The Dog Who Came to Stay

One day, shortly after Linda and I arrived in Anthony, a dog appeared at my side as I stood at our mailbox just down the road from our house.  He followed me home.  He was a cinnamon-colored shepherd-retriever mix who looked to be about a year old and weighing some 45 pounds.  He had no collar and was not neutered. 

For several days he hung around our property and followed me to and from the mailbox.  I did nothing to encourage his interest in me.  I neither fed nor watered him, although daytime temperatures were in the 100’s.  I didn’t so much as touch him.  Meanwhile, he introduced himself to Linda, who, against my unvoiced wishes, provided him with water. 

We soon concluded that he was just one more of the many stray dogs, a depressing number of which were dead on the shoulders of highways and roads, we had seen in Doña Ana County since our arrival.  Whatever, I was simply hoping my neglect of him would make him go away―dissolving back into the ditches, abandoned houses, fields, or woods from which he had emerged―and never return.  After all, my interests now were tending to our new property, the reading of great books, and the writing of my surely soon-to-be underground bestsellers.  It did occur to me that Linda, whose family had raised, bred, and shown Scotties much of her life, might like an addition to our household, but I knew some of that responsibility would certainly be mine, and I had no interest in caring for and giving companionship to a dog.

But I never flat out said any of this to Linda, so on about day four, as she and I stood in our yard with the anonymous mutt, having drunk his fill from a yet another pan of water Linda had offered him, once again sitting faithfully between us, she suggested we adopt him. 

I objected.

“Fine!” she said with a sting that suggested anything but.  Then she blindsided me with the following: “Then you take him to the shelter in Las Cruces.”

Me?  Take him?  To a shelter?  By myself?

My mind was suddenly a welter. 

First: Of course, you dope!  You want one less dead or dying dog by the side of a road?  That dead or dying dog that angers and disgusts you so much?  It’s simple: You take the stray to a shelter!

But then my mind crawled into dark place: Okay.  She’s playing me.  She knows that I know I’ll be nearly the last to see this poor animal facing concrete, chain-link, dankness, clamor, and―let’s face it, given all the stray dogs around here―the euthanizing table.  And that I’ll give in!

But I backed out of that and took a breath: Of course she doesn’t want to be a part of it, for the very reasons you just imagined.  Now, do you?  You, who love this fabulous new home, largely made possible by her.  You, who now have half an acre of private property, miles of fields and desert, and loads of peace and quiet.  You, who loved that blue belton English setter when you were a kid.  You, who recall that photo of the great Steinbeck at his typewriter . . . with a dog at his side. 

Do YOU?  Step outside yourself for just this once.  She would enjoy a dog.  You might, too.

“Let’s keep him,” I said.

Within minutes, he was seated beside me in the truck as we prepared to go to the IGA for several cans of food.

Linda beamed at the two of us.

“How about calling him Buddy,” she suggested.

“Sure!” I answered with a grin.

Obviously unused to the luxury of motorized travel, Buddy vomited some water en route to the supermarket, but I didn’t care.  And I’d forgotten how easily dogs let go of things that don’t agree with them.

We never posted a “found dog” in any newspaper, and had no second thoughts about that. We took Buddy to an Anthony, New Mexico, veterinary clinic.  I cannot recall, but surely the clinic checked him for a micro-chip, found him lacking, and then implanted him with one.  The clinic neutered and fully inoculated him.  Finally, we gave Buddy a collar to which we attached his county license and an identification tag.     

After a few weeks with Buddy―exploring fields and ditches, watching freight trains in the desert, assessing sunsets from the portal―I was deeply grateful for his company.  He took my mind off things: books I had to read, words I had to produce, a property I had to maintain.  But when I did write, he was always at my side.