I recently spent some time visiting family in Arizona. It is a remarkably beautiful place. It could not be more different than where I live in the northeast, in terms of climate, vegetation, and, it turns out, wildlife. At home we deal with the nuisance of rabbits and deer eating our landscaping, and humidity frizzing our hair (ok, I do). Here, the dry, hot climate welcomes very different critters that don’t just get into your garden, but they might just kill you. Or your pet.
I love animals, and enjoy viewing wildlife, ….from afar. Zoos, the internet, big screen tv’s are great for getting close up on bats, for example. But, in the back yard, hovering above us during dinner … not so much. Did you know that there are 28 species of bats living in Arizona?. There is even a Phoenix Bat Cave that you can visit. Bats are great for pest control, but they honestly freak me out.
Then my sister in law informed me that I might get a visit from some javelinas at night. She described them as kind of mid-size pigs, with a thick neck, who are sort of “cute”. She mentioned that they OFTEN scratch at the window in the middle of the night. Yikes!
Interestingly, my internet source described them as “mean, nasty, evil smelling, highly destructive little animals with a bad attitude”. What?!! Also, they range from 44-88 lbs as adults. Some have tusks and “excellent knowledge of how to use them” OK, please stop ?!! The screen that they could potentially be scratching at is an arms length from my side of the bed.
And then there’s the snake situation.
Meet Putney. He is, well, my “dog nephew”. He is not just cute. He is a Snake Aversion Dog Training school graduate. They have several local schools, such as Viper Voidance and Snake Breaking, and Robinson dog training. The programs are remarkably effective. Putney was trained in an afternoon.
He was equipped with a shock collar and exposed to snakes. First, he learned to recognize their scent. The snake was kept close by, under a well ventilated scent cone. When he got interested in the smell, he was shocked and learned to run away from the scent, which he has now associated with something unpleasant.
Thereafter, he learned to avoid the sight and sound of snakes. A rattlesnake was held with long snake tongs by the trainer, 10 feet away from the dog, and was annoyed enough to cause his tail to “rattle”. A shock was sent to Putney at the time of the rattle, causing him to avoid and run the other way when heard the rattle. A third step was to have him see a snake and shock him when he became too interested. The training taught him to avoid snakes if he comes across one on a walk or his back yard. Or, on a hike in the mountains with one of us. It served to protect both him and those walking him. They recommended a refresher course once a year or two.
As they state, around 15,000 dogs are bitten by rattlesnakes each year. As luck would have it, vipers are particularly active during the early spring,.. exactly when I was there.
Still, it is a beautiful place, with nearly perfect weather most of the year, and well worth a visit.
But wait… I didn’t mention the coyotes. Don’t even get me started on the coyotes!