Broadway, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, that is. I saw the little canine trotting past the Bank of the Southwest after Art Hop on Saturday night. He seemed in a hurry to get out of town, crossing our main drag and hustling down a side street toward the river. I hear his relatives across the river in the desert sometimes. The other night they were singing on Turtleback Mountain. They’re so musical, especially compared to the dogs who try to answer. A few years ago I used to hear a donkey who tried to sing back—not very melodious either. Wildness has a sweeter voice.
One thing I love about my town is its closeness to the wild, though I’d rather not join the ranks of people who’ve found rattlesnakes in their yards. I can walk to the Rio Grande in a few blocks, the same route the coyote took, and watch the bats come out over the wetlands at sunset, or go into the desert and look for tarantulas coming out of their burrows after a monsoon rain. I only found one once—a velvety multi-legged shadow half-way out of her hole. When I run in the desert at Elephant Butte I encounter quails and lizards and jackrabbits on the trail, and very seldom any of my own species. I once surprised a mule deer that was sleeping under a juniper. With its size and the speed of its explosive take-off, it gave me an equal start, but probably a lot more pleasure than I gave it.
Santa Fe has a little wildlife, too. Gunnison’s prairie dogs are inclined to live there. The city has a relocation program, catching and releasing them into select wilderness areas, but there’s still a little dog town above the almost waterless Santa Fe River on Paseo. I like walking past them. They’re smart, and have a complex language. I’ve heard that they recognize people and talk about us. Standing upright at the edge of their holes, paws folded on their little bellies, they stare back at me a long time before they scamper and squeak. Maybe to them I’m the wildlife that’s wandered into their city.