Thursday, January 17, 2008

Not so cute anymore

Prairie Dog

I was on my way to photograph the new 'black' fox. I was driving past the native mammal enclosures when I realized I didn't have a picture of the ex-pet prairie dog that had recently come in. Another 'pet' that wasn't wanted anymore.

I parked and walked up to his day cage. Growing up in west Texas, I was very familiar with these little rodents and had fond memories of watching them in their burrows in a sectioned off part of a park, apropriately named "Prairie Dog Town". I loved the way they would stand on their hind legs at the mouth of their tunnel and throw their head back and 'bark'.

As I walked in to his domain, he began to smell my shoes and make small chirping sounds. Cute. I scratched his back and found his fur wasn't so different from our dogs, just shorter. He then chased my hand as I stood up. Cute.

I readied my camera to take pictures of the little guy and just couldn't get him to leave me alone. He was entirely taken by my shoes, shoe strings, and pant legs. As I watched him, I heard a noise above and behind us. I turned around to see a rather large female red tail hawk land on a tree limb beside the enclosure. Apparently she was drawn to the sounds the prairie dog was making. She was entirely focused on the little guy, so much so that I was able to stand straight, ready my camera, and take a nice series of photos of her.

The prairie dog never noticed her. After taking the series of pictures, I again focused on the little guy, hoping I could get him to wander far enough from me to get some good shots. I again scratched his back and tried to move him away from my feet and he again chased my hand and leapt after it. I thought perhaps he just wanted pats and reached down to allow him to approach my hand. BIG mistake. He leapt at my hand and latched onto my thumb near my palm. In subconscious reaction, I flung my hand behind me, complete with prairie dog, and he detatched and was airborn for several feet. He then landed in the deep hay. (Don't you know the hawk was so excited she decided to visit!!!)

It seemed blood literally began to pour from the wound. I gawked for what seemed hours until it dawned on I really needed to do something. Getting out of the day cage, locking it up, making my way to the cart, and getting back to the clinic was my only thought. Yes, the bite hurt. I tried not to think of it as I wrapped my hand in my shirt tail trying not to bleed all over the place.

I was almost to the clinic when I ran into our vet Dee. I showed her my wound and asked if I needed stitches. After her initial shock she looked at it and decided I didn't. Whew. I continued to the clinic and found our other vet Jamie and asked her if she thought I needed stitches. Nope. I was golden!!!

We rinsed the wound out with sterile fluids and I soaked my hand in betadine for almost half an hour. In the mean time, Jamie and our vet tech Chealsea looked up all of the zoonotic diseases I could possibly catch from a prairie dog bite. Monkey pox topped the list and the Plague rounded out the bottom of the list. Since I had been vaccinated for small pox when little, Monkey pox was taken off the list. But I was a shoe-in for the Plague!!!

Now, a week later, the wound has healed wonderfully and I might only end up with a pale scar from the event--what a gip!!! I've been an employee for a year and two months and have never been bitten--what a record. A then a little rodent took me down!!!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

We spent the beginning of the new year in Michigan with Brent's family. Oh what a joy when on new year's eve night the snow began to fall. I know the family thought we Texans were nuts to go so crazy over snow fall. To us it was a folly, to them it meant winter was here along with more snow, ice, sleet, single-digit temps, and all that encompasses.

The snow had just begun to fall when I took this picture. When I got up the next morning, over 6" had fallen. The landscape took on a new softer, more rounded look. The romanticizing of winter could now begin.

By my birthday on the 2nd, we have over a foot of snow. It was delightful. I wandered around the yard with my new lens taking photos of up close things.

I wish I could have gotten photos of the little chipmunk in the back yard that would vie for dropped birdseed with the fat northern squirrels. He had a tunnel dug at the base of a tree in the snow that he would dart in to after stuffing his cheeks full.

The crows were noticeably absent until the last day of our visit. I think the storms kept them holed up in warmer places. On our last day while running errands, I saw them in the hundreds filtering back into town. I was ecstatic!!! I didn't have my camera with me or I would have taken pictures of the trees that were full of the black birds, calling and visiting.

Back home now and the gardens look like winter was definitely here. The tender plants that will return again in the spring have left bare stalks and it looks like we lost our beautiful mexican olive tree out front.

It's good to be home!!!