Several years ago, David Cunico and I were surveying birds in an isolated, arid area.
David was about 20 yards on my right. He broke our silence when he yelled, “Come here. Look at this.”
I moved in his direction quickly with both camera and binoculars ready.
David was pointing at a scene quite shocking to both of us — a female canine, panting and motionless, with three rather chubby pups enjoying their breakfast. I snapped a picture. Then David and I looked at each other thinking — now what?
We were about 20 miles from the nearest inhabitant. There was no water in the vicinity. If the female ate, she shared food with scavengers or consumed beetles and very slow-moving rodents.
We suspected she was either dumped with or before the pups were born or perhaps strayed away from her owner.
We decided to transport our surprise that warm summer to a nearby community. But, we wondered, would the mother welcome our kind assistance? Fortunately, she did, with no growls or attempts to bite. I placed Mom on the back seat of our field vehicle. She never took her sad eyes off me or David when he placed her pups beside her. All four of our passengers remained perfectly still during their long ride on a dusty, rough road. Upon arrival to our destination, we gave them to a care-giving facility and walked away thinking we did the best we could. We are still saddened as we think of that morning, and we wonder how many other unfortunates, dumped or lost, have the same experiences.
Desert Biologist Tony Gennaro of Portales writes a monthly column on creatures of the Southwest. Contact him at: email@example.com