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il richiamo della forestaLa Cacciatrice

We grew up in the bush, sort of, and like most suburban bush babies I had a dog. While she was still a pup, my Dad and Uncle took her up to northern Wisconsin for some pheasant hunting. They encouraged, no, they forced my sweet auburn puppy to fetch everything they'd decimated. The bounty that weekend was prolific and spaniels catch on quickly. A totally changed canine leapt into my waiting arms upon their return.

Every rabbit nesting season thereafter saw a drop of at least 4 infant bunnies at the back door. The dog would be sitting pretty nearby, waiting for us to heap praise on her for her hunting prowess. Satisfied that my Dad wouldn't let me punish her, she'd stalk anything that dared traverse the tall prairie grasses near our home.

To make this short, I ended up nurturing a collection of shoe boxes filled with an assortment of animals in various stages of distress. In my bedroom.

Picture it --pink ballerina wallpaper, white empire furniture, and every horizontal plane covered with deep slate colored Keds boxes that shiggled. Seemingly by themselves. Like those mysterious Mexican jumping beans.

Our rather delicate mother refused to enter my room in the Spring and Summer as the "catch" would be particularly bountiful then. And truthfully, though not for lack of trying, I was able to revive just a few of the mangled. More often than not I'd recruit my 3 younger brothers for the inevitable funeral procession.

Single file, we'd march mournfully into a domed ring of sumacs. There in the center, a burial hole would be dug and prayers would be offered; not only for the deceased, but also for the soul of my poor misguided dog.

Eventually, we parted company. She chased down one too many cars on our graveled road, and I moved on when the area grew pavement. I married and settled into an apartment in Chicago - far removed from the scents of prairies, swamps, and woods. I was caregiver to no animals. And then, the inevitable happened.

Zi' Marie brought over a young squirrel who had been tossed from the roof of a 3 story building. By some citified 10 year olds no less. Of course she asked me if I'd take care of it, and of course I said yes. We Italian women are so maternal.

Word of a soft touch travels fast. Within the year I had several additional animals in need; a large desert tortoise who ate more salad than my sons, a spindly legged box turtle who'd been kidnapped by Tennessee mountain dwellers, painted pet store turtles who'd outgrown their digs, a "mated" pair of Borinquén doves, a white pigeon that laid eggs all over the house - no doubt inspired by the mated doves, more domestic mice than the Mayo Clinic's ever seen, and a spate of gatti di vicolo and stray dogs.

I continued in this vein for several years until I found someone that would rescue me from rescuing. Marie's sister-in-law took them up north when she moved back home, thereby neatly closing the circle. My days returned to normal - the aroma of freshly ground coffee no longer competing with the odor of early morning "Eau de Zoo".

Someday, I suppose the kids and I will head out to the pet store and buy a pet rabbit or perhaps even another dog, but this time, hopefully, they'll live outside.