Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dog, rabbit, and snake

Yesterday I was out trying to take pictures of butterflies and dragonflies in my yard, which is a long, narrow acre and a quarter. The fence at the back is insubstantial separation from a very large unmowed field, a paradise of rodents, beyond which, on the right, lies Turkey Hill, several hundred still-pristine acres owned by developers who one day plan to build houses and apartments. On the left of my property is another weedy field, recently cleared of junk by its new proprietors who have a dumptruck business and who have planted a confederate flag in front of the office trailer.

My next door neighbor's dog was bitten by a small rattlesnake a few days ago, so I was watching where I walked. My little dog Bella, who has an excitable temperament, was out with me. I didn't actually expect to see a snake, or I would not have taken Bella out to that part of the yard, where I allow native vegetation to grow--normally it would be very beautiful with wild flowers at this time of the year. Too dry this year, though.

Anyway, I spotted a rabbit. I took a few photographs (see below), but then Bella saw it and went berserk, as she always does, breaking into a yappy headlong run towards it, with no hope of catching it, of course--she never even gets close. The rabbit bolted toward a fence covered with honeysuckle, the dog crazy with excitement close behind. I started walking back toward my house, and than froze with a sound that stopped me in my tracks with a massive and instantaneous adrenalin hit. A big western diamondback rattlesnake was coiled up, seething with menace, about 5 or 6 feet away. I backed up and took some pictures, which was kind of a stupid thing to do.

I was a safe distance away, but I realized, with a pang of regret, that I can't have this rattlesnake living in my yard--I am going to have to kill it, in violation of my vows as a Buddhist. My next thought was, I can't do that with Bella outside, because she will try to help. Though I have never had occasion to find out, and hope I don't, I am reasonably sure Bella is not a snake-savvy dog.

In the midst of my internal monologue, the rabbit broke from cover under the honeysuckle and ran right past the rattlesnake, but the snake remained focused on me, following my movements with its head weaving like a cobra looking out of a basket. Oh, shit, I thought, as this happened, but Bella--fortunately nearsighted--did not see the rabbit run, and was still yapping wildly at the now vacated honeysuckle. I dropped my camera, ran over and swooped down on my startled dog. It frightened her as I grabbed her--I am surprised she didn't pee on my leg--and I ran to the house and dumped her inside the door; a very distressed little dog probably wondering what she had done wrong. I grabbed a walking stick from beside the back door and ran back out to where the snake had been. Snake was still there.

So I killed it.

I feel bad about that. But it was too close to the house.

I suspect there will be more snakes , actually. Beside the neighbor's dog getting bitten, a guy working with the lumber stacked outside of a Home Depot on the other side of Turkey Hill--not too far as the crow flies--got bitten by a rattlesnake a few days ago. All the horse people riding in the greenbelt have reported seeing them there, just as I did. I have lived here since 1991, and I have seen nothing like it.

Bella looked at me when I got back inside, like what the hell was that all about.

The dog, with recent bad haircut which she is happily unaware of

Here's the rabbit

And here is the rattlesnake

(click any photo to enlarge)

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