It hasn’t rained here on a regular basis for so long now I have forgotten what it was like. The rain used to “set in” and there would be a light gentle rain for days on in. You could count on the places that were supposed to have water to have water, and sometimes the places that were not supposed to have water did anyway. It flooded here in 2002 and 2003 and I wondered if I would ever see all of my backyard again, and I wondered if I would ever come home to find Bert dry. Bert would get into water that was nearly over his head and then roll over on his back and his feet would stick out of the water as he rolled around. That dog loves water like no animal I have ever seen who didn’t have a set of gills hung on him.
The mosquitoes were bad one year here, the first year I was here, 2001 and they have not been very bad since. 2001 brought a flock of “crunchy” mosquitoes that made a noise when they were hit. Crunch! There were big black bustards with white stripes on their legs. It wasn’t safe to go outside even in daylight without some repellant of a baseball bat. I do not know what changed, but I don’t have the mosquito problem many people in this area have. I don’t spray for pests and I won’t. I keep spiders and let anything that slightly resembles a dragonfly live. I don’t have the problems with roaches that other people have. People tell me the giant roaches that infest nearly every house not sprayed and some that are sprayed, can’t be safe using all natural methods, like spiders, and they have a good point in that one of the full sized adults is likely not going to get tangled in a web. But they are short lived creatures and they are born very small. My spiders feast on the small. The lizards and frogs near the door keep unwanted visitors at bay there. All in all, nothing I do not want to live here will not live here. Just like in nature, where there is a balance as far as how many of one species can survive in a location, my house supports a few more spiders than you might find somewhere else because they are safe here. Conversely, roaches are on the hit list as well as the menu.
Two years in a row I have stepped on a Cottonmouth, starting in 2010. Both were my fault, both were in places the snakes should have been, and both times I did not get bit. Still, even though I am totally at peace with these animals, I suspect they are not with me and I have just been very lucky. This is not some movie where I can nudge pit vipers out of my path with my bare toes and a soft word. I suspect that I’m either going to get bit or I am going to start doing things to keep from being bit. I may have to start carrying a flashlight at night when I walk barefooted.
Sam, the Happy Hound and Mid-Mutt, kills things, but he is slowing down. I’m certain Lucas can handle a bite from a small snake but I haven’t stepped on a small snake yet. But the Loki Mutt isn’t some purse carried toy dog who is fed downers and kept in a crate. This is a strong willed hunting dog who doesn’t show much fear of wildlife at all. Whatever else you may believe, the clash between dogs and venomous snakes usually winds with a dead snake and an unscathed dog. Toss in the fact that Sam has trained this animal and the odds are tilted dramatically. Sam is a surgeon, precise and neat. He kills without sound or mess, breaking the neck of an armadillo in seconds and walking away without any hint of pleasure. This is business, nothing more and nothing less. Sam is a professional hunter and doesn’t play with his quarry. Bert is a loud brawler and Lucas hunts more like Bert, but he has picked up Sam’s sense of dedication. No, I’m not much worried about a dog getting snakebit, but I do allow that it might happen, and I have to live with it.
I could live another way and one day I might have to do exactly that. Even a smallish snake could kill Bert outright, as old and feeble as he is. Bert has always been more of a fighter than a hunter, taking position inside Sam’s stalk to bring down prey. It’s worked really well for over a decade now, and nothing these two ever chased walked away from it. I didn’t train them to do it, but I did allow it, and I did because they spend more time alone with one another than they do with me here. I have to trust them to do whatever it is they do, and it is whatever it is. Sam, as I pointed out, kills passionlessly. To him it is not a game or a sport. Bert, on the other paw, is a chomper and he wades in snarling and snapping. His neck is protected by thick fur and his face sort of pushes forward as to protect his eyes. Bert all squinty eyes at you is Bert about to bite you. It is the same as hearing the sound of a gun cocking and whatever else you may believe, when Bert horripilates and his eyes become narrow slits, there is going to be some blood.
I miss the rain. I wish it would flood one more time so Bert could play every day in the water. I could come home and despair at how bad he smelled and have to towel him off three times a day. I would wash a load of towels a day and the house would smell doggy.
But it hasn’t rained like that in years, and Bert doesn’t have years left.