RATTLERS

A big one

Rattlesnakes have been part of my life, from May to November, for the last eight years. Despite a mild snake phobia that would make me run through the terrarium of any zoo, I have come to co-habit peacefully with the slimy creatures who, let’s face it, were here before me.

As in the matter of wildfires, a bit of education went a long way. Knowing that rattlers don’t wake up in the morning scheming to bite humans, helped a bit. They are actually fairly shy creatures, gifted with a rattler to announce their presence to other living beings in the vicinity. Unless you are careless or so unlucky to step on one of them, they will not bite you. And, in the worst case scenario, a bite to a human whose immune system is not terribly compromised, will not end in death. More flu-like symptoms for a few days, fever and fatigue, and intense pain where the venom found its way in.

For dogs, though, it’s a different matter. They are smaller and, should I not be around to notice the swelling and the fang marks, Ottie could, inadvertently, be rattlesnake victim. Dogs poke around in the bushes, like to walk in the tall grass, all places where rattlesnakes could be hiding. Which is why I bundled Ottie in the car today and headed to a rattlesnake avoidance class for dogs. Yes, such things exist.

Neither of us was quite sure what to expect. As it turns out, while waiting around at a park with many other dogs (none as cute or charming or well-behaved as Ottie), my canine friend was fitted with a zapping collar and a long rope. Unaware, he trotted with the handler to a secluded area where 4 rattlesnakes were lying around in different spots, their little heads taped inside small bottles, to prevent accidental biting. As soon as Ottie got near one of them, he was zapped, making him jump back in a jerking motion that completely freaked him out.

I could hear him think “I never liked these extra-large lizards to begin with – why are you doing this to me?” After a short break, he was brought in again, this time extremely reluctant to go anywhere near a snake. The idea is to associate the smell and the sound of a rattler to the zapping.

May is around the corner – baby snakes are about to make their appearance, with their bigger parents always eager to keep the mice population under control. We will find them sunning themselves on the driveway or coiled by a rock and, by and large, we will let them be. Hoping Ottie will remember the day he was zapped over and over and couldn’t wait to get back home.

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