Like yesterday and I hope forever, at precisely 5:30, a gentle paw rested on my sleeping shoulder. I roused, rolled and roughed up The Little Bear, to his delight. I was rewarded by a quick round of catch my tail. Such is our delightful habit.
An amazing September morning was slowly unfolding like a peacock’s fan.
Dog and human have ritualized dawn beyond the need to think. The tea kettle would come to a boil while I dressed and the first gourmet instant coffee and 2 dog cookies would portage to the red garden bench. The rising desert sun would warm our bones.
It was a special morning. We were meeting neighbors and “Rusty” dog by the big boulder on the ridge. They would be no more than 20 minutes late. We drank coffee and chewed biscuits with this happy expectation. By the second coffee, The Little Bear announced my allowed petting limit had been reached by moving a foot away. He believes himself a rough and tumble desert rat.
The walk was a New Mexico delight. Babble of work, gardens and weather occupied us, as we wended our way up the trail to the mesa top, stopping for view and a breath. We walked for miles that morning, heading back in, only when the sun reminded us of the coming heat.
Their dog was leashed and untrained, mine gleefully sniffed coyote scat and did his best to frighten rabbits. He was usually within sight. He used us as his beaters hoping for a fleeing ground squirrel to chase. The trail ended at my neighbors front door. My door was a block further.
My Little Bear was no longer with me.
This was unusual, but not unprecedented. I called. I blew the whistle carved into the top of my walking stick.
My friends yard was a dog Eden. Piles of “stuff” that would someday be of great value. Tires, railroad ties, rocks, pipes, pallets……… It was normal that The Little Bear would avail himself of this playground. It provided endless habitat for lizards, rats, rabbits, mice, and more. I had learned over the years that my dog suffered a form of possession that rendered him deaf. The first time he got lost I called till I was hoarse and walked miles blowing the whistle. I found him fifty feet from my front door behind the shed excavating a prairie dog village. He once sat on point in front of the refrigerator for two hours until a hapless mouse decided to make a run for it.
I decided not to panic for an hour. I went home and started garden clean up. In twenty minutes there he was, my dependable dog. Relief flooded me. I made no fuss or greeting. I do not reward bad behavior.
I continued my chores. I kept my eye on him. Something in his expression and posture concerned me. I knelt for a look. There was blood on his muzzle. I fetched a wet wash cloth and gently cleaned his face. There were two small puncture wounds, one on either side of his nose. Some swelling had started. I was sure I was looking at my first Rattlesnake bite.
I told him to STAY, and hurried down the path to the house next door. WHY HADN’T I WRITTEN DOWN THE NUMBER FOR THE EMERGENCY VET? Little Bear dragged himself after me, refusing to be alone. I doubled back and carried him.
The neighbors agreed it was snake bite. The symptoms were showing. I rushed home on the trail and raced over on wheels. I rushed into the house and gently carried my boy to the car.
“You will need someone to hold him,” my neighbor said, and jumped in the back seat. The swelling was increasing quickly now and a touch, anywhere on his body made him yelp. It was the year they had the highway closed for new blacktop. The lines were long and so were the waits. I drove to the front of the line causing much consternation and said two words, “Snake bite!” The Knight in a hard had waved us through and radioed ahead. I will forever, be grateful.
The vet’s office didn’t seem much interested. There was a line of regular check ups, and vaccinations ahead of us. The anti-venom shots were quite expensive, I was told… The wait would give me time to apply for credit. When my application was rejected it also gave my neighbor time to apply for credit. When that was rejected, it gave them time to make sure my friends credit card was good for the price tag. Bless my neighbor, my friend. I am a card carrying lot of things. Visa, is not on the list.
My dogs head was the size of a football when they made me leave.
Three sad lonely days later, my Little Bear came home. He was almost who he had been. I got a dedicated thorough face wash. In return I his washed his face with grateful tears.
Once found, love is hard to surrender.