Once more, this is an absolutely 100% true story, though it sounds like something only found in story books. This is about my love for a strange dog I knew but once upon a time.
My Great Dane and I wandered through the desert one day when suddenly she paused in the middle of a jaunty stride. Her ears perked up and she stood at full alert, sniffing the air. Deep in her throat she let out a warning growl. I could read her growls very well. It wasn't a "look out, you're in danger" kind of growl, but more of a "caution, there's something over there and I cant figure it out yet" growl.
Two kids came running up from behind me carrying large rocks and clods of dirt. They hurled them through the air and I watched as the rock bounced harmlessly off of the ground and rolled under a sage brush. The dirt clod hit near the rock and exploded, showering everything within 10 feet with dirt. Something suddenly moved.
A large cloud white dog took off in the opposite direction. Due to a slope in the ground I hadn't been able to see it laying down. The fur made the dog looks massive, probably far more massive than it actually was. Lady took a step forward and I held fast to her leash. She was always very well trained, and when she felt the tense grip I had on her, she angled her body slightly to stand between me and the fleeing dog.
I was intrigued.
"How long has that dog been out here," I asked Matthew, who turned out to be the kid that threw the dirt clod.
"Oh I've been seeing him for weeks," Matthew explained bitterly. "He keeps coming up to the house and eating all the cat's food."
"Oh no! Is your cat ok?"
"Yeah, the stupid dog and cat sleep together now. Whiskers just sits there and LETS him eat all the food."
What could be so bad about a dog that didn't hate cats? This dog, living out in the wild, had broken the boundaries in the unwritten Animal Kingdom and bedded down with its ancient mortal enemy. Yet these kids threw rocks at him.
"Why did you chase him away then," I asked, puzzled.
"'Cause Mom says he's got diseases and he's wild. She said if he bites us he'll give us rabies."
Appalled at the way the creature had been treated, I decided then and there to do something about it. That very second I turned around and marched straight back home with Lady. I put her back in the patio and grabbed a hand full of dog food. Then I marched straight back out to where I had seen the large white hair ball and let the food trickle slowly through my fingers onto the ground there. I made sure to touch as much of it as I could, leaving my scent on the pieces of food.
I waited for hours, sitting at least 75 yards from the spot I had last seen the mystery dog, but it didn't return.
The next day I went back to the same spot and the food was gone. Matthew reported that the dog had come to the house and curled up with Whiskers again, but the cat food wasn't gone like it usually was. I didn't tell him what I had done. I went home, grabbed another hand full of food and went back. I did the same thing again, touching each piece as much as possible as it slipped through my fingers, and then waited about 75 yards away.
I was about to give up when I saw the white head pop up over a hill in the distance. He sniffed the air and began to wander closer. Slowly he inched his way along the hills. Suddenly he froze. His ears perked up and he sniffed in my direction. The food was between us, though. The food was enough to keep the snow white dog moving. As he got closer, he became obviously more afraid. About 10 yards from the food, he got down on his belly and crawled to the food, ready to bolt like lightening if needed.
I had my legs crossed and one slipped. My foot hit the dirt and the dog was gone before I saw which direction it ran off in. I knew he wouldn't be coming back that night, so finally I went home.
The third day I got more dog food and walked back to the same place. Off in the distance I saw the snow white animal watching me. I put the food on the ground and went back to my usual spot. Slowly, ever slowly, at a snails pace the dog approached the food. He ate every bite with me sitting there, his watchful eye never leaving me for a second. When the food was gone, he ran away.
I got into a stick sword fight the next day and was grounded for punching Matthew in the face, so I couldn't feed the mystery dog that night. The following night when I went back with the food, there stood the snow white dog sniffing the ground as though expecting me at any moment. He backed off about 50 yards when he saw me approaching and stood there in wait. I put the food on the ground and walked away, not as far as usual. Slowly, with that ever watchful eye, the dog made his way back over to the food.
His brilliant, blazing blue eyes pierced right through me as he ate. He looked like one of the dogs from the movie White Fang, like a snow dog. Other than his blue eyes, he would have been lost in a snow bank though. I smiled to myself. He was so snowy white.
This time when the snowy dog finished eating he headed towards Matthews house instead of back out into the desert. As he approached, I saw a sight I've never again seen. A small black cat began jogging out into the desert to meet the snow dog half way. The two then walked side by side to Matthews back yard where they curled up behind the wood shed for the night.
I continued this pattern every day, gaining more and more trust from the dog as I went. Finally I was able to pet Snowy while he ate, but never for long. Eventually, after months of working with him, he would curl up with his one butt cheek on my leg like he was trying to sit on my lap, or he would lay next to me and put the top portion of his body over my legs. He got used to smelling my Great Dane on me, and she got used to his scent too. Eventually I began taking her out to play with this Snowy dog, not realizing how dangerous that could be if he didn't have all of his shots.
Snowy and I grew close. We bonded over that time until finally he would let me inspect his body beneath his fur. His skin was riddled with scars, some deep and red still, others healed over with severe puckers and folds. A portion of his nose had been ripped clean off, one of his ears had been pierced multiple times, and two toes on his back right foot were missing. One long scar looked like someone had split his scull open with a baseball bat. The dog had obviously been abused.
I would spend hours out in the desert with Snowy. He would be every bit as protective of me as Lady was. He warned me of danger, chased off the rattle snakes and trusted me with his life. I repaid him by not being around the day the Dog Catcher set out traps specifically to catch Snowy.
When I heard him cry out, there was no doubt in my mind what voice it came from. I ran in the direction I heard it coming from and found a large dog trap on a hill behind my house. Poor Snowy had been caught, snared when he went inside to collect a steak bone someone had left within it. It took me 20 minutes, but I finally got it open. Snowy took off into the desert and I didn't see him for another week. When I did finally see him again, I thought it would be the last time ever.
