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A Dog Named Blessing

August 7, 2014

My van at the Chicken Creek camp

Many local people walk their dogs in the campground where I'm staying. On the map this area is called a "cross-country ski area," and there are paths all through here... with camping areas off to the sides of the dirt lane that winds around the mountain to the other side and to the other access road.

A trailhead gravel parking lot is located just inside the San Juan National Forest boundary. (I parked there overnight my first night in this area until I got a bit more familiar with the activity here.) I discovered that it is a well-used area where people bring their dogs to let them run freely.

I found a decent place to camp and it became a regular thing for the dogs to run around my van and to even poke their noses inside my sliding door if it happened to be open. I'd take it with a grain of salt and say a cordial "oh, hello!" and they'd run back to their owners. You can tell that the dogs really enjoy the forest and the streams, and seeing other dogs and animals.

A few days ago, a large white dog ambled around the open door of my van just as I was stepping outside. She ran off as if I had threatened her. I looked to her owner and said, "I didn't mean to frighten your dog." She said something friendly back... ? The woman was skimming water into a pail from a puddle near the stream. We started talking.

She had just found out that there was a fire ban and so was having to put out her camp fire. I offered her some of my water. I asked her if she'd heard of any bears in the area. She said if she saw one I would know because she'd be banging very loudly on her pans. I mentioned that I'd just had a sleepless night worrying about bears after reading a blog where a bear had rocked the trailer during the night. I knew bears liked sweets and I had a package of cookies that even - I - could smell through three plastic garbage bags.

She was camping in a tent, and I think my talking about bears -- combined with the fact that she really wanted a camp fire... "there's no point in camping if you don't have a campfire" -- ruined her camping. About an hour later she had packed up and driven out of the campground.

She appeared a couple of days later, walking her dog... Blessing. When I saw her, I apologized if I had spooked her with my stories about bears. We started talking. I was sitting in the van on my cot talking to her through the open sliding door. Every time I reached for something in the van... Blessing would spook... shying back suddenly and taking a defensive posture as if preparing to be hit... or to have something thrown at her.

When Mary, her owner, tried to pull her back from the door a little more, Blessing turned and snapped her on the neck. Mary explained that she'd only had the dog for a month... that Blessing was 9 months old... that she'd been transferred from the Farmington rescue shelter to the Durango animal shelter. Blessing is a "black-nosed Curr" dog.

Mary and her dog Blessing

I said, "She looks like she's really been abused. You know you can never hit her, now." And I bent down and opened my hand so Blessing could see that I had no stick... nothing in my hand... no tricks. Blessing sniffed my hand and lay down on her side as if to submit to my petting her. But... I didn't. I think she needed affection terribly, but was just so frightened of betrayal and further abuse.

I just talked very gently to Blessing... saying things like "Poor girl, she's so confused -- so confused." And I made noises like cooing and compassion towards her as I bent down looking at her.

Later that day, Mary and Blessing came into the library where I was doing computer work. (People take their dogs everywhere around here.) They came over to say "hi." Blessing walked right up to me and put her head on my lap, and I ran my hand over her ear and gave her a sure hug.

Blessing then lay down on the library floor and looked up at me with eyes so wide... so wide... as if... as a warning of some kind. But it was not a vicious look. It seemed to me that she was showing that she'd braved everything to trust me -- and I should not now betray her trust.

What a great dog Blessing is.

August 7, Nunya

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