“Gawd Damn! Son-ov-ah-beeeeach!” I heard from the other room. Malcolm was swearing up a storm. I peeked around the kitchen corner and watched him hobble to the couch on one foot. Poor guy had stepped on a broken-off cactus spine, it’s embedded head sticking out of his bare footed heel. Another screech of cussing occurred as he pulled out the offending sticker. Surgery is sometimes worse than the injury. The spines don’t pull out easily and one needs a pair of needle nose pliers and a steady hand. Ouch! I cringed, having stepped on a few of them myself. It hurts like a muther, with the agony lasting for a good hour. As usual, one of the girls had carried in the aggressive prong and Malcolm was the unlucky sole that found it.
If it’s not a cactus spine, it’s a goat-head or a cocklebur, or puncture vines, or sand burrs. When you live in the high desert, there are a number abusive pricklers that attach themselves to any and every passersby. Amore and Dolce seem to be hosts to all of them. Their long hair attracting it’s share of stickers. We take precautions with their fur. We trim their coat, their under belly and forelegs. At the start of summer, their beautiful leg feathers are clipped short, their paws sheared. We shave their tummy’s, cut back on their tail fringe and prune their sides. Anything to keep the stickers to a minimum. For both the dogs and for us. As we have painfully experienced, if it hitches a ride on the girl’s fur and makes it inside the house, it stands to reason, at some point, those prickly lit’le bastards will latch on to one of us…….
As I’ve mentioned in the past, we like to walk the girls at the Galisteo Basin Preserve, an open space trail network with over 18 miles of bike and hike trails. What use to be ranch land, the GBP still has remnants of its past with tall windmills, falling down sheep herder shacks, and man-made dams for watering the livestock and wildlife. If we happened to have had a good monsoon season, the odds are good the dam will be full of water. Back in September, we hiked the Cottonwood trail and found the dam full. Amore and Dolce made straight for the water, playing in the shallow lake. Mud and muck be damned, our girls were partying in the cool pool of rain run-off.
So yesterday we thought we would check to see if the dam still had some water. The past few weeks we have had some measurable rain and I figured there should still be some water available for the girls to soak their paws.
“Let’s take em’ to the dam” I suggested. The hike to the pond is only a mile or so up the trail with just a slight incline. Malc agreed. We noticed the grass was taller but much drier than when we had hiked this route in September. With the coming of winter, the green turf had already turned to golden tan and brown. But yesterday was one of those perfect fall days that had a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. It was warm enough for wearing just a T-Shirt and shorts with the slight breeze a modest whisper. If there was water in the dam, it would be the last pool party of the year. I couldn’t wait to check.
We rounded the last bend to the dam and Amore took off. She was headed for the water and sprinted towards the cool reservoir. We were right behind her. The lake was down to a mud patch and a little surface water but enough for Dolce and Amore to get dirty. Enough for some muddy play time. Malcolm and I stopped to watch Amore race to the mire. Abruptly, she turned, hastily running back to us.
“What’s wrong with Amore?” I turned to Malcolm and asked.
I looked down at Amore. She was covered in stickers. Infested with them. Her collar, sides, belly, underarms, legs, tail and paws had hundreds of nasty burrs tangled within her fur. Amore had run straight through a large patch of wicked pricklers. The dry burrs clung to her coat, knotting in her hair. Every time she moved, the sharp barbed stickers dug in deeper beneath her beautiful black coat. With resolve, I pulled out the Leatherman from my pack. Malcolm and I started the long tedious process of removing the thorns. We stopped counting after eighty and still had more to go. Our gloveless fingers were numb from the penetrating prickly points. There would be no water play today. We hiked back down the trail. We knew there were more burrs buried on her body, but needed scissors to cut out the rest. We headed home.
Amore had had enough of Malcolm and I picking at her fur. She was done with us yanking and pulling her hair as we extracted the stickers from her body. It took the two of us over an hour on the trail to pick out the worst of the bunch. We still had more to go. I sat in the back of the SUV to soothe and placate her on the ride home.
Once home, I grabbed the scissors and began cutting out the remaining burrs. By the end of Amore’s impromptu hair cut, I had a good sized pile of stickers, stacked on the floor, ready for me to throw away…..
“Gawd Damn! Son-ov-ah-beeeeach!” I heard from the other room an hour or two later.
Oops! Must’ve missed one on the floor.