I remember when Mr. & Mrs. Two-Legs came for me, just as my Mama said they would.
“You must look hard, my children, and they will come. You’re own special humans. You’ll know it is them because they will love you like no other two-leggeds and will invite you to follow them to distant places.”
She was quiet for a moment and then said slowly, “You will know it is them because they will give you a name and they will treasure you as I do.”
Mama didn’t have a human name and I realized no one had come for her. Her coat was dull and dirty and when we drank from her belly, I could see the outlines of her bones. But we had fat stomachs, round with milk, and between licking us until we shone, she told the story of our birth and the great mystery that was our future.
As the days passed, Mama was slow to get up from her bed and left us for longer periods in search of food and water. She brought us lizards, and gifts from the two-leggeds.
“Alright, my children, you’re old enough for me to show you what’s beyond. The weather god shows no mercy as he crosses this land so brace yourself for the cold.”
She led us out from under the deck, and into the sunrise of a new day. The wind cut through my coat and when my eyes adjusted, large layered rocks of red, purple, and yellow came into focus. They rose from the surface of the desert as giants standing guard.
“They call this Monument Valley. Besides the hotel, the humans have not scarred the land. Your ancestors have a proud history and relationship with this sacred place. Your father, and his father before him, going back to the beginning of time, have worked alongside two-legs keeping the sheep safe.”
“But there are no more sheep to protect, so we must find another way.”
The lessons of survival began right away as Mama demonstrated how to get food.
We watched from behind a rock as a traveling machine made it’s way up to the hotel and a family of humans got out. Mama walked cautiously towards them, avoiding eye contact to show them she meant no harm. The biggest one yelled and threw a rock that bounced off her ribs. My heart raced and I wanted to run to her.
“Be careful, Mama!” I yelped.
Before leaving, the littlest one, with long fur pulled back like a tail on her head, dropped her sandwich on the ground and glanced over with a smile.
And so, we learned to beg.
One by one, my brothers and sisters disappeared. Mama said it was the way. I asked if they had found their special humans. The ones that would love them like no other.
“Some have,” she said quietly, “and they are on great adventures in distant lands.”
“Others have become one with the dirt we walk on, and are resting under the sun. Their bodies feed the lizards, in the great circle of giving, and they blow in the dust to watch us from above. I will do the same soon, my son.”
And then I was alone.
I tried to remember what Mama had taught me. The seasons changed, as she said they would, and the earth burned the pads of my paws while I searched for water. During the day, I worked the parking lot showing the humans how well I could sit and wag my tail. If they let me, I would jump up on two-legs just like them, hugging their middle and burying my head into their belly.
But, as they came and went, I also learned to be careful when taking the food they offered. I could sense the fear in some, and the meanness in others who used tricks to hurt me. During the kind moments, I wondered, “Are you the one? Am I to go with you?”
I was never invited.
The weather god blew cold again, and I learned to sleep against large rocks because they gave back the heat they had silently gathered during the day.
I heard the humans talk of Thanksgiving and the smells from the hotel kitchen were especially rich. In the distance I saw a traveling machine pull in front of one of the new cabins. Mama wouldn’t have liked the rows of human dens that now perched on the cliff. She liked the land left unmarked. But I didn’t mind. It meant more chances for food.
As I approached, I sensed this human was kind. He had a big smile and accepted my hug with joy of his own. I waited as he raced into the cabin and brought out a female. I knew she was nervous so I showed how well I could sit. I listened as they talked about my appearance. My coat no longer shone, and my ribs protruded like Mama’s.
Then the food came. And water. Oh, so much water to help with the deep thirst. How did they know?
That night I chose a rock near their cabin and pushed myself against it. I would guard their den as a thank you. Sometime after dark, the two-leggeds invited me in. I shook with fear and didn’t follow. I wasn’t supposed to go inside, but they picked me up and carried me, talking softly and stroking my fur.
They named me “Yiska”, and explained that it meant “night has passed” in Navajo.
Before leaving I spoke to the earth, the rocks, and especially the heavens.
“I have a name, Mama. I’m going to have great adventures in far away lands and answer the mystery of my future. My special two-leggeds have come for me at last and I will be treasured.”
And the dust blew all around me.
Upon arriving at Monument Valley on Thanksgiving evening, we were greeted by a friendly stray dog. He was ravenous and very thirsty. We later asked the hotel staff and were told a litter matching his description was born under the hotel a year prior. We watched as this dog expertly worked the parking lot, and noticed no other strays. What became of the rest of his litter is a mystery. We spent several days thinking about what to name him and, based on his birthplace, a Navajo name seemed fitting. He was scared to enter our cabin and even more scared as we drove him away in our ‘traveling machine’. The vet told us he was, indeed, about one year old and although very thin, was in surprisingly good health.
He has been one of the greatest gifts ever bestowed on a two-legged and we have many adventures to share together.