I heard that familiar cry, that anguished scream. I knew where he was and I knew exactly what had happened. My brilliant Snowy had another lapse in judgment and was caught inside another cage. I ran up the hill as fast as my legs could carry me - but stopped short. There was a man from Animal Control, collecting the cage. Snowy was growling horrendously through the bars with his ears flat back against his head, threatening to bite the mans head off if he came any nearer. As soon as Snowy saw me, his ears relaxed and his lip uncurled a bit. The Animal Control guy took a step back and looked at me.
"This your dog, Kid?" I couldn't lie.
"No, but I take care of him."
"This dog's been living out in the desert for 3 years, wild as anything. How is it you say you take care of him?"
"Sir, I've been with Snowy for the past 8 months now." I had brought Snowy a blanket in the winter. I had Rachel and Rona help dig a hole in the desert for him to hide from the wind in the fall. In the spring I built a shelter so he could escape the rains. "He's as much my dog as the ones my parents know about."
"Your parents don't know about this dog?"
"No, they'd never let me keep him."
"Absolutely not! He's a wild beast! See?" He reached toward the cage and Snowy lunged with an open mouth and deep growling bark that echoed off of the hills and houses. His teeth made contact with the cage. Simultaneously, one of Snowy's teeth went flying through the air, the Animal Control guy fell on his butt and the cage door strained, on the verge of popping open. Had he gotten free, I had no doubt Snowy would have done whatever he could to kill the man.
"You're scaring him!" I shrieked at the man.
"Kid, I don't think you know what you're talking about. He's wild! Nobody on this planet could get near him!"
"You're wrong! I can," I said defiantly. I walked straight up to the cage. Snowy's mouth was bleeding from where the tooth had dislodged. With an open mouth the Animal Control man watched me reach my hand into the cage, lift Snowy's now relaxed lip and inspect his gums. "You'll be fine, Snowy. I promise, you'll be ok." Slack jawed, the Animal Control man stared at me a long time.
"You say his name is Snowy," he asked.
"Yeah, and if you're nice to him, he'll be nice to you. He's been hurt before and he doesn't trust people now. He thinks that if you're afraid of him, there is a reason you are, like you're going to do something bad to him. Come over a minute, let Snowy smell your hand." It seemed like such a simple, innocent thing to do now that I look back on it. I had assumed at 10 years old that the Animal Control guy didn't know that he was supposed to let a dog smell his hand. Snowy began to flatten his ears and I spoke softly.
"It's ok Boy, he's not gonna hurt you. I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere." Snowy sniffed through the bars, glanced up at me with his dazzling blue eyes, and licked the strangers hand once.
I said goodbye to Snowy. There was nothing I could do to help him. I prayed he would be good and get adopted from the pound, but I knew that he really was a wild animal. He didn't trust humans anymore. He had good reasons left as permanent marks all over his body. Who would want a dog that was all scared up and didn't trust people - other than me? Snowy would have to be put down.
I bid Snowy a long farewell, wishing like mad I could wrap my arms around his neck just one more time. My eyes welled with tears as the Animal Control vehicle drove away. By the time he was out of sight, I couldn't contain it anymore. I wept.
I would walk through the desert on occasion after that and just think about Snowy for a while. I could almost hear his bark off in the distance, or see his white furry head pop up over the distant hill. I missed that dog, even while walking my own. Whiskers would often wander out into the desert looking for Snowy too. Not long after he disappeared, Whiskers died. They couldn't figure out why or what had happened. I knew what it was, Whiskers died of a broken heart.
I was just coming to the spot I had first seen Snowy a full two years before and thinking about how long it had taken for me to gain his trust when I heard a far off noise. A familiar "Yip! Howl!" sent my back into shivers down my spine. I spun on my heels and squinted. I couldn't see anything at all.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere bounded that familiar white face, leaping with joy and excitement. He was dragging a leash behind him as he flew across the ground, barely touching the dirt as he went. He ran straight to me, jumped from a good 6 feet away and landed right in the middle of my chest. I was instantly knocked back about 3 feet, where I landed safely on my butt, 2 inches from a cactus.
"Snowy!" I cried out. I hugged him hard, holding him as tightly as I could. He licked my face and hands, pushing me down into the dirt and laying on top of me. In the middle of the tongue bath, he froze. His head turned, and I saw what it was he had been running from. A young man and woman were jogging through the desert, searching for their dog - their dog named Jack. They called out the name over and over.
The tag on Snowy's brand new leather collar caught the light just then and I saw the name on it; Jack.
I sat up and took Snowy's leash. He followed like a well trained guard dog, pacing my every step, nearly prancing with excitement.
"Is Snowy your dog now," I asked.
"Jack is ours, yes. He seems to be so well behaved with you," the man explained. "Is he your dog?"
"No, but at one time I was his person."
"Well it looks to me like you still are," he said.
"I took care of Snowy for a while abut a year ago. I didn't think I would ever see him again."
"We adopted Jack from the pound about a year ago, I think. He had scars all over his body and was missing a tooth and some toes."
"Yeah, two toes on the back foot," I said, absentmindedly. I was on my knees petting Snowy. I really thought I'd never see him again.
"Well we have to get him home," the stranger said. Snowy was obviously not afraid of the man, as he reached down to take the leash from my hand. I scratched Snowy another moment or two before kissing him on the nose and saying goodbye properly.
As the family walked away, the stranger turned and asked me something I never expected.
"What did you say his name was?"
"Snowy. I called him Snowy."
"Well, I think Snowy liked seeing you today."