World Bear and the Earth Pigs

World Bear sights an earth pig.

You couldn’t find a more target-rich environment anywhere in the world for a dog with a strong hunting instinct than Boulder, Colorado. An overpopulation of prairie dogs has exploded here. They stand at the tops of their holes, right next to the trails, staring passing dogs down, bobbing their little tails up and down furiously, and chirping - it’s called barking, but, come on. Because of the strong protections for them here - it’s something like a $1000 fine if a dog kills one - the prairie dogs have developed an unrealistic sense of their power. They are convinced that their little chirps are in fact mighty roars (much like American politicians) that keep the predators away. In general, the prairie dogs of Boulder are a self-satisfied lot. Conceited, even.

There are so many prairie dogs around that Roo has had no more than half an hour off-leash in two weeks. This means she’s not getting the kind of running she needs. Places like this that were so wonderful and unique 15 or 20 years ago are now turning into mini-LAs. Traffic, strip malls and cops telling you to put your dog on a leash.

“World Bear,” I’ve been finding myself saying to Roo. The nickname comes from her having traveled so much, even if she’s only been, apart from the US, to Mexico. “Don’t chase those prairie dogs, World Bear.” Amazingly, Roo has learned quickly that even though keeping her away from the prairie dogs is a sure sign that I have lost my mind, she’s not really sure what is involved in the losing of a mind, so she still listens to me.

“Not there, World Bear,” I say when she’s found a prairie dog hole to stick her nose in that I didn’t see coming. The trouble is that I can’t call them prairie dogs. Roo knows what dogs are. It’s some kind of bureaucratic trick to give the animals most protected from dogs a name that includes the word ‘dog.’ It’s the canine version of a cop lying to you to get you to implicate yourself in a heist.

This is a constant issue here. The cute little prairie dogs with their big fat egos are everywhere. They are taking over (which could be an improvement).

My mind must have been rebelling against calling them prairie dogs, because all of a sudden I said to Roo, "Leave that little earth pig alone, World Bear." As soon as I started calling them ‘earth pigs,’ it cleared things up for Rooki Kahoo.

“Whoa, there, World Bear. You can look at the earth pig, but you can’t chase him!” And she stops. She still gets a big kick out of walking around in a field full of them.

Roo had to take a course of prednisone and antibiotics for her itching and all the holes she chewed in herself in Los Angeles. She put three deep holes in her tail and pulled lots of hair off near the base of her tail. The worst thing was the hot spot on her foot that, given any opportunity, she kept licking raw. That tongue of hers could wipe the feathers off a prize chicken. Yesterday was the last day of the taper of prednisone.

Prednisone made her feel terrible. Within a couple of hours of taking it, she would flatten her head out on the floor and look up at me with the whites of her eyes showing, her expression miserable.

At least those were small, flat pills. If I need to jam pills down Roo’s throat, she lets me, but she was getting sick and tired of it. I decided to feed them to her in something good, and hating to lie to her, I started showing her that I was rolling her pills up in a piece of cheese or salami.

“Sorry, World Bear. I’ve got to load this up with your pills,” I would say apologetically. She would watch.

Here’s how good a girl she is. One night she found the antibiotic capsule. It must have worked its way out and then the gelatin capsule got stuck to her tongue. She flapped her tongue elaborately, flapping it so much so that it was audibly slapping against the front of her nose. Fwap-fwap-fwap.

Finally she got it on the floor and she looked at me. At least she couldn’t accuse me of lying to her. 

I looked back at her at her and said, “Well? You’re going to have to take that medicine, World Bear,” I said. “That’s just the way it is, kid.”

She looked at me and let out one of those sighs mixed with a groan. Every time she does that I wonder if she picked that up from me.

“Sorry. You have to take it.”

The World Bear shot her tongue out like a frog and snatched it up off the floor. She started making glacking sounds as if she was wrestling with a caterpillar to get it down her throat, her tongue fighting her the whole way. She was lying down but had to come upright to brace herself. Finally she swallowed it. She rolled half over on her side and looked at me.

What could I say? I couldn’t top that.

Today was her first day in two weeks off the prednisone and antibiotics. Not only that, but last night she slept on a new memory foam bed. She’s still careful about getting on a bed after her experience with the last one. Who knows what that was all about. But this morning, there she was, curled up and snoring her light little snore on the bed.

And today, Roo the World Bear was in the best mood ever. She was laughing and jumping up at me playfully, batting me with her paws, her eyes bright and her smile big, every time she got a chance.

The World Bear is a little worse for the wear and tear of the last few weeks, but she’s doing fine. Which is a good thing, because we’re leaving here tomorrow. Next stop for the World Bear is South Dakota.

The land of Mt Rushmore, buffalo and… earth pigs.