Anyone who has spent time around Cashew has heard me say “i’m trying to keep you alive dog” at least a few times before the end of their visit. There is no veterinarian out here. If your dog swallows something poisonous, you go pour a capful of hydrogen peroxide and ready the coconut water to settle their digestive system and protect the lining of their stomach after the vomiting is through. You learn to keep things on hand because the nearest vet is a 35 minute drive and the nearest one with equipment for major procedures is an hour and 5 minutes away. On the weekend, i’d have to drive clear to san antonio to find a clinic with emergency hours. And Cashew… Let’s just say, she doesn’t always eat poisonous mushrooms but when she does, she makes sure it’s a Sunday. Doing chores with Cashew was a bit more involved than when it was just Sili and I. Cashew had to be watched like a hawk, for many reasons. First of all, the hawks had taken note that i’d brought home a small dog. When i let the dogs out to potty sometimes a hawk would appear and perch on one of the dead tree branches and watch her. The first time it happened i didn’t realize the danger. I had seen hawks carry away little song birds at work and the patients would cry and beat on the windows as their lovely songbirds they had fed and watched grow from baby chicks in the nest met their demise in the talons of a rutheless canibalistic precision hunter. I was thinking about the little finches and admiring the feathers on the hawk when i realized what it was looking at. Shit. No no no no! I took off in full sprint across the property in the direction of the chicken run. The hawk launched itself from its perch and flapped its wings. I could hear the noise of each flap of its wings as it soared above me. I was running like i’d never run in my life. My heart was pounding in my throat; a surge of adrenaline flooded my arms and legs until i felt loose and tingly as i ran. The hawk was faster than me. Sili and Cashew were still oblivious. Shit shit shit! I ripped the chain link door open and dove on top of Cashew. The hawk pulled up and circled, perching in a nearby tree. I pressed Cashew’s head to my cheek and tried to slow the beating of my racing heart. I smooshed her against the mulch. Ants were getting into my clothes. I didn’t care. I thought for a hot second that i was going to have to watch this hawk sink its talons into Cashew, hear her cries of agony, and look on helplessly as it lifted her body out of my reach. I carefully tucked her in the folds of my shirt and called Sili as i stood from the mulch and dirt, “Let’s go. We’re going in.” She didn’t come so i whistled. She followed me then and i carried Cashew into the house. A few minutes after i disappeared the hawk took flight and left. He would return many times before Cashew grew too heavy for a hawk to successfully carry off. Each time it circled and each time i covered Cashew as it perched to lie in wait. Hawks were not the only problem i faced trying to keep this puppy alive. Besides the poisonous mushrooms, rocks, discarded beer cans from passing motorists, broken glass, acorns (also poisonous) and bits of plastic Cashew tried to ingest on the regular, there was cactus to worry about. Cashew’s approach to prickly pear cactus was similar to her approach to bull thistles. She cried in pain every time she did it, and yet, she still saw fit to try getting up and pouncing on it with all of her body weight again. I guess they looked enticing. All i knew was that survival instinct was not strong in that one. I was struggling to keep her out of the cactus and burrs while i did the evening chores, but she was at an age now that she wanted to be with us wherever we went and she cried ceaselessly in a mercilessly high-pitched octave if left behind in the house. My coworker suggested i try a baby carrier. She said to strap the puppy to my chest so it could see what was going on but not reach cactus and acorns. It sounded a little out there at first but i was really sleep deprived, void of patience, and desperate. I bought a baby carrier from walmart. I placed Cashew in it. I did the chores. It was the best thing since sliced bread. It got us through that week and a half we had to go until she ended up too heavy to be dinner for the hawks and it gave our ears some peace from her constant shrill ice-pick in the brain noises. So began the week and a half of using the baby carrier during chores.