It’s time to recap what we have been doing.
The weekend approached, and I have no plans. The weather remained to be a very nice 68 degrees at 3 am, with cool mornings the last few days. I’ve had to change from summer clothes of a T-shirt, shorts, sox, and loafers.
Now, people look hard to recognize me. I sport long jeans, sweater, ski hat but no gloves; I rarely need gloves until January or February.
This photo was taken about 5:20 last evening. Directly behind that huge roll of underground cable was the current entrance into our desert exercise area. Early morning greeted us with construction markers, and about a dozen tiny plastic red flags, that announced underground cable along with a long sprayed painted yellow straight line that marked where the underground cable would be laid.
As I drove over those small flags, I knew our desert spot would soon become either a commercial district or another housing community. I knew it was bound to happen. We hoped to have another four or five years before having to find another playground for Bernie and Chris.
If I had my desired drone, I would fly it and provide an actual view of this area. Failing that, using Google map programs, here was my result.
The hard to see “x” marks the spot where we entered the desert. It was directly off W. Williams Dr. We live on N. El Mirage Road approximately five miles south of Loop 303 (in red). Our home was outside the map area.
From our home, we took about ten to fifteen minutes to reach this desert area. Ten years ago, not only was Loop 303 not completed, there weren’t any neighborhoods bordering Loop 303 to the east and north.
The Sun City West community, to the west of N. El Mirage Rd, was developed in the 70s.
For almost five years, Bernie and Chris enjoyed exploring this flat desert area. During that time several wonderful adventures happened. We discovered a small group of owls that I misidentified as hawks. We spent an entire summer from June until late September trying to capture them on camera.
I named the angry, screeching male “Henry Hawk.” Much later I learned how wrong I was. I discovered my hawk was an owl.
Both Bernie and Chris found three playmates. At first, there was one coyote, but within a month another coyote joined my dogs. The wild animals were very shy. When there was only one, I wasn’t too concerned. Both my dogs were larger than the single coyote.
When the second coyote appeared, I purchased an electronic horn as a precaution to scare both coyotes away. I never had to use it because they only appeared a few times.
When the third coyote appeared, I used the horn. My dogs came running and so did the coyotes until they spotted me. Bernie and Chris continued running to me. The coyotes stopped, and we had long stare-off. The dogs stayed by my side. I didn’t make any move, just looked at them while they looked me over. Finally, they turned away.
We left the area and decided that was the last time we would play in the desert for a few months. It was October, and the birds had flown, so it was time to find another place to play.
The following year we came back to the desert. Three years ago, I had taken the dogs for rattlesnake alert training, so I wasn’t too concerned about their ability to keep away from rattlesnakes. During the entire previous years, we enjoyed the desert; I never saw a rattlesnake.
On Saturday, September 29, 2018, I came across a baby rattlesnake. It was pencil-thin, about eight inches long. Bernie and Chris were playing nearby, and I stopped and watched it. Both dogs came to me, and as they approached, I waited for them to alert.
They didn’t alert. Not wanting to take any chances, I called them to me and made them sit. Bernie didn’t even appear to notice the snake. Chris seemed to be aware that something was there.
Chris was the curious one and had a habit of chasing tiny desert critters that burrowed under desert brush. In the desert, I spotted where Chris was by following the dust cloud he created as he dug for critters.
Immediately upon returning home, I contacted Partner Dog Training to rattlesnake alert retrain both dogs. The following Saturday we traveled almost forty miles to Cave Creek, Arizona.
Bernie and Chris went through the extensive rattlesnake alert course. They were presented with the sight of a rattlesnake, the rattle sound and, more importantly, the smell.
It was the rattlesnake smell that will alert the dog much sooner than the sight or sound. In the past, both dogs alerted to the rattlesnake smell before they were forty feet from the snake.
Last Saturday, when both dogs calmly walked up to the baby rattler, I realized my dogs needed another rattlesnake training. During this training, I learned that many factors could affect the amount of time the dog recalled a previous rattlesnake experience. For that reason, it was a good reason to have a dog go through yearly training.
Of interest was the baby rattler bite can contain more venom than the adult. Called, portion control, the adult has more control of the amount to emit. The baby shoots the entire load. “Isn’t it cute?” is not something to consider when you see a baby rattlesnake.
I continue to edit my fourth book, chronicling our adventures. It may be the last book. Without an RV, we are severely limited to where we can explore in a single day.