Note: No animals were hurt in the telling of this story.
Walking with a friend around Queen Anne today, I was reminded of the years I lived here and walked the “crown,” a level circle around the top of Queen Anne Hill, with my own dog. For the most part, my dog was an obedient and submissive creature. But if a cat or squirrel made it onto her radar, she was a goner.
I’d just returned from Isla Taboga, Panama, where my husband and I spent the winter. Taboga is a small island in the Bay of Panama, just off the coast of Panama City.
On the tiny island, roughly 2 1/2 miles from end to end, there are a lot of dogs, all with distinct personalities. They don’t need to be walked because there are no leash laws and no poop-scoop mandates. They wander at will and, with few exceptions, are well behaved, returning to their homes at the end of the day. They are as much a part of the island culture as the people who live there.
Most of the time, they are sleeping on the hot pavement outside their homes, raising an eyebrow from time to time as someone or something passes by.
But even Taboga dogs have their temptations. Not cats, for the cats on Taboga can hold their own. Not squirrels, because they stay high up in the trees. But I’ve seen dogs chase lizards, chickens and even large insects. And sometimes things us North Americans would never imagined. So I’ll tell you….
The great chase
One day, two of my favorite four-legged friends, Oso and Conejo, were walking home with one of my favorite two-legged friends, Mark. Oso, which means “bear,” was named for his giant teeth. Conejo, or “rabbit,” was named for his remarkably large and pointy ears.
On this particular day, as the story goes, an anteater was crossing the narrow road just in front of them. The bear and the rabbit were off and running, and our friend’s throat-splitting cries of “Come! Venga!” were useless.
The dogs pursued the anteater into the thick growth of jungle alongside the road, and Mark took up the rear, wondering what he would do when he caught up with them. Seeing a large palm frond lying on the path, Mark scooped it up and went yelping through the brush screaming, “Stop it! Venga! Leave the freaking anteater alone!”
Coming upon the odd threesome, he pieced the scenario together. Conejo had retreated to regroup, possibly surprised by the anteater’s tenacity. Oso had stepped in as reinforcement, and the anteater had a tight grip around Oso’s neck, hanging from it like a giant, hairy medallion.
As Conejo was getting ready for round two, Mark burst through the jungle, screaming and waving the palm frond. The dogs — as though waking up from a bad dream — saw Mark and gave up, sauntering away guiltily.
I don’t know what Mark did with the palm frond. Perhaps he gave the dogs a punishing swat across their hind ends. Or swept the path a little, feeling the need to tidy up after such a messy tangle. Or perhaps his inner high priest came out, and he used the palm branch as an instrument of blessing over the anteater, wishing it health and long life.
Happy to be back
Word has it that the anteater crossed back over the road and showed up at another neighbor’s front door, tired and thirsty.
I never heard the end of the story, but I wish the anteater well and don’t blame Oso and Conejo for doing what they thought they should.
And I thank Mark for telling the story and for picking up that palm frond and giving me an image I will never forget!
As amusing and fun as it was and as good a story it is, I’m very happy to be back where the dogs I know chase smaller, more manageable animals. Without palm fronds lying across the sidewalk, I’d be in really big trouble.
IRENE PANKE HOPKINS lived on Queen Anne for 20 years.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.