The Starry Night Was My Blanket

My path here was roundabout, here being a place with space to roam and explore within a context of belonging.  Here I’ve come to know something I’d not known before: trust.  Sometimes it feels foreign, and I retreat back to my native high alertness.

I had lived on a ranch where I had a job to do: tending the livestock.  I took my job seriously and performed it with singular focus, but the time came when the cattle were moved and the people left.  I ran after their truck, sure there had been some mistake, until I could run no longer.  I returned to the empty place; knowing no other place else since puppyhood, I stayed.

There was a trickle of water at the edge of the property from which I drank.  I passed my days foraging for food.  The starry night was my blanket, the warm sun my companion, the rain my welcome, thirst-quenching friend.  And so I passed my time.

One day I saw a car coming from a distance, a cloud of dust trailing behind it.  People I didn’t know emerged from the car.  It was the woman who saw me first, pointing me out to the others then calling to me.  I approached her cautiously.

She stooped down, holding her hand out to me.  I looked into her eyes then walked to her.  She touched my forehead, my ears, my neck and spoke to me quietly.  I didn’t understand her words, but I understood her.  She placed her hand on my spiny back, each finger resting in an indent between my ribs.

They took me to their house.  I hung behind as we walked in, as I’d never before been inside a house.  A cat at the far side of the room arched his back and widened his eyes.  I looked toward the woman for reassurance, who nodded.  I moved slowly toward the cat, my head hung low to show respect.  I reached my neck forward and touched his nose with my nose.  The cat sat down and began bathing his paw.  I went back and stood beside the woman, glancing up to her to make sure I’d done the right thing.  She placed her hand gently on my head.  I closed my eyes.

These days, there is a cedar-smelling bed near the woodstove and bowls of fresh food and water for me, always.  Sometimes I walk to the far edge of the property and sit on the bluff.  From there I gaze out toward the place I used to live and back toward the place I now call home.  I almost always lay my head on my paws and, under the big sky, doze.  Later, I rise, shake myself off, and follow the familiar path home.  There, I am greeted with love, always.

•photo by untoldanimalstories.org co-founder Cherie Damron, http://cdamron.exposuremanager.com/

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