She was amazingly calm as I tried to comb my fingers through her fur; she grunted and licked my hands as I worked. It took me a good 15 minutes to rid her little belly and paws of the spines and goat heads that immobilized her. Bits of dried flesh and blood clung to her stubbornly. I had to cut the chunks of filth out with my Leatherman scissors. I filled a bowl with water and watched in awe as she downed it in seconds. I filled it a few more times before she slowed and was quenched. After rummaging around in my ARB fridge I emerged with a few slices of cheddar and ham. Her tail furiously wagged as she snatched the morsels out of my hand. Seems the fastest way to a dog’s heart is with processed meat and cheese. The foul odor of the pup was overwhelming, almost as if the horse had come along too.
We set off with the windows rolled down due north on Indian Route 12. My new ambitions were to find a bath for the pup. Looking at the desolate landscape, I figured I’d be lucky to find a half-full cattle tank. I wasn’t sure I could hold out for the San Juan River, which was two hours away in Southern Utah. A few miles down the road I came across a state trooper that was clearing debris from the highway. I asked him where I might find a gas station or car wash. Without a word he wiped his brow and pointed north quickly returning to his work.
An hour later we pulled into Mexican Water, a community marked by little more than a sign and a gas station-diner. The throwback building sat in the center of a dusty lot surrounded by gear laden SUVs and ranch trucks. I went inside and asked the cashier where I might find a hose and she directed me around back. “Don’t leave it running” she said as the screen door slammed shut behind me. Behind the station, a twenty-something guy wearing a wife beater was hacking weeds, a cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth. He slowly walked up to the truck and rested his arm on the door. His weed whacker still sputtered in his other hand. I asked him if where I could find a hose. Eyes squinting, he leaned inside the window to take cover from the sun. The rotten smell must have aroused suspicion in him. He curiously peered down at the floor mat. “I’ll be damned” he mumbled as he looked at my pup. “Guess you need a hose then?” He pointed at a spigot and curled hose underneath a tree. “Hold on, I’ll be back”, he put his machine down and walked into the backdoor of the diner kitchen. Moments later he came out carrying a green five gallon bucket. He handed me the bucket and took refuge under the tree, lighting up another cigarette. Smoke wafted from his mouth as he spoke, “That oughta do the trick”. In the meantime, I had scrounged a spare leash (used for my other dogs), Dawn dish soap and a towel from my truck. The loop handle of the leash fit perfectly around the pup’s neck.
Suds billowed from the top of the bucket as I sprayed the soap infused water. I had an image in my head of those Dawn commercials where they feature their soap heroically cleansing sea creatures of oil spill muck. The pup’s story would have had their PR department watering at the mouth. I carried the little dog from the truck over to the bucket; she immediately started to flail knowing she was going in. I put her in haunches first and she put her front paws on the bucket rim in protest. She then realized that she liked the feeling of the cool water and settled down. She looked scrawny once she was wet and her fur was matted. I lathered and rinsed the pup four or five times until the bath water lost its pink tinge. Each time, she’d shake the water off while I held her with one hand and refilled the bucket with the other. Soon I was just as soaked as her and standing in the mud hole I had created. All the while the handyman looked on with amusement.
Once finished, I carried her back to the truck wrapped in a towel and dried her off a bit. She looked magnificent compared to dog I had lifted from the horse carcass a short while before. I thanked the handyman and offered him compensation for helping me; he chuckled and said the entertainment was payment enough and went back to his weeds. With that, we drove off bound for Southern Utah. She was now clean and ready for her new life—as if she had been baptized in Mexican Water.
Never a Wrong Turn (Part I) CLICK HERE