Still. During the rainy season enough insects, birds, carnivores and other fellow travelers come out of the ground, or somewhere, however briefly, to remind you this land is hardly devoid of life. After dark, dozens of small toads gather up in the front patio, a throaty chorale forever rehearsing but never quite hitting a tune. Rabbits hop past the headlights of cars, rushing to an appointment somewhere. V-shaped flyers swoop by too, either swallows or bats of some sort. Tiny mice gather up in the outdoor light fixtures or any protected spot such as the folds of the awnings over the terrace. And during a full moon the volume goes up, way up, as farm animals, joined by dogs and coyotes, spend the night exchanging messages of love, warning or just mindless noise.
It's the animals hidden in the ground that we've grown to fear, particularly because they are prone to attack our four dogs: snakes, scorpions, and most recently venomous spiders.
A small rattler, about two feet long, bit Lucy, our biggest dog, about six months ago and gave her a golf ball-sized lump on the right side of her nose that took a couple of weeks to clear up. There seems to be some learning curve developing though: Lucy has lost most of her appetite for chasing rats or digging up animals that pop up or down out of holes in the ground.
|The Brown Recluse Spider is about two inches long. |
The vet called it a Violin Spider, for the mark on its
head resembling a violin.
Snake bites, they explained, leave two punctures but spiders only one. The site of the bite by this type of spider develops necrosis, where the venom essentially kills living tissue. The venom spreads quickly up the leg, which swells almost immediately, and into the body, where it can kill the animal in short order. If we hadn't hauled Gladys to vet immediately we believe she would have gone into shock and died.
|Fauna vs Fauna: Gladys got bit on the|
right leg. The mark on her left leg
is where the vet inserted the IV.
Gladys probably was either hit by a car or beaten by her previous owners because her rear drive train doesn't quite work smoothly and her tail is permanently down and crooked to the left.
I told you she wasn't much to look at. But her imperfections, and affection, are precisely what have endeared her to us.
The vets scraped the dead skin on one of her toes, and made two incisions that they used to force out the venom—a mix of blood and a gelatinous fluid they called "bad blood"—by gently massaging her leg downward. After a couple of days in the clinic and a number of these treatments, the swelling has gone down and Gladys is home and starting to walk again. She's still on antibiotics and a bit lethargic.
For Gladys—and us—the moral of this near-miss should be not to be fooled by the apparent lack of wildlife in the desert or stick our noses or hands in front of it when we run accross it. We've learned that. We hope Gladys did too and passes on the warning to her canine compadres.