Yiska – Night Has Passed

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.

Monument Valley, Arizona
Monument Valley

“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.

Yiska – One year later.  Night has  passed.



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.


35 thoughts on “Yiska – Night Has Passed

  1. Michael Hills

    Beautiful story Sara. I love your writings and the way you write. Are you going to write a book – if not you should do. Your humour, determination and positiveness would make an excellent read ❤


    1. I’m always happy when you’ve read one of my pieces. Thank you. Writing a book would be such an exciting experience. When I was young, I used to say it was on my bucket list but wondered what in the world to write about. I guess the years have provided me with some material now.


  2. Sara, Yiska, Sara, Yiska! What a beautiful beginning for your memoir! Love, Sam and PJ

    *Writing is the axe that cracks the frozen sea within us. **Franz Kafka *


    On Sat, Jun 11, 2016 at 11:01 AM, Sarandipity Travels wrote:

    > Sarandipity Travels posted: “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” >


  3. Linda Artley

    Your writings are so beautiful as is your relationship with Yiska. You are both beautiful inside and out. It was so wonderful to hear of Yiska’s beginning and how he came to join you in life and love. Fantastic writing. You really do need to write a book.


    1. Jeanne Glasgow

      Beautiful, moving story. I love dogs and see that you do, too. You are an excellent writer. I was glad to meet you in our Book Club and happy that you are now well and planning a trip in your RV. I’ll look forward to more of yor stories


  4. I’m sitting in the airport lounge in Chicago tears streaming down my face as I read this. So beautiful.

    I had a similar experience in that same area when helping with an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop led by Navajo photographer Leroy DeJolie. We couldn’t take the dog because we were in a bu, but he went back and got him later and found him a family.


    1. Uh oh, Chicago airport tears. Then again, I think a lot of tears get shed in airports so you probably don’t look too out of the ordinary. 🙂 I know you have such a love for animals. I remember watching your pet photography presentation in Phoenix a few years back. I’m glad to know that the dog you encountered was rescued. There are so many that need homes.


  5. Tina Mason

    You are so talented Sara, share this with the world so they may enjoy seeing life through your eyes. Write that book xxxxxxxxx


  6. Maude Hasard

    Sara, I would love to leave a lengthy comment for you, but the tears will not let me. Thank you for the story. Maude Hasard USA


  7. Kelly

    What a lovely story. Did you create the story of the pack? Wonderful! And so happy that you and Yuska have each other. I kiss my dog, but don’t have the time to devote to another, so it will be another day…


    1. Hi Kelly. Yes, I created the story of the pack – Yiska’s siblings – because we were told there was a “litter” born. I’ve wondered what happened to the rest. Hopefully, they found loving homes from tourists passing through.


  8. Margaret Ann

    Sara–This is a lovely story of your dog Yiska. I think your husband is with you. That is a mystery you will solve for all of us one of these days. I’m sure Yiska is all the more special because of your loss……………your loss and the gain of Yiska.
    Much love, Margaret Ann


    1. I’d like to think that my husband, my son, my mother, and sister – all are with me. Blowing in the dust around me, or impersonating a butterfly so they can do a fly-by. It’s a mystery we’ll all have answered some day, won’t we. Yiska has been the best gift to me when I’m missing them. He seems to know and give me extra love at those times. They’re so intuitive.


  9. Tammie Wilson

    That post gave me goosebumps.. beautifully written .. you and Yiska are so lucky to have found one another. Being a totally crazy dog lover ( especially big dogs;) ) this really made me smile. another Gem from you as always. keep going strong my friend. you are truly amazing. – Tammie


  10. Cinandjules

    That story warms my heart! Lovely indeed. May you both enjoy each other’s company, keep each other safe and most of all enjoy the road ahead!


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