on a humidy scorching day, when you descend down to the river and the air cools, the river roars.

What do you think?

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