Beware of theprairie dogs | AspenTimes.com
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Beware of theprairie dogs

Su Lum

The way I heard it, a big hawk, or maybe it was a bald eagle, soared over the downtown mall with a prairie dog in its beak.For unknown reasons (perhaps all the pointing fingers and cries of “Look at that!”) the eagle, or the hawk, dropped the prairie dog, which twirled down through the air and landed on an awning, bounced off the awning, landed on the shoulder of a woman sitting at an outdoor table at Cooper Street Pier and BIT her on the neck!The woman was said to have sought medical treatment, and an onlooker was quoted as saying, “I never saw anything like THAT before!”It’s an incredible story, but I have no idea whether it’s true or not. There was no police report, Cooper Street Pier denied knowledge of the event, and Aspen Valley Hospital said that no one was treated there for a prairie dog bite, though (this was encouraging) some of the nurses had also heard the story.Prairie dogs are those cute little squirrel-like creatures that sit up on their hind legs next to their burrows along the roads and sometimes commit suicide under your wheels. Their fleas (do not believe the claim that fleas can’t live here) can carry the bubonic plague – not the death sentence it used to be, but not to be sneezed at – and then there’s rabies.I don’t even want to know how the golf courses handle the prairie dog problem, but I’d guess that it is not pretty and is undertaken in stealth – come to think of it, I also haven’t seen many Canadian geese around here lately.At any rate, prairie dogs are considered pests and if any species cleansing is going on we can shrug innocently and blame the coyotes, hawks and eagles.A prairie dog story that I know is true, though it sounds even more improbable than the first one, occurred a year or two ago at the Aspen Community School in Woody Creek.One of the female teachers, answering a call of nature, was just about to flush, when a drenched and angry prairie dog came roaring up out of the toilet. Talk about unpleasant surprises – who would ever expect THAT?My daughter Skye, who first heard the teacher’s screams, says that she still thinks about it whenever she’s in that cubicle. One event like that is enough to put the fear in you for life.As a nation we are already on edge about our health and fitness, taking seminars on ways to seize control of our lives, being proactive against real and imagined perils, so it’s good to be reminded now and then that we can’t control everything.Those prairie dogs can rain from the sky and bite you in the neck or lurch up out of toilets and bite you in the butt (that teacher was lucky).Su Lum is a longtime local who tries not to look for trouble. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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