Kelee has a sister dog now named Skye and, in such an interesting way, she saved his life at the same time he was saving hers. What I didn’t tell you about his surgery (see previous post A Three Legged Man of the West) was that, like me after hemorrhaging (see previous post My Re-Birthday), he wasn’t healing. And he was in a lot of pain.
Just as Utah did for me , I believe Kelee’s destroyed leg held too much pain memory for him (see previous post Of the Land). The surgery seemed to open all that old pain, taking him back to the trauma of the gunshot. I watched him suffer it all over again. He was in agony and afraid. He also seemed to be grieving the loss that shot represented. So his recovery was deep, slow and intense.
In the midst of it all he lost his heart. He’s a working dog and, after the amputation, he couldn’t work. There was no going out to pasture to move his herd. He couldn’t even walk with me anymore. I saw it happen, I saw him fading, but I didn’t know what to do.
In February, after a big snowstorm, a friend and I were driving into Truchas late one afternoon when I saw a puppy running at the side of the road. She took off down into the arroyo, into the deep snow and I knew she was in trouble. She ran from us and I know, now, the only reason we caught her was that she was starving and near dead. Hunkered in the roots of a tree, she snapped and hissed as I tried to reach her. She was a wild dog, completely feral. I wrapped her in a coat and took her home.
I made a place for her in the mudroom where she was isolated from us and the other animals. When I took the coat off my heart broke. I now know what the term “skin and bone” means because that’s all she was: Skin over top a skeleton. I didn’t think she’d live through the night, but she was safe and warm, and would soon have a full belly.
She did live, though, and taming her was a trial. The vet thought she’d been a bait dog—one used to teach fighting dogs how to kill. She was covered with puncture wounds and terrified. Whether or not she would ever come around to any kind of normal dog’s life remained to be seen, but was doubtful. And this is how she saved Kelee.
Kelee is an intensely smart dog. Part of what makes him an excellent herder is his ability to connect with and “feel” the other animal, and this is what he did when I introduced him to Skye. He knew instantly she was terrified of him, of me, and I watched him decide he was going to raise this dog. He took her under his wing and trained her—working with her little by little. And since I certainly couldn’t raise my voice to her with her history, he even housebroke her.
It was by saving her life that she saved his. She did it by giving him a job to do. Skye became his in-house project and I watched him come back to life. He greeted each day with enthusiasm, dropped the weight needed to get around better on three legs and dedicated himself to the task at hand. He was back.
Skye still has her issues but her tail, which I thought was permanently plastered under her butt, is in the air all the time now wagging faster than should be physically possible. She lets me pet her, she loves her toys and she adores Kelee. She trundles down the stairs every morning, full of life, which always makes me smile and never fails to warm my heart because she was once so close to death.
I think it deserves noting these two beings had no agenda. They didn’t care take, cajole or nag. They didn’t own or possess. They simply lived their truths and, by their paths crossing, each had a profound effect on the other. I think it is the perfect definition of love: The act of simply being and accepting the other without attachment to outcome.