when turkey is diner not dinner
Any fan of Westerns (cowboys ‘n Indians), knows that buzzards circling overhead is a portent of misfortune. While the wild West is now only in fiction, our inland region does have all the other features – heat, dust, cactus, rattlesnakes, coyotes and raptors. Yet in all the time living in San Diego’s East County, I never have seen turkey vultures (cathartes aura) in the wild. But 2020, seeing buzzards is hardly surprising after the year we experienced. Earlier this week, Dexter, Comet and I were taking a late morning walk toward Rattlesnake Mountain and I spotted these birds circling the ridge. I first mistook them for hawks, but a neighbor I greeted corrected me. Though occasional reports via “neighbor” app that a small dog or cat has gone missing might suggest a coyote’s doing, most folks keep bigger dogs in the vicinity of the “wildlife habitat”. A few times in the early evening or morning this past summer, a coyote pack’s howling suggested they were content with rabbits or rodents in the “habitat”. Rabbits that we’ve seen on our pre-dawn dog walks suggest we can continue undeterred. On that late morning walk that day, I recalled a decades-old cartoon. I imagined Dexter staring like a Peanuts (cartoon) Snoopy “vulture” when he believes a certain feline is in the vicinity.
Morning and evening, when the calico cat that has taken up “residence” is hovering near the front patio, or is in the garage, Dexter barks and circles whichever door the cat is behind. But what compares him to our aforementioned buzzard, is that he hovers in expectation of the remainder of the canned cat food to top his dry breakfast. Of course, Comet gets some, but he makes no fuss about the cat being nearby. Like a vulture circling overhead its next meal, upon our return from a walk, Dexter deliberately heads to the cat’s dish to see what may be left.
And tonight, despite his well-fed companion and himself, Dexter and Comet both channel a vulture anytime someone goes toward the kitchen. A scavenger worth his hide does not pass up the chance to get a snack. Since neither Dexter nor Comet are any good at living off the land (they could not catch a rabbit if their lives depended on it), scavenging cat food keeps Dexter almost tolerant of the calico. As for Comet, who really had lived as a scavenger once upon a time, he is content to share.