As I remarked some days ago on my Facebook page, the presence of pet dogs in the Falkland Islands is a recent phenomenon – from living here in 1986-7, I can only recall a single Stanley resident who kept a lapdog in his house. Dogs were working animals on sheep farms and, if they couldn’t handle the job, they had no value to farmers and were often just killed (now, fortunately, many townies adopt the surplus dogs). Cats, on the other hand, were abundant and many Islanders still have multiple felines in the house, though some farms have eliminated them because they threaten the wildlife, particularly smaller birds.
As the photograph above suggests, dogs are gaining ground, but Islanders have often had somewhat unconventional pets. Many Stanley households, for instance, kept a pet lamb (which of course became a full-grown sheep) in lieu of mowing the lawns outside their houses, and eating that lamb was unthinkable. One, I recall, sardonically named his pet “Dinner,” but nobody would have dreamed of eating such an animal.
At the same time, Islanders sometimes acquire even more unconventional pets. When I was last here three years ago, my friend Nancy Poole had adopted an orphaned Upland gosling from someone who had found it wandering in the countryside, and she nursed it to adulthood by feeding it milk-laden bread until such time as “Deuce” (as she christened the bird) could fend for himself on the grass in their yard. For many years, sheep farmers considered the Upland Goose a pest that devoured pasture rightfully destined for their lambs and ewes, and for a time local government even paid a bounty for goose beaks.
When I first met Deuce, he was the cute little bird who appears in the photograph above, but in the interim he’s become something else entirely. As his intense gaze suggests, if I or anyone else other than Nancy approaches his enclosure, he resembles an angry Rottweiler – several times he’s charged me and, though there’s a fence between us, he’s even managed to grab my jeans with his beak. If he were loose – his wings are clipped – he would have no compunction about continuing his attack. My malamute, unfortunately, once bit our postman in California, but in Stanley I worry more about Deuce attacks.