The Death of a Legend: A Tale of Two Dogs
You would have never expected such an unlikely pair. One black dachshund, one orange chow mix. Pals since I can remember. The first time I saw this duo, I was driving through the local Indian reservation on my way to a drugstore. They were around 50 feet in front of my truck, the dachshund chasing the chow. I had to laugh at the sight and slowed to watch their antics. The wiener dog's legs worked tirelessly to keep up; it seemed the chow slowed deliberately so his friend could keep stride. They roamed freely and as an animal lover, I saw this as a beautiful and stirring example of friendships that can occur between creatures.
As I drove by, I began to consider the lives of these "Rez Dogs," for I had encountered many such animals as a census worker in April of 2009. We census enumerators had endured a God awful, exhausting week of training, and an entire day was spent on the topic of these creatures. We were instructed to consider the animals extremely dangerous, particularly when in packs. Eye contact was the most threatening behavior to engage in, for the dogs had been known to attack when 'watched' in this way. We were given reams upon reams of forms to complete if we were bitten. Then we were sent on our way.
I began my reservation assignment with deep misgivings; the instructors had successfully instilled an inordinate degree of paranoia in each and every one of us. I drove to each residence cautiously, watching for groupings of dogs, remaining in the truck until I determined it was safe. I admit that on occasion I did not leave my car and mapped the property from the safety of my vehicle. There were some close calls, but only once did I have trouble with a dog.
Near the end of my work on the reservation, I checked my hand-held computer for the right address, opened the truck door, and stepped out. No dogs were in sight. Except for the one nipping at my heels. Actually, at my socks. The vermin in question was a tiny black dachshund, and he was all that, indeed. At least he thought he was, and he was valiantly doing his job to protect his property. I had to admire his efforts. Laughing, amused and unhurt, I finished my job.
The Lay of the Land...and the Highways
In the year since my encounter with the brave little soul, I have seen the pair numerous times. Of course I am assuming the dauchsie is the same one-in all my years in Bishop, I have never seen another one loose. Not a half of a mile from my home is Highway 168 that travels East to West-into the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. On the other side of the Highway is the reservation. The chow and dauchsie worried me, and I am sure other drivers, since they often ran across this road, oblivious to the danger. Usually traffic stopped to allow their passage. Drivers familiar with the area know that even occasional livestock saunter by, not an unusual sight.
The Final Chapter
Just yesterday, the legend came to an end on that Highway. Just beginning my morning errands, I drove slowly only to see the poor dachshund, hit by a car on the side of the road. His friend was tending to his small body, no doubt wishing to resume their play. I picked up his little body, put him in my truck and went to a veterinarian not 1/4 of a mile from the accident. I could not catch the chow. I watched, cringing, as he ran from me across the road. He made it.
Vets around here are far too familiar with animal deaths on roads, but they are extremely caring people. I must say I was fairly hysterical as I brought him in, and Dr. Kathryn held me after tending to the little dog. Her compassion will not be forgotten. In a town of 3,500 every sorrow is shared and understood. We are all, perhaps, too close to one another, but I needed that warmth because one of my personal legends had just died.