Baby-sitting a water buffalo |

Baby-sitting a water buffalo

David Bunker

My boss went out of town last week, which means I got to do one of my favorite things ” watch his pet water buffalo.

Now, technically, my boss refers to his pet as a Great Dane-Labrador mix. But if you saw Ozzie running down the trail toward you, you would think he was the love child of a slobbery moose and a black panther.

So taking care of the animal, who is extremely well behaved ” for a water buffalo ” requires certain techniques.

I tend to avoid the more populated dog walking locations. If I go to the Martis Valley, I head to a more secluded section to exercise the water buffalo and my year-old chocolate Lab.

And, in case any rangers or animal control personnel are reading this, I’ve got both creatures on a leash, and fitted with diapers so that no digested Alpo ends up polluting the creeks.

No matter how friendly Ozzie is, there is something about a diapered water buffalo stampeding through Martis Valley that prompts blood-curdling screams from strolling nature hikers.

One of my fears ” and one of the principal reasons I stay in out-of-the-way dog walking spots ” is that I will round a corner with the two beasts, and a Steve Irwin-type park ranger will confront me.

“‘Ey mate, can’t be walking water buffalo in the Martis Valley,” the Aussie park ranger says in my worst-case scenario daydream.

“But it’s a Great Dane,” I respond.

The ranger begins circling Ozzie like a startled fiddler crab while radioing in on his walkie talkie for backup.

I imagine the “Water Buffalo Tactical Crisis Unit” mobilizing out of the Animal Control headquarters in Truckee as I try to give the ranger a quick zoology lesson in the differences between canines and ruminants.

As the sirens approach and Animal Control begins unloading their elephant guns and harpoons, I make a dash for it.

Ozzie and my dog follow me, their diapers making a strange squishing sound as they overtake me.

OK, maybe I’m a little loony. Or maybe I’ve spent too much time walking dogs out in the nether reaches of the woods. But I never want to have to explain to my boss how Steve Irwin arrested his dog, backed by harpoon-wielding Animal Control employees.

“They thought he was a water buffalo,” I’d offer in explanation.

Somehow, I don’t think he’d believe me.