Friday, June 20, 2014

Starry Night

It's midnight as we reach the turn off for Dinosaur Tracks.

I'm sorry to arrive here so late--I'd been hoping to be here in late afternoon and to talk with the people who recognized Na'ilah as the stray they'd seen last August.

Nevertheless, I do want to stop.  Where better to see the stars than this deserted spot far from any lights?

I let the dogs out of the car on leashes and turn off my flashlight.  

The Milky Way jumps out at me, streaking across the sky south to north from Scorpio to Cassiopeia's Chair.  

Na'ilah pulls me forward toward the empty shelters where the Navajos sell jewelry and other handicrafts.  She sniffs eagerly.

I stumble in the dark on the bare rock rutted with dinosaur tracks and pull her back: "No, Na'ilah!  Stay!"

We pause, absorbing the silence and sheer beauty of the skies.  

When I open the back of the car again, Stormy runs to jump in.  She doesn't see why we had to stop in this dark and lonely place.

Na'ilah, however, won't jump in.  She keeps pulling at the leash and staring off into the distance.  

She has assumed her vigil pose: sniffing, looking, listening for prey or danger.

Usually she jumps into the car obediently as soon as I say, "Let's go!"  She knows a treat will follow.

But now she won't jump in.  She has spent a week or more here alone at night.  It's familiar to her--a place of freedom and excitement.  Maybe she's forgotten about the empty stomach that was also a part of this experience.

Repeatedly I tell her "Come, Na'ilah!  Let's go!"  

Finally she leaps in and we get back on Hwy. 160, soon to reach Hwy. 89 and drive south toward Flagstaff.

Na'ilah Sees Her Cousin

We're driving back to Los Angeles after three weeks in Colorado.

After leaving the gas station at Towaoc on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, we drive almost four hours straight and stop in Tuba City for dinner--Stormy and Na'ilah's dinner, that is.  I'm snacking on banana nut bread and peanuts.

At the gas station, there's a skinny stray dog whose color is exactly the reddish brown of Na'ilah.

When I open the can of dog food, add some kibble, and serve it up to Stormy and Na'ilah, the stray comes running up.

Na'ilah starts a ferocious barking I've never heard before from her.  She's usually a very quiet dog--the only time this summer I heard a woof out of her was when she saw a porcupine scramble up a tree.

As the stray retreats, I try to calm Na'ilah down.  Clearly she's experienced at defending food from other dogs, perhaps even specifically at gas stations.

After she's done eating, I fill up her dish with the remaining half can of dog food and some more kibble.  I carry it out of sight of my dogs and serve it up to this waif.

Afterward as I'm reloading things at the back of my car, the dog comes back and Na'ilah sniffs her with interest, wagging her tail.  

This dog looks so much like Na'ilah, and we're near the place where I picked her up last August.

They're both bay color with a white bib.  This dog is smaller and has the white feet of a boxer, but her head is more like a pit bull.

Are they cousins?  Second cousins?  Except for the square face of a pit bull, she looks like the other dog that was with Na'ilah last August.  Does Na'ilah recognize her?

This dog is not completely skin and bones the way Na'ilah was when I found her.  In fact, she seems to be making a pretty good living.  She leaves us and approaches another driver, who is giving her something like a chunk of bread or maybe half a hamburger.

(I confess, the thought crossed my mind: should I take this dog home?  But she's in town and may have an owner.)

As I start to drive off, a Navajo man approaches my car window and asks for money.  Yes, he's mumbling and has alcohol on his breath; it's been a few years since I was panhandled by a guy like this on the rez.  

I take the coward's way out and hand him a bill.  Like the dog, he seems to be doing pretty well at this gas station.

Na'ilah, Stormy, and I drive on toward Dinosaur Tracks.