I mentioned, more than a week ago, that I’ve got a story about a dog. Here it is:
A week ago last Saturday, we were down in Paso Robles, a town at the southern end of the Salinas Valley. For me it was a bike-riding trip: I was signed up to do the Central Coast Double Century, a ride that starts from Paso Robles, crosses the at a relatively low spot and goes out to Highway 1, then north to the lower end of Big Sur. From there, it recrosses the mountains at a much more rugged and much higher spot, then descends into and tours the valleys and hills to the east. Two hundred and ten miles in all, and something like 14,000 vertical feet of climbing.
While I was doing all that, Kate went with a big group of people from Paso Robles down to a wild place called the Carrizo Plain. Carrizo is a national monument, a big, open expanse of rangeland at the eastern foot of the coastal mountains. It’s dry, remote and forbidding, The last California condors soar there, and pronghorn (antelope) and elk have been reintroduced.
A long story made short: The group found an abandoned dog at the edge of a dry lakebed on the plain, 10 miles from the nearest highway and 20 miles from anything you might call a town. and we wound up taking him home to Berkeley with us. We named him Scout. He’s gotten his shots and been checked out by a vet and is smart and sweet and so far very calm, which makes it all the more mysterious how he wound up out in one of those places that really is the middle of nowhere.
We’ve been checking online lost and found listings for San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield, the nearest cities (though “near” in this case means about 60 miles to either place). Lots of dogs reported lost, though none in this area and none bearing any resemblance to Scout. After a week, I called the Carrizo Plain visitors center to ask if anyone had reported a dog missing.
“No,” the woman at the center said, “and let me tell you what happens with these dogs. People come out here and just leave them, no water, no food, nothing. It’s a real bad deal.” Occasionally, she said, herders will shoot the strays to keep them from harassing sheep grazing in the area. Starvation or thirst or coyotes take care of most of the rest, though occasionally the monument’s rangers will catch a dog and take it to the animal shelter in San Luis Obispo.
“This is far enough off the road that you can put the dog out and drive away and they can’t chase you,” the visitors center woman said. “People split up and decide they can’t keep their dog, or they don’t want to take it to the shelter — over in Taft you just put the dog down a chute and they usually just put it to sleep. But this is a bad deal. You wonder what people are thinking.”