This feature is devoted to personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with the world famous meteorite hunting canines Brix and Hopper.
How old were you when you first became interested in meteorites?
I just turned three in April so I started at a very young age.
I first became interested in meteorites when one landed in my yard in West, Texas on Feb 15, 2009. However, since I was adopted by my former owner and bought by my current master (Ruben Garcia) no one is really sure of my age. I do have lots of energy and most people seem to think I am still young.
Have you two ever gone out hunting together and if so how many times?
Actually we have never met. I have read about Hopper and admire her work.
No, we have never met but I did see Brix on the Meteorite Men show – I wonder if he saw me?
Can you tell us something about how you hunt? Is it mostly smell or is it by a combination of your senses?
The training program I use focuses mostly on the sense of smell but also sight. I have to go through a lot to earn a chance to play with a tennis ball.
I have been the most successful when my “fetch” instinct is activated. Every time a meteorite falls from the sky, I get an insatiable urge to chase it, pick it up and bring it home. Now that I think about it, my master Ruben must have the same instinct!
What kind of training program did you have to go through to become the world’s first meteorite hunting canines?
My owner has spent countless hours working with me. I began with basic obedience training at 5 Months of age. My owner uses some of the same techniques they use for cadaver dog training to teach me to find meteorites by sense of smell.
I haven’t had much training and I’ve only found one meteorite.
Do you get a commission on the meteorites you find or do your masters just give you a doggie treat?
I much prefer treats and tennis balls over meteorites.
I found a $10,000 meteorite and got a steak dinner in a doggie bag.
Have you ever discussed how the meteorites would be divided up that you find?
My owner keeps plenty of them laying around. I prefer the thrill of the hunt rather than collecting meteorites.
No, I am pretty content with whatever he wants to give me.
What is your favorite kind of meteorite?
Fresh ones with a nice smell.
Currently it would have to be a Martian meteorite called Nakhla. However, if one is ever discovered from Pluto that would be my favorite.
I have to ask this because it comes up occasionally even with people… What do meteorites taste like?
Have you ever tasted those disgusting doggy vitamins from the pet health food store? I think meteorites taste better than that.
Honestly, I have “wolfed down” one or two – they didn’t taste much different than regular rocks.
Have you buried a meteorite you really liked so your master could not take it away and sell it?
I prefer to dig holes just to see what I can find. I usually don’t bury things. I like to roll in the dirt and scratch my back. Sometimes I take a nap in the warm sand.
No, he doesn’t give me much access to his meteorites since I swallowed that last one.
Are there any meteorites that you think are really special that you would be especially excited to recover?
Camel Dunga, I mean Donga.
My master and I would both be foaming at the mouth if we had the opportunity to recover more fragments of the “Hopper” Iron meteorite. It was found in 1889 in Virginia and is classified as an IIIAB.
Do you plan on making meteorite hunting a full time occupation or are their other things in your future plans.
I have been trying to promote myself on the Las Vegas Strip to get some side work. So far no one has offered me any work, they just want to take my picture.
I like meteorite hunting but would hunt just about anything my master wanted to hunt.
What kind of recreation do you enjoy on your off hours when you are not hunting.
Errr chasing cats. Oops, I meant to say I really enjoy running on a nice sandy beach as fast as I can run. I especially like to fetch sticks, balls and my favorite orange toy.
I LOVE to chase cats, cattle, rabbits and even other dogs.
Have you ever had any close calls while out hunting?
I love riding on the back of the ATV. Occasionally I have rolled off of the ATV when my owner executes a quick maneuver after thinking he just spotted a Lunar. Ughhh….. I am pretty good at Hanging Ten or would that be twenty as we traverse the desert terrain. I also like to shriek loudly when the ATV starts up. Some people look at me really strangely when I do this. I always want to be the first one on top of the ATV. I have learned that I never want to be left behind in the field. I once took off chasing one of those pesky jack rabbits with the long ears. Those rabbits like to provoke me and try to engage my prey drive. I learned quickly after I chased one that it is better to stay with my Pack.
I have had several close calls in Texas. For example, I’m sure there are a couple of “Texas Long Horns” that would have loved to make me their pin cushion. One of the scariest episodes was being shot at by an angry farmer after he spotted me on his property.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories you would like to share with our readers?
I do have a funny story to share. As I travel across the back country roads of Nevada my owner Sonny and I have had some crazy adventures. We have met some unique characters in rural Nevada.
One of my favorites is Peg Leg John. He lives in northern Nevada and makes his living hunting for quartz crystals. While we were visiting John my owner had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours exchanging stories. One of John’s favorite stories is about his encounter with a male African Lion.
John was sitting in his trailer drinking coffee one morning when he looked out the kitchen window and spotted something unusual. He was greeted by an African Lion that was standing on the side of the trailer and peering in the window. The Lion even pressed his face up to the window to look inside. You can imagine what was going through John’s head at that moment. I being a brave dog would have attacked that Lion without hesitation. My owner on the other hand would have probably fainted and met an unfortunate end.
John remained calm and tried not to move during those few minutes that seemed like hours. The Lion disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared. John sat down in his window seat and thought to himself “what just happened?” Why was there an African Lion loose in the Nevada desert? John decided to drive town and report the sighting. You can rest assured before he exited that travel trailer he checked carefully out each window to verify there was no Lion in sight. He did not want to become someone’s lunch or dinner. John started to drive towards town. He came across a couple standing outside their car on the side of the road. The couple explained the story about the Lion.
The Lion had been rescued from a Zoo. He was later given to an animal sanctuary near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The Lion had been ill for some time and the Sanctuary owners decided to release him into the wild to spend his dying days free as he was when he was born. John never spotted the Lion again. The Lion did let his presence be known for weeks following the encounter. At night the Lion would roar in the canyons above Peg Leg John’s home. No one knows what ever became of that Lion.