Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author Marty Essen

Nellie and the prickly pear

Marty’s photo of the day #4092: Two years ago, before Deb’s and my first visit to the American Prairie Reserve (now officially called “American Prairie”) in central Montana, we were concerned about our newly adopted dog, Nellie, stepping on the cactus there. So months ahead of time, we patiently tried to get Nellie used to wearing protective doggie booties. That didn’t go well!

Every dog we’ve adopted from an animal shelter has “told us a story” about treatment from a previous owner, and in Nellie’s case, she obviously had a bad experience with her feet. Consequently, Nellie spent a lot of time on the leash during our first American Prairie visit, as I wasn’t about to risk her getting prickers in her paws.

Then, during our second visit, earlier this month, I let Nellie run loose in an area where I didn’t see any prickly pear or other cactus species. Soon I realized I was wrong, and there were cactuses all around us. I quickly called for Nellie, but then Deb commented, “Look! She’s avoiding all the cactus!”

So other than a few times, when we were hiking near range cattle or through prairie dog towns, Nellie was able to go leash-free during our second visit. What amazed me was how she could run full-speed across the prairie, dodging even tiny, hard-to-see cactuses at dusk.

During our six days on the prairie, Nellie didn’t catch a single pricker in her paws. She was just like the coyotes we saw that she really, really wanted to make friends with!

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