meditation on painted dogs

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It took six days before we gave up tracking painted dogs. Alone in my tent, derided and unwashed, I would imagine the pack males bucking between backbiting ground hornets, the river, with its fragrant water lilies, and a kudu, flat on her fatshield shoulder, her nostril an iron cauldron spilling over. Despite their strong social bonds and dynamic hunting strategies, painted dogs are weak competitors to all larger carnivores and terrestrial change, and are therefore regionally extinct across most of the continent. Having spent a month compiling an excel sheet on the preferred prey of painted dogs, I hoped that I might at least glimpse the one elusive pack in this district of this nation. It was during these nights of hard rain, when the mind’s eye image of ‘the hound’ began to instruct me by way of fear. I let it wander. The threat of the hound was the risk to one’s offspring’s skin so I imagined a leg’s spasm, a kick at tall grass. Sprawled in my open sleeping bag, between moments of lucidity and fatigue, I became convinced; when they appeared, I would put the hounds down. I would keep our children safe.

Fear, not an endplace but a conduit to action or inaction, simultaneously motivates and paralyzes, because fear is the desire for the destruction of the feared. Fearing my perceived otherness, my enemy threatens me with neck-back slash and so I lug a bat. My enemy’s fear makes me animal, a threat, not for my canines or gold-flecked claws (I have those too) but for my sociality and fierce intelligence. The painted dog population is in steep decline. I wonder how my fear might make me wise against these overwhelming odds.

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