Four years ago today, I took a road trip to Monument Valley, near the Arizona – Utah border, and came home with a puppy. Keeping a skinny, filthy, half-wild mutt I found wandering in the desert could have been a complete disaster, but it was meant to be, and we both knew it at first sight.
On January 14th, 2009, after a long drive from New Mexico, I pulled off the highway onto a random dirt road, parked, and set off across the open desert with my dog Bowie to hike around a distant, unnamed butte.
Rounding the far side, I saw movement under a sage. Crouched in a sliver of shade was a dog, wagging his tail. Something about him made my heart skip a beat. I held onto Bowie, in case the stray was hurt or sick, and talked sweetly to the dog, who cautiously emerged. Then I saw: He was in terrible shape, but filth and ribs aside, he was the spitting image of Bowie.
He was young, six months at the most. I could see the bony points of his hips and the line of his backbone through the matts tangled in his all-black coat. No collar. Clods of dirt were matted between his toes. I coaxed him, but he wouldn’t come closer so I poured some water in a dish and stepped back. He shot forward, desperate for a drink.
Monument Valley was an improbable place to find a dog. We were surrounded by nothing but desert. The only manmade things in sight were a barbed wire fence and my car glinting in the distance, parked on the side of a rarely traveled dirt road. No water, no shade, no people, no houses. Nothing.
I didn’t have any dog food with me. There was nothing else I could do out there for him, but walk and hope he followed. He looked like hell, but I was relieved to see he still had enough energy to be rambunctious. Over the next hour, the three of us circled that nameless, stunning butte, with Bowie and the puppy playing together like long-lost brothers. It was the youngest Bowie, then six, had acted in years.
The puppy was curious about me, but wary, and he was downright afraid of my camera. Every time I pointed it at him, he shied away and so I put it in my backpack and showed him my empty hands. Eventually, the puppy would follow Bowie within a few feet of me, but he always remained just beyond my outstretched hand, his tail wagging and eyes bright, wanting to be friends, but unsure.
Between he and Bowie, it was true love. I’ve never seen two dogs so happy to have made a friend. The two of them romped the whole way back to the car. When we got to the road, I put Bowie in the car and gave the stray more water and a small handful of dog food, not wanting to upset his neglected stomach.
I watched him eat, surprisingly daintily, for a starving dog. Where had he come from? How long had he been out here? Most importantly: What should I do with him? When he finished eating I opened the car door again, and he made the decision for me, jumping in next to Bowie, who outright grinned: Can we keep him?!
Living on the road, housesitting different places every few months, having a second dog – a wild one no less – was totally impractical. But this bedraggled, sweet-eyed creature had crossed my path and chosen to follow me. I wanted to trust him the way he was willing to trust me. I sat in the car for 15 minutes, coming to terms with what I already knew: this dog was mine, then I abandoned my plans to camp out that night, pulled a U-turn and drove straight back to New Mexico with that stinky, wild dog curled up in the backseat.
He slept the entire trip, only occasionally sitting up to look out the window, a road trip natural. I was afraid to let him out of the car. If he ran off it would break my heart and I didn’t want to scare him with a leash. Somewhere along the way, I named him D.O.G.
We got back to the Earthship well after dark and I opened the car door and let him loose. The other two dogs at my place pounced on him, but he sorted himself out like a good-natured dog and soon everybody was running around the driveway together. I took all four on a get-acquainted hike down my long dirt road. The moon was new and the stars were epic; I couldn’t see all black Dio in the dark, but I was no longer worried about him running away. He had found friends and I knew he’d follow us forever.
It took another day for Dio to let me touch him and a month before he’d roll over for a belly rub. He was especially afraid of men and it was a year until he would willingly go up to strangers. Gradually, he got over his fears of brooms and sticks, running water, bridges and quick movements, though he’s still wary of children and terrified of gun fire.
Four years later, you’d never know Dio had a rough start. He’s sleek and handsome, obedient, unflinchingly friendly and more worldly than most people. By last count, Dio has been hiking with me in 44 states. (He’s missing Hawaii, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Georgia, and Florida. Bowie has been to 49; he’s only missing Hawaii.) Not bad for a wild dog! He and Bowie are inseparable and people regularly ask me if they’re related. Now ten years old, Bowie has no grey and no arthritis and still hikes many long miles with me. Dio is keeping both of us young!
When people hear Dio’s story, they usually say he’s a lucky dog, but luck implies chance and I know I was meant to find Dio. Across all the Southwest’s open, rugged space, I pulled my car over at that nondescript spot, went for a trail-less hike to a nameless butte in the middle of nowhere and found a perfect dog. That’s not luck, that’s love.
Check out Travels with Bowie & D.O.G. under Archives A to Z for lots of photos from our travels all over North America. These dogs have seen more of the world than most people.
what a beautiful story. thank you.
Great story. Best way to get a dog !! Find one who needs you.
Love this story. It was so meant to be. There are so many instances of animals adopting humans in the most unlikely places. I wonder what draws us there? Their need?
Some call it fate or destiny. I believe you were meant to be together and the extraordinary way you found each other is a wonderful story. The kind of story we are all blessed to have heard.
My favorite story!! I have two dogs myself that I’ve taken on quite a few adventures, they love the mountains as much as I do.
I love all your stories Mary, but this one is my favourite. You and your dogs are such good friends and I think everyone seems to love them almost as much as yourself Bowie certainly took to D.O.G they look so happy wherever they go that is, as long as they are with you. Thanks for sharing your life with us.
Thanks for reading, Rita! 🙂
Wonderful story! Your dogs look so beautiful and well-cared for.
Thanks, Carol! 🙂
Love this! What a great story. He sounds like a terrific dog–glad you found each other!
I am so happy to read this and believe you were intended to find that dog and he to find you. No question there are many dogs out in those desolate places of New Mexico. Sounds like he was on the downhill slide when you found him. Funny to see his photo on Pemaquid Point – I spent many days on those same rocks.
You are both so lucky. He is an awesome dog and you are an awesome owner. He looks a lot like my Violet (also was a stray), only bigger. Love your blog!
Thanks, Brian! I do my best. Lucky for all of us, what’s good for them is usually good for me too. 🙂
what a great story.Two very handsome boys.:-D
Haha yeah, they know it too! Coupla hams.
I’ve never wanted to visit the US so much until I started reading your blog!
Thanks, Mavis! That’s a lovely compliment. The US is an incredible place! Definitely put it on your list! I’ve never been to southeast Asia. Someday… 🙂
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Sweet, beautiful puppy!!!!!! Isn’t amazing when you find the most amazing friend!!!!??? I love this story! I’m so happy you found each other!!!!
D.O.G you crazy dog. He is so aware. Miss you three.
I know it’s been said many times before, but this truly is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. You’re so lucky to have two such loves in your life. Wishing you three very safe travels during your adventures together!
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Thanks for saving him and letting him feel love HUGS I know it is hard to feed and care for animals but in the end we are so much better off for all we do for them. Missed your stories.
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Best dog story I’ve read in a while. I am so glad that yo found D.O.G. wonderful- wonderful. This kind of story makes one wonder if is chance or destiny or love as yu have written. Who knows? Maybe he is a dog angel that put you to the test.
Thanks, Yvonne! Yes, I do feel like Dio was a test, for sure. Keeping him meant committing to a wild life, right when Bowie and I were both starting to get a little lazy. We’ve been on an extraordinary journey together ever since. I’m lucky he found me. 🙂
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