Bonnie & Clyde

I see that Parkdale (or, Vallis Hortensis, as we say among the elect) is back in world news, despite the distraction of Brexit. Indeed, it was while reading a European website, yesterday, that I learnt of the recapture of the second errant capybara in High Park, a few blocks away.

“Bonnie and Clyde,” as they had been dubbed, escaped 24th May from the park zoo, minutes after arriving from Texas. The story has feminist legs, or should have had, for both were female. (The Toronto Scar reports otherwise, but it is always wrong.) The names are apt, for “Clyde” was a girl’s name before it was a boy’s. They were to be locked in with a male, named Chewy; but one look at him and they made off.

Since, we have had capybara-sighting parties all over the surrounding Parkdale, Roncesvalles, High Park, and Runnymede districts. The animal cops (from “Toronto Wildlife Centre”) ran Bonnie to ground on 12th June, after three weeks of freedom; Clyde proved wilier. She — who resembles a deformed, anurous beaver; or hybrid of beaver and pig, with perhaps a side of llama — not only remained at large, but achieved rock-star status, with many public appearances around Grenadier Pond.

Alas, dear thing. She was finally tricked into one of the innumerable baited cages set out for her — otherwise replete each morning with local raccoons and pet cats. It’s back to Her Majesty’s Prison for her. And the threat of sexual abuse from Chewy. And the guards will be more on their toes, I expect, after their recent embarrassment.

A pity, it has been argued, for in addition to people, capybaras are quite popular with the other animals. Birds love to alight on their backs; turtles to cuddle around them; even crocodiles, I am told, would rather buddy than eat a capybara. They are extremely social animals; and contented herbivores. People want them for pets, as they will bond like a dog. Or more so.

That is where the trouble starts, from what I understand. Having bonded, they will not let you out of sight. They will go wild and psycho till you return. And meanwhile they have razor teeth, and no understanding of our social norms, or of the excitable behaviour of our small children. You don’t want confusion with the world’s largest rodent, whose own mores and herding instincts have been undermined. And the only way to avoid misunderstanding is to deny yourself sleep, then devote your waking hours to keeping the capybara happy. This will require flooding your basement, laying hay on your floors, and allowing it to interact with all your possessions, to give your house a more attractive scent. We like it bland; they like it intense.

From what I gather, they are very smart, but manipulative and moody. The ducks in High Park are happy to accommodate; even the geese and swans will adapt to their needs; but humans tend to resent excessive intelligence. Which is why cats have the sense to be discreet about it, pretending whenever they can to be stupid, in their trawling, rope-a-dope way. A capybara would lack their thousand-generation, cumulative experience. His attempts at manipulation would be clumsy.

Which is why, in turn, though I sympathized with the beasts, while they were “homeless” and on the lam, I decided not to offer them shelter in the High Doganate. My heart goes out to refugees, but as a non-liberal, non-progressive person, I am mindful that certain lines must be drawn.