This is the true story of how Little Bear came to live with me. Both true stories.
In the mood for adventure, I had put up a tipi, in a seriously rural and relatively uninhabited part of New Mexico. It was a five star “gay” tipi, I told people, laughing at my own joke. I dug five feet down inside for warmth and head room and installed a radiant solar brick floor. (I am partial to the herringbone pattern). I pinned chicken wire to the earthen walls and cement plastered them. I ran water and electricity and put in a kitchenette, complete with tiled counters.
My first Christmas living in the tipi, I threw an all day open house. A great many people attended to see what their insane friend was up to. They wore fur lined hooded parkas and brought camp stools. They were greeted by a six foot, fully decorated Christmas tree, a full buffet laid out on the kitchen island, and the smell of bread baking in the oven. The candles were lit and a tasteful wicker basket held bow laden baggies filled with garden seed as party favors. Christmas carols played softly in the background and the television was tuned to the all day Yule log.
I had created a home.
I would adjust to the quiet, and isolation.
One snowy, blowy day in February there was a knock on my gothic hobbit tipi door and cowboy Dan poked his head through the opening with that train headlight smile of his. “I am not alone”, he said. ” Look who is with me! It’s The Little Bear”.
A small black dog ran through his legs and down into the tipi shivering with joy and cold. I had seen a snow nest up against the tipi canvas for several days, but there had been no sign of the critter who slept there. Some wild animal sharing some of the warmth, I had thought. This was clearly the culprit.
At bed time he declined an invitation to leave, so I threw down an old blanket on the floor. I rummaged the fridge for dog appropriate left overs and put down a rice bowl full of clean water. It was, after all, very cold out there.
I didn’t see the little dog for the next three days. He had left the tipi with me, as I departed for work. He must have gone home I thought. Collar but no tags, which is not uncommon in rural New Mexico. But the next snow storm brought the return of my visitor. And though his attitude was filled with ( what I was to learn) his usual jubilation, his coat was dull in appearance and as I examined him he had a number of very large ticks, (in the winter) and to my horror he was so full of worms that they were oozing from him. Like toothpaste out of a tube, oh my god. He seemed thrilled to get in the car with me and drive to civilization. Three hours later he was tick free and had eaten a Velveeta, worm medicine cheese ball. And I can cook too. On top of it all.
Not my dog, but I was starting to think that maybe I needed to find him a home? My (maternal, paternal) human instinct to care was in serious danger of kicking in! As usual when the weather cleared so did he. I borrowed dog kibble from a neighbor and put it in the cupboard.
On cue, when the weather got ugly he returned. By now he knew where to find shelter from the storm. He settled in on his blanket. I found a good book and settled on the bed. Propped myself up on a big stack of pillows and nested in to read away this snowy day. Ever so quietly, ever so gently the little black dog was on the bed. I had not even felt the jump. But there he was down by my feet on a corner of the bed, clearly trying to be small and invisible. He seemed to think that if discovered, he would be asked to return to his blanket on the floor. I pretended not to notice and continued my novel. Over the next half hour he inched in the slowest and barely perceptible stages up against my leg, creeping higher and higher up my body until at long last he gently nuzzled his face into my armpit, hiding his eyes and taking in the scent of this new person, … and went to sleep. It was then that I knew I had a dog. And he already had a name.
When the weather cleared there would be supplies to buy. A dog dish, some decent dog food. Maybe some toys?
Or………I sometimes tell people that I saw a great shining white light. And out of that light pranced the Little Bear. I believed at once that it was the most profound of miracles. Some think it could have been the halogen headlights of a car dumping an unwanted dog in the country. As for me…I believe in miracles. Miracles that connect us to life, and thaw a winter heart.