Unloved Dogs. Unloved Children. Unloved Old Men and Women.
The Crippled Stray came back for a while. I’ve decided to call him Toulouse, after the lame French artist Toulouse-Lautrec. I’ve always loved that whore-mongering degenerate. Jeff Barker brought him over, wondering if I knew the owner.
“Yeah.” I said. “He’s a mean ass little vaquero who beats his dogs – when he isn’t working them to death. Can’t say as I like him very much.”
“Shit.” Replied JB. “This is a nice dog too. I kind of like him.”
Toulouse began playing with Michelle while we talked. Tough old boy. Probably been kicked, beaten, stomped, and trampled more than any other living creature in the Black Rock Desert. Fortunately, a thick scar has grown in where his missing pad used to be, giving him something like 3½ legs. Unfortunately, at some point in the last year something damaged his hips. Toulouse can’t sit like a normal dog; he has to sort of lie on his side and stand up with his front legs.
So I took Toulouse in again – and decided that his owner and I were going to have a little talk if he came over. I’m not sure even know what that would have meant. Probably something violent and stupid that couldn’t have been “undone” once it was done. I understand the hard reality of ranch life out here. I know that Toulouse is a tool, not a pet. But there are things you shouldn’t tolerate given the chance. How you treat your dogs is a good measure of how you should be treated.
Toulouse was with us for two days before the little bastard showed up. Not that I knew. Sensing that I was about to write a check with my mouth that my ass couldn’t cash (in other words, starting a feud with the desert’s tough-as-hell sheep herders), Tina left me working in my office while he picked Toulouse up.
No matter. Crippled Stray came back the next day.
But he didn’t stay. Three days later he simply took off again. Vanished. It’s hard to say what goes on in old gray-muzzled Toulouse’s mind. Did he miss the companionship of the other dogs in his sheep herding pack? The other Boarder Collies with their intelligent eyes and touchy dispositions? The massive Great Pyrenees with their independent habits and filthy, dreadlocked hair? Maybe sleeping somewhere warm that involved regular meals was too alien for the old boy. Too soft and sissified. Maybe he even missed the little bastard that owns him.
Tonight I sit on my porch listening to the coyotes howl. There are hundreds of the bastards down in the valley this winter looking for food. Hungry. Big. They’re getting bigger every year too; these aren’t the little scavengers most of you reading this have seen poking around the edges of suburbs. These boys are almost the size of wolves.
And Toulouse -- enigmatic, crippled bastard – walked right out into them.
Unloved old men and women. Unloved children. Unloved dogs.