Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dog from Dinosaur Tracks

I'm driving from Colorado to California, and a big monsoon is sweeping over the west.  I don't see the sun once on this two-day drive.  
Rainy tour of the Dinosaur Tracks near Moenave, AZ

On August 25, I wake up in Tsegi, Arizona, and drive west through the rain, pulling off now and then when the downpour gets too heavy.  I pull over at Elephant Feet and then get gas in Tuba City.

As I'm about to pass Moenave, I decide to pull over and buy a necklace from the folks at Dinosaur Tracks.  They probably have no business in this rain.

Stormy and I get out of the car and walk toward a table full of beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

"Come see the dinosaur tracks," a young man offers.

I've seen them many times before, and I don't want to pay the $5 tip for this tour, but I can't say no, especially when he says it's his grandmother's turn to lead the tour. The Corgi and I start off across the rocks and mud with Isabella as our guide.

The tracks do look impressive in the rain, each one filled with water, dramatically outlined from the surrounding red rock.  There are new ones of Tyrannosaurus Rex recently excavated.

A half mile away I notice a dog standing on a rock, observing us.

"Who's dog is that, out in the rain?" I ask.

"Nobody's dog," my guide says.  "People just drop them off here."

We continue to tour the footprints.  Back at the tables, I buy a necklace for $10 and comment on the dogs--there are two hanging around at a distance of 300 yards.   

"Can't you call the animal shelter to come pick them up?" I ask.  

"They won't come unless a dog bites someone," she says.  "We feed them a little, but they usually die in a week."

Adrenaline kicks into my brain, and I get the fool idea that I can catch one of these dogs and take it to a shelter or maybe even keep it.  

Back in the car, I take Stormy's leash off her, pick up a bag of dog treats, and lock Stormy in the car, walking off in the rain toward where I last saw the dog.  

"Wait a minute, how am I going to take this dog anywhere?" I then ask myself.  "It probably doesn't have a collar."
Isabella selling jewelry

The knowledge that I probably can't even catch the dog gives me permission to try.  No harm in trying, right?

Finally I see it, running away from me as fast as I walk toward it. I sit down on a chair-sized chunk of rock and watch it.  It watches me, standing majestically on a distant rust-red pedestal.  It must be a large dog, I realize.

I follow again, and it runs toward Highway 160.  I circle around and get between it and the highway.  It circles back toward the vending tables.  

As I follow it back toward the tables and get closer, I realize I could make a lasso out of Stormy's leash and maybe slip it around the dog's neck.

I take out some treats, but the dog still runs from me.  I toss a few treats on the ground, and the other dog approaches to get them.  It's a little smaller and looks kind of like a boxer.  They're both females and reddish brown.

Then the bigger dog comes close enough to get treats on the ground.  Soon the smaller dog is eating out of my hand, and then the big dog gets close enough for me to slip the looped leash over her head.

I try to lure her back to the car with more treats, but she puts on the brakes.  She's strong, and she's not going anywhere.

"Do you need some help?" a young Navajo man asks me.  As I let Stormy out of the car, he wrestles the big dog in and shuts the door.  "People sometimes pick up these dogs and take them to a shelter," he explains. 

I'm amazed that this strange dog is actually in my car, but then I realize that Stormy is running around without a leash.

I open the driver door a crack and squeeze myself in without letting the new dog out.  

"Stormy, come!" I call, but she stands warily at a distance and doesn't come.  Meanwhile, the new dog is trying to get out behind my back and the other abandoned dog is trying to squeeze in and get some treats. 

I close the door, take the leash off the captured dog, and edge out of the cracked door to get Stormy.  She takes off across the desert toward Moenave.  My Canine Good Citizen does not respond to "Come!" or even "Here!"  I run after her.  

After a few desperate moments ("What will John say if I lose her in the desert?"), I catch her and get her on the leash.  

I squeeze into the car and try to pull her in over my lap without letting the other dog out.  With a big heave, she slides over the steering wheel and lands on her back on the floor of the passenger side.  The new dog is pushing toward the cracked door as I pull it shut.

I sit there for a few moments, dumbfounded.  I actually have this dog in the car.  It's still raining.  I'm covered with red mud, and so are the seats.

I try to push the captured dog out from behind my back onto the seat beside me, which I have cleared.  The rest of the car is crammed with stuff I am carrying back from Colorado: books, a suitcase, ice chest, etc.

The dog won't budge.  It's 3 pm, and I need to be in a classroom tomorrow at 9:30 am in Northridge, California.  
Desert dog is behind me, refusing to move to passenger seat.

I manage to get my seat belt on and start to drive, wedged against the steering wheel with this dog in the seat behind me.  It's still raining.

An hour later, as I feel dog's warm body still pressed against my back, its head buried behind my waist, it occurs to me that maybe it won't move because it wants to be close to another living creature.  Maybe it's scared and lonely.

I try to pet its back and haunch, but there's nothing to pet.  I'm just running my hand over the knobs of its backbone and the scalpel of its hip.  

By 5 pm I'm in Flagstaff and wondering where the animal shelter is.  How much time would it take to find the place and check this dog in?  I'm still 8 hours from Los Angeles.  I decide just to keep driving and figure it all out tomorrow.

On Hwy. 89 in Flagstaff, I call John and tell him, "I have a surprise for you."  I don't tell him what it is.

As I'm on the phone, the dog rearranges itself behind me.  Now it's sitting on the gearshift area of the car.  

I see that its rear end is bloody.  Maybe the dog's in heat or has just had pups. 

An hour later I'm able to shove it all the way onto the seat beside me, where it sleeps all the way to Los Angeles.

Stormy huddles on the floor, her back to us both, not too happy with this turn of events.

Photos taken at Dinosaur Tracks, near Moenave, where I found the dog:

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