Sunday, June 6, 2010
Ayla...Who Could Very Well Be a Cave Bear
I think about death all the time, not because I am suicidal, but I'm am really scared of dying everyday. I remember John Muir admitting some kind of defeat while alone in nature, I don't know how the birds do it everyday. Wyoming is a very wild place indeed, and I even considered quitting my job because I didn't want to face the predators and lightning anymore. I left my campsite at Petrified Tree out by the cattle ranches on Crazy Woman Creek, and drove into Buffalo with a mission. I needed a dog. I don't really talk to God much these days, but I said a little prayer at breakfast over my subway egg biscuit, extra bacon. "Hey God, could you find me a dog today...and can you keep the grizzly bears away from me? Thanks. Oh P.S. I've never wanted to see a mountain lion either." I've seen pictures of mountain lions in the Bighorn Mountains, they are bigger than normal, people hunt them. Some wild Wyoming men hunt them with their bare hands even.
I dropped by the Occidental Hotel to ask if someone had an extra dog. The Alan Jackson lookalike, was there. He once told me over a beer in the bar that he doesn't camp anymore, although he use to most the time, because of the bears in Wyoming. He's met too many of them. He understood my need for a dog, being lonely and scared of my own job, and went to talk to the bar tender about it. She loves dogs, and happened to have three of them in the back of the hotel in her red pickup truck. She said I could have an old black lab. I went out to pet this dog and talk to her, but she wasn't too responsive to me as she just tried to sleep on the spare tire in the truck bed. A huge fur-ball of a dog kept jumping in front of her, stealing all her attention from me. I went back in the bar, to ask just how old the lab was, and if she would be able to keep up with me. I explained that I was a bird biologist, camping every night across the state of Wyoming, and that after my job I was going to move onto a ranch in Canada, and the dog would have to live outside. The bartender said that the lab's fur was too short to live outside in Canada and offered me Ayla instead who must be some kind of huskie/German shepard/grizzly bear mix.
I went back outside to take Ayla, the huge diva, for a walk on a very big piece of rope. She was all too excited to be allowed off the back of the truck without the other two dogs. We walked around the nice city park along a clear cold creek and came back to the old bar. With some tears from the bartender over a goodbye, Ayla was mine. I couldn't believe how generous she was just to hand a stranger her dog! She had found Ayla lost in a snow storm in Casper, Wyoming a couple of years ago and brought her home. She trains dogs and horses, and I have never seen such a well behaved dog, I'm so grateful for that. Finding Ayla was so easy, it has to be destiny.
I had to shuffle around the crap in my car again, half of it wasn't suppose to come with me, but life changes. Pots, pans, a fancy dress, art supplies, and books get on my nerves everyday. It would be worth the cost to just mail it to Cananda, I'd have more space, and would not look so homeless to everybody. I made Ayla a space in the front passenger seat, but she was so big that her paws kept slipping off the seat while she was just sitting. I put one of my pillows on top of my work bag and put a towel over the whole seat so she could be comfortable. She even managed to lay down, although really scrunched up, with my pillow there. She smiled at me at thank you. I had to drive all the way to Sheridan to go to a Walmart to buy her some stuff like a brush, dog food, leash, and dish. She was already becoming expensive.
Our first stop was at a city park in Sheridan and I brushed such a huge mountain of fur off her, I could have knitted a scarf out of it. She loved being brushed, and her fur glistened in the sunshine afterward. We headed on up to the Bighorn Mountains to do a point near Sheridan off Hwy 14 near the Tounge River again. She was so happy and excited about the trip, I snapped a picture of her as my co-pilot...in my car and now my life. I haven't had a dog or cat since I was a child. I traveled too much for all my jobs to have a pet, but now, I'm feeling more stable with my life. I feel like I can take care of a dog now.
We camped for the night by a lake in a lodgepole pine forest high in the mountains, she got out of the car and it was the first time she wasn't hot with all that fur. I loved how excited she got about every new smell and noise. I didn't like the red mud covering her belly and paws after a hike to the lake. I tied her to a pole to dry off while I spent a couple of hours making a fire to cook my pathetic pan of ramon noodles. Hey! They were warm at least, and not crunchy. Supper tastes so much better after all that effort too, no matter how bad it is.
I showed her the tent when she was dry, her eyes got big and she went right for the mess of blankets, pillows and sleeping bag on my side of the tent. I yelled at her as she was scrunching up my down comforter into the right spot and she just looked at me and plopped her big furry butt down on top of my bed and stretched out. Then she laid her head on my pillows! I gave up and let her stay. I zipped up the tent and went out on a hike to find my bird point for the morning, I looked behind me and she was staring out at me from the tent mesh. I went through a forest, crossed a raging stream formed from melted snow, and then I saw a wild animal on the other side. Was it a wolf? At first my heart panicked a bit until I saw that it was a dog, although very wolf like. There are no wolves in the Bighorns after all. Then I realized it was my dog! "Ayla" I shouted and she sprang into action, running toward me. I was glad I left her leash on when I put her in the tent. She came with me, I forgot to tell her to stay. I hoped she just unzipped my tent and didn't tear it to shreds.
At night, I had to fight her a while for my bed, pushing her onto the Therm-a-Rest and towel on her side. Her wet paws, from our late hike, jabbed my side in defiance as she stretched her legs out as far as they could reach into my back. She stretched her neck over and placed her head on my pillow, and I pushed it off. She finally fell into a sleep, paws still extended, while I wrote a poem using a book on how to write poetry as a guide. I might have cuddled her if she wasn't such a muddy mess, it was cold up in the mountains. I looked at the grizzly bear in my tent, and was grateful that God helped me find her.