Canyon Tales
Bloodhound Canyon
by Dave Pimental

“He's just a pup, but he has some teeth ...”

Dan and I were driving down a dirt road 4 or 5 miles from the pavement when I glanced out my side window and saw a dog along the road. It looked to me like he was laying on a blanket on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

I let off the accelerator and said, “I just saw a dog on the side of the road.”

Incredulous, Dan said, “What?”

While I threw the gear shift into reverse and peered into my side view mirror, I qualified my statement. “I THINK I just saw a dog back there.”

Sure enough, as I backed up 50 yards, I saw the dog sit up wagging his tail. He stood up and started approaching, so, rather than squash him, I threw the shifter into neutral and set the emergency brake, and we both got out of the truck. The bony little beagle was obviously happy to see us. He came right over to greet us and, when I reached to pet him, he flopped right down at my feet, offering up his belly. Neither Dan nor I are veterinarians, but both of us could plainly see that he was only a puppy; perhaps 12 or 16 weeks old.

The whole thing seemed strange to me. Here we are, miles from the paved highway and many more miles to the nearest ranch, and we find a young skinny puppy on the side of the road. He has a shirt and a pair of gloves for a bed. There are tire tracks on the side of the road and some straw mixed with horse manure as if from a horse trailer. Did he fall off the back of someones flat-bed truck? Was he left there intentionally? Is this a strange New-Age training thing where you leave your dog, say, “Stay,” and come back later?

I looked around me; scanning the vast empty horizon in all directions. I looked down at the poor little dog; so ecstatic to see us. I couldn’t help thinking nasty thoughts about my fellow man, but I kept silent. While Dan occupied the scampering little pup, I went to my truck and brought back my water bottle and a disposable bowl. He went right after the water as I began pouring it; trying to drink it before it hit the bowl. He slurped down the entire contents of the bottle in one go; frantically lapping at the water with an urgency I haven’t seen before. I went back to the truck for a refill. Both Dan and I are wondering, “What’s going on here?” We are astonished at how fast he’s drinking the water. He wants to get some more petting but he can’t pull himself away from the bowl for more than a second or two. He’s torn between his joy at seeing us and his need for water.

I go to the truck a third time and bring back a couple of hard–boiled eggs. I offer one to him and he gobbles it up. I glance up at Dan and he looks as bewildered as I feel. I give him the second egg and he’s snatching it out of my hand as fast as I can break it up. I can’t take it any longer; I must put words to what I’m thinking.

“Is this how some people get rid of a puppy they don’t want?” I ask Dan rhetorically.

He shakes his head; he doesn’t have an answer. It’s really strange that the dog has this shirt and gloves to lay on. They look like they are carefully arranged into a bed. I’m also not a forensic scientist, but the scene doesn’t obviously reek of abandonment to me. Who lovingly sets up a bed and leaves their puppy on the side of a remote dirt road? Isn’t that abandonment no matter how you look at it?

We look around and ponder the desert as we pet the hungry little pup and it seems more forlorn; more harsh and unforgiving than ever. Neither of us know what to do. Do we leave him? Do we take him with us?

I’ve just about decided that I’ll leave him there for the day and I’ll pick him up if he’s there when we come back when I glance up the road to see a white pick-up approaching. They pull slowly up and as they exit their truck with big smiles on their faces, the dog dashes over to them with incredible excitement. They greet their dog and come over to engage us.

They are genuine old–time western cattle ranchers. They have the Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats. The old man is about 90 years old and he has a pearl–buttoned fancy cowboy shirt with what looks to be a pack of Marlboros in the pocket. To my eyes, he is the quintessential Utah rancher. His son—and I’m immediately certain that he is the son—has a clean white buttoned–down shirt and looks as though he just walked out of a John Wayne movie. They both have a very strong western drawl as they thank us for watering their dog.

The situation clearly begs for some kind of explanation, and we don’t have to ask. They launch into their story without the slightest hesitation. The old man gestures toward the slots that Dan and I are going to explore about three miles away, and says, “We were down in those canyons yesterday and he disappeared. We looked all over for him.”

The son explains to us, “We came by about ten o’clock last night and he still wasn’t around.”

Dan asks them if he’s a beagle and they correct us both. He’s a Bloodhound.

Dan says, “Well he’s a good one,” and I can see the two men’s warmth and pride that their little dog got out of the canyons and survived the night without them. I tell them we found him right there on the side of the road laying on the shirt and gloves and the son fills us in with a long slow drawl.

“Well my father always told me, if you lose one, put down a shirt, or some gloves, and maybe they’ll find their way back.”

We talk to the men a while longer, exchanging our amazement that such a young pup could fend for himself.

The son says to all of us, “Well, my boy is going to be real happy.”

Dan and I drove away with our opinion of our fellow man restored. This was not an abandonment; this was heartfelt loss and those saddle–hardened cowboys were delighted to be reunited with their sweet little puppy. We discussed how that dog must have spent the night. We still found it remarkable that he was able to make it out alive.

Later in the day, we found tracks of the cowboys and their dog at the mouth of the canyon where they were trying to climb up the slot. We decided to call the canyon we were scouting Bloodhound Canyon. The canyon turned out to be not very technical. It is a long series of potholes or half–potholes sculpted out of the Navajo Sandstone. It has a few drops to negotiate but on the whole it’s a pleasant hike in a pretty, but tame, little canyon.

Wyoming Dave

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© 2009 Dave Pimental