Every bird in Gwen Lucoff’s poultry collection brings back memories of those that disappeared.
The pair of guinea hens screeching in her yard one day last week reminded her that “there are four colors of guinea hens. I have two left. I had all four, but some got eaten.”
And though the duck waddling about near the fence did not look especially lonely, Lucoff knew better. “He needs a lady,” she said. “He had one . . . but she was eaten last August.”
In the past year, 18 of Lucoff’s birds have ended up as entrees. Two were consumed by coyotes and 16 by neighborhood dogs.
And so, Lucoff has entered the fray that is raging in Malibu Park, a community in the foothills north of Zuma Beach and south of Zuma Canyon. At the feed store, in the library, in the letters to the editors of the local papers, the lines are being drawn between the bird people and the dog people.
Coyotes have always come with the territory in Malibu Park. But the killings by dogs are something new and, although exact numbers are impossible to determine, they have apparently reached a peak this summer.
Lucoff has responded by trapping dogs that trespass on her property and returning them to their owners. Another poultry owner retaliated more violently, according to county animal control authorities; when two dogs got into his chicken coop early this month, he shot them both to death.
The bird people argue that the dog owners should keep their pets leashed or otherwise secured. A county law that allows discharge of firearms in defense of livestock is on their side.
The dog people argue that the bird owners are overreacting--and that the hostile atmosphere leaves no loose pet safe, even when no livestock has been threatened.
“Very few people have fences that actually keep the dogs in, but they still shouldn’t shoot the dogs, should they?” said Claire Martin, a three-year Malibu Park resident whose Australian shepherd, Love, disappeared after guns sounded near her property two weeks ago.
“I was afraid she’d been shot,” Martin said. But the next morning, Love returned.
Gloria Glasser was not as fortunate. She put her dog Buck--an 18th-birthday gift who had been her companion for 12 years--outside on the deck of her trailer “just for five minutes” on July 31. Soon afterward, she heard gunshots followed by a dog’s yelp of pain.
“It’s like a mother with an infant,” she said. “I know my dog’s cry. He was terrified; he was in pain.” When she looked for him Buck had vanished from the deck. Though she and a friend searched for nearly three hours, they never found the dog. She has not seen Buck since.
She said it was the first time she had put Buck outside without chaining him. “You make one mistake and you pay for it dearly,” she said. “It wakes me up in the middle of the night. What really happened to Buck?”
The dog wars are one measure of Malibu’s growing pains, especially in the less settled western end. “Everybody still sort of dreams in this rural state of mind,” said Glasser’s friend, Bill Koeneker, a six-year resident.
“But it’s not rural anymore. It’s suburban. That’s why we have more and more of these incidents.”
Though in the words of Gwen Lucoff’s husband, Terry, “people move here to get away from other people,” that goal is more and more elusive.
In Malibu Park, pickup trucks now share the streets with Mercedes roadsters. An old red barn may front one property while a many-sided glass-and-concrete mansion fills another lot. Fields of wild sage and sumac border elaborately landscaped stands of palm and cypress.
U. S. Census data shows that the population in western Malibu grew from 3,450 in 1970 to more than 9,900 in 1980. Demographers estimate that this year more than 13,000 people live in the area.
Along with the people have come more dogs and more chickens.
The summer’s events have brought concerns about security to the dog owners of Malibu Park. “Everybody’s real emotional about it,” said Dottie Meade, who has lived in the area for nine years. “I was just appalled because we have two dogs and even though we have a fence, Doodles and Oscar sometimes get out.”
Martin now takes precautions with Love, her mixed breed, Palare, and her Great Dane, Bo. “Lately, when I go somewhere I take them with me,” she said, even if that means piling all three dogs into her Toyota hatchback.