I walk my two rescue dogs out into the cool high desert. I climb a ridge that offers a view of the wide escarpment in the distance and the sandy sage-dotted valley in between. Then I remove their leashes and let them run and run. Birdie bounds with athletic grace, reveling in the joy of moving as fast as possible, up the steep hillside, along the juniper-dotted rimrock, and across the valley back to my side. Lola runs in a straight line, her nose to the ground, chasing the scent of a desert cottontail, until she is a golden-brown speck in the distance. When I call her back, she raises her head to look at me, clearly a decision to make — but she doesn’t hesitate. She swivels her athletic body and sprints down the sandy wash, gaining so much speed that she overshoots and has to leap straight over me. Panting, she settles happily in the sand at my knees. Moments later, when Birdie returns, she digs furiously in the shade of a thread leaf sage to create a loose and comfy bed, and plops down with a satisfied groan.
I adopted Birdie a year and a half ago, a timid, brindle puppy born on the San Felipe Reservation, weaned too young and underfed, but completely ready to love. Lovely Lola came to me only six weeks ago after spending more than five months in the Bernalillo County shelter — so exhausted and stressed that, upon settling in, she slept for nearly three straight days. Lola is a beautiful, athletic, loving dog who deserves a happy life. Every day I feel her guard slipping a little more and a little more, as she slowly becomes the dog she is meant to be.
Already, my sweet girls have formed a bond, and they’ve synchronized their daily activities so much so that they do nearly everything cheek-to- cheek or tail-to-tail.
When I watch my beautiful, happy girls running free — and yet — turning at my whistle and sprinting straight to my side, my heart overflows with love and pride. These pups have a choice, and they have chosen me. I also realize how lucky I am to be sitting on this warm hunk of volcanic rock on a windless November day, taking in the thin, black line of the escarpment in the distance and the blue-gray silhouettes of junipers dotting the horizon. With Lola at my feet, and Birdie at my back, listening to the steady panting of my happy dogs, I’m not alone. I am rescued.
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