It is 7:15 AM, and I've been up for forty-five minutes. Being the veritable antithesis of a morning person, this shocks me as much as it would anyone who has known me for a couple of hours. I do not LIKE getting up early, and never have, but ever since moving out to Arizona, a strange phenomena has manifested itself. You see, Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time--which I love, because we never have to deal with the nonsense of changing clocks and circadian rhythms--so, consequently, around late spring, the sun comes up earlier and the days are longer. Back in New England, even in summer, it was still blue-pink dark at 7am; who wanted to get up? It was difficult for me to do, especially when I was working a regular job, but not much easier even when I worked at home. I'd have to set my alarm for three different times just to make sure I didn't stay in bed most of the morning.
Anyway, now--not so much. And it's kinda nice. One benefit is that it's so much cooler in the early to midmorning here, and I can get a lot of stuff done around the house and yard before the temperature becomes too much for me. My appetite is better; I actually eat a healthy breakfast sometimes BEFORE having coffee (another detail which should shock my friends and family). Around 9-10AM it'll start getting hotter, and about 11am I start kicking on either the fan or the AC and try to stay as cool as possible until evening comes. But the mornings are nice, and I'm glad I'm able to enjoy them.
This morning I got up before Billy did--also unusual, but evidently he was too comfortable snuggled in his little blanket, nose tucked between his paws. He waited while I washed my face, flossed, and started the coffee before rising on all fours in a luxurious, spine-popping stretch, his tiny bum pointed skyward in a canine display of laziness. When he saw me observing him from the doorway, he immediately flopped over in one motion to beg for a belly scratch, grinning at me as only your dog can do. Of course this is irresistible, so for the next five minutes he managed to fleece me into a full body massage before finally getting up, giving himself a shake, and trotting to the door for his morning constitutional.
We live in a small valley-like depression on the outskirts of Tombstone with a fantastic view of the Dragoon Mountain Range and the Chiracahuas to the East. I took a moment after putting Billy on his line to appreciate the beauty of a Southern desert sunrise before shuffling back into the kitchen to pour my coffee and turn the computer on. After a few moments, as I always do, I went to check on him as a safety precaution.
Good thing I did. He was on point, just outside of the door, staring off to the south. Following his eyeline, I was greeted with the sight of an impressively-sized Javelina just 100 feet away. Aforementioned Javelina was gazing at Billy with equal and unbridled interest.
Now, if you've never seen or heard of a Javelina, go look on Wikipedia. They're the ugliest creatures that God ever made. With high shoulders that slope down into a stubby rear end, they kind of look like a cross between a pig, a hyena, and a really big rat. Beady little eyes, coarse fur, and a snout festooned with little tusklike teeth complete this unholy vision. They're just hideous; there's no way around the fact. These little ferkers are indigenous to the Southwest, and are found throughout Mexico and Central America.
I could deal with their general unattractiveness if they didn't have temperaments to match. Their ugliness is compounded by the fact that they're plain nasty, mean, aggressive and sneaky little sons of bitches. Woe betide anyone who is unfortunate enough to get between a female and her pups (which are actually kind of cute), and God help you if you run afoul of a pack. They have no fear of humans, and they like the occasional free snack.
Which brings me back to Billy and his throwdown challenge to the little bastard across the way. Billy is, as I've said, a Miniature Pinscher. He is teeny, although if you asked him, he'd say he was as big and tough as a Rottweiler. At fourteen pounds, he'd barely make an hors d'oeurve for the piggy that was sizing him up, although I'm sure Piggy wouldn't have complained. Whatever he was rooting for at my neighbor's house paled in comparison to the juicy morsel Billy presented, judging by the look of intense concentration he displayed.
Both animals were stock-still, Billy straining the tension on his line, while Piggy lowered his head a few inches as if to get a better look. Here I broke a cardinal desert rule--it's not a good idea to go outside barefoot. Critters, cacti, stickers, and other flotsam and jetsam can end up in your skin, and are more often than not extremely difficult and painful to get out. Thinking only of getting Billy out of harm's way, I barreled out the door and snatched him up, giving Piggy the dirtiest, most menacing look I could muster. Unfazed, Piggy continued to stare as I carried Billy back inside. Piggy continued to stare for a few minutes until, with a porcine shrug, he went back to his foraging.
Folks, if you've never been to or lived in the desert, there are things you should remember to do as a rule: Have lots of water on hand, because you can drop from heat exhaustion before you even start to sweat. Keep an eye out at all times for snakes, because they can hide literally in plain sight. Shake your shoes out before donning them, because scorpions love to crawl into the toes and hide there, and those stingers HURT. And always, always, always check your environment in the early morning and early evening for cougar, coyote, and the annoying, peckish, and frighteningly implacable javelina.