Once upon a time, many many moons ago, Great One sat with his vast potter wheel shaping the animals and birds who were to live and play on the newly created Earth. After he finished making all the different birds and animals, he saw that a little ball of clay was still left. Now it had been a long day of very hard work – colouring the patterns of the butterfly's wings from his rainbow
pallette, shaping the huge legs of the elephant, colouring the giant blue whale to match the ocean's depth where it was to play. Great One wanted to rest, but he did not like the idea of wasting the clay he had so lovingly mixed before. He had used up all his ideas, so he sat thinking what new animal to make. Suddenly from the corner of his eyes he saw a squirrel running playfully with a nut in his mouth. Suddenly Great One had a brilliant idea. ‘Eureka' he thought. Why not have some fun after a hard day's work?
With a mischievous smile lighting up his face, he decided to play mix-n-match. With his hands he began shaping the small ball of clay, say the size of a tennis ball. He made the shape into a squirrel with lush brown fur, two large and expressive black eyes, small ears, and a black-tipped tail. But instead of the squirrel's squeak and chatter, Great One gave him a dog's bark – not just one, but eleven different barks for eleven different messages. From his milk white conch shell he blew in the life breath to this tiny creature. As she looked adoringly at Great One, Great One named her Pyari. He then gently held her in his hands and whispered ancient wisdom in her ears so that she would be able to make a home for herself in the vast grasslands of the newly created Earth where she would live.
Great One gently placed Pyari in the middle of the vast grassland which had plenty of food and told her to play and be happy. After that he turned his attention to the other animals who also had to be placed in their new homelands. One afternoon he decided to see how Pyari was doing. He searched the vast grasslands but could not see Pyari anywhere. Now he began to wonder, what happened to that cheerful girl. After a long and hard search with his powerful binoculars he saw a small mound of brown dust, hardly noticeable, in a faraway landscape. He was surprised to see Pyari so pale and cheerless. When he asked Pyari what was troubling her, she said she was very lonely in the vast grassland. She had nobody to bark to, wag her tail with or make a house for. She wanted to have a companion and friend to play with. So with his magic wand he poked Pyari gently in her heart and would you believe in that instant was created Poko from her heart's desire. Pyari and Poko became best friends before you could blink an eye. Great One pleased with the miracle asked them to make a wish. Pyari and Poko spoke as one, ‘why of course we want more friends to play with, other than that we have nothing to ask for, O Great One, for you have given us all.' Great One smiled and said, ‘So be it! As soon as you finish making your house you will have lots of little ones to play with, who in turn will grow up and produce a lot of new little ones, soon the huge grassland will be filled with lots and lots of playmates.'
Pyari and Poko ran to play houses and soon divided their roles. Pyari was to be the architect, and made a plan for a grand palace. It was to have a living room, a sleeping room, a potty room, and a room called nursery for their future little ones, and a room for storing food. They were to dig burrows under the ground so that aliens could not harm them in their houses. The main entrance of their burrow was to be on a raised mound of soil, so that it could serve as their watch tower. The palace was to have many entrances, some hidden, so that they could confuse and quickly escape from aliens. Little Poko was amazed. Where did his friend learn all this? Pyari could only remember a distant dream where Great One had held her in his palm and whispered in her ears beautiful stories of grand palaces. Poko instantly fell in love with Pyari's dream and happily barked ‘Wuff Wuff' in appreciation. They dug hard to make their dreams come true. Soon before their eyes stood a most beautiful palace. Just as Great One had promised, the little ones came too. And Pyari and Poko soon had many many friends. The vast grassland became filled with big townships complete with colonies that had small houses and big houses, beautiful houses and ugly houses, all built by Pyari and her friends.
But as happens with friends, some are good friends and some are not-so-good friends. Some were of the same wavelength and some were of different wavelengths. Some liked worms the best, some liked grass the best. So Pyari and Poko sat down to come to some decision. Soon it was decided that each group will be broken into Papa Doggarel, Mama Doggarel and their little ones. Each unit were to be called ‘coterie'. Each coterie were to have a separate house in the colony. But Pyari and Poko warned the others that they were to always remember that Great One made them to be friends. So they would always meet each other with a hug and kiss, even if they were not-so-good friends. Thus, they were happy again and continued in their merrymaking.
Once it happened that Poko peeped out of his home one happy spring afternoon and saw humans coming their way. Poko started barking Pyari's name and alerting her of danger. These humans heard the sound of a dog barking ‘Pyari Pyari' but when they came near they could only see a black tail disappear in the middle of nowhere. The humans named these new animals Black-tailed Prairie Dogs and the grassland as the Prairie Grasslands, little imagining that Poko and Pyari were squirrels with a dog's bark and a human being's ability to build elaborate houses and towns.
Read below to know more about Pyari and Poko.
Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
Scientific Name Cynomys ludovicianus
The black-tailed prairie dog is a member of the squirrel family. Of the five species of prairie dogs in western North America, only the black-tailed prairie dog lives in the Great Plains. It has a black-tipped tail, brown fur, large black eyes and short legs and sharp claws developed for digging burrows. They are one of the few mammals, outside of humans, that form towns. They live in complex networks of tunnels with multiple openings.
Height 12 inches (when standing upright)
Length 12-15 inches (including a 2-3 inch tail)
Weight 1-3 lbs
Lifespan 3-5 years in the wild; 8 years in captivity
Diet grass, roots, seeds, insects
Range Once their colonies were found across the Great Plains from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Their colonies occupied probably 40-80 million acres within this region. Today their small, scattered colonies occupy 1-2 million acres within this region. They have been eradicated completely from Arizona, but survive in 10 U.S. states. Black-tailed prairie dogs once numbered in the hundreds of millions and were possibly the most abundant mammal in North America. But due to a variety of reasons, their numbers have decreased by over 95%. Today they may number around 10-20 million. Their biggest threat remains habitat destruction and killing by humans. They have been declared as an endangered species.
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