These pictures were taken out on BLM land a couple of miles from town sometime early in December.
I think that it might have been the last time we ventured out onto public lands in the Suburban.
We have much more snow now.
Too much to be out there in a wheeled vehicle.
The day was freezing cold and the weather quickly changed from endless sunshine in Atomic City to the frozen mist inversion that was slowly (but irrevocably) floating its way towards our town ...................
A couple of weeks before Christmas I saw a young black lab on a Face Book classified site.
Her name was Piper, she was 16 months old, and the pictures told me that she was full of joyful life, boundless energy and gangly, happy puppyhood.
In short, she was beautiful.
For almost two weeks LC and I both did some hand wringing, wondering (as we had done last summer) whether our dog would like a running buddy and whether WE wanted to bring one more living creature into our lives and into our world.
A few days before Christmas we regretfully (and with very mixed feelings) decided that we would not meet Piper......................
A couple of weeks after Christmas I again found myself looking at the sweet face of what looked like a very sweet girl.
On the spur of the moment I put out a call to a bunch of ladies on a Blackfoot site, asking if anyone was interested in adopting a beautiful, happy-go-lucky, black lab.
Almost immediately somebody contacted me, and I spent the remainder of that day trying to connect the owners of the dog in Arco with a very enthusiastic older lady in Blackfoot.
By the end of the day the husband had made a trip to Arco and I felt pleased with myself that I had found what seemed to be a loving new home for this very sweet girl.
A few days later I touched base with the woman online and she was madly in love with little Piper.
A happy ending.....................
Frozen mist crawling across the desert like some evil life force that has often and so eloquently been described in one Stephen King novel or another.....................
One day late last week I received an urgent message from Liz, the new Blackfoot owner of Piper.
She had sent the message at 8pm but I did not read it until 11.
She and her husband had taken Piper and their other lab for a walk down by the river.
Piper had run away into the trees and wouldn't come back to them.
They had lost Piper and spent the last three hours looking for her.
Did I have any ideas?............
Did I have any IDEAS???
How about not walking a dog off leash who barely knows you and has no idea where she is?
How about not walking a dog off leash by the river and adjacent to the interstate, when you already know that she is afraid of loud noises?
How about you not walk a new dog off leash in the city so close to dark?..........
I didn't say any of those things of course.
The only thing I could suggest to her was to contact Animal Control the next morning.
What else was there to say??...................
Mid morning the next day we went to Blackfoot.
First stop was Animal Control to see if Piper had been reported missing.
In fact, not only had she been reported missing by the new owner, but someone at a gas station close to both the river and interstate had called police at 1am to report a young black dog roaming in the parking lot.
Law enforcement did actually see the dog, but when they approached Piper again ran into the trees, and they lost sight of it.
So we had a puppy roaming around in the middle of the night in the freezing cold, close to the river, the interstate, and four lanes of surface street traffic..............
Animal Control knew that we were going to look for Piper and they gave us a leash just in case we did indeed track down this wayward dog.
Heading back to the gas station we split up - LC went in one direction and me and Kory wandered in the opposite direction, both of us walking in back of the gas station and along the river.
The interstate noisily sang in the background, filled with regular traffic.
30 minutes later LC picked me and Kory up in the Tahoe and (after a brief stop inside the gas station to leave our name and number in case Piper showed up again) we picked up the road in back of the gas station and wandered onto private property (again leaving our name and number with a random stranger in the area) in what felt like an increasingly vain effort to find this dog alive and in good shape.
It had been a freezing cold night.
The river was only partially frozen.
Anything could have happened to her, and as we continued to scan for a 16 month old lost dog, we both fully expected the worse...................
As worried as we both were for a dog that neither of us had ever met, we were both also angry at a woman who we had never met.
She had seemed very nice. A sweet, elderly, vaguely hippiesh lady who already owned one lab and had (by all accounts) immediately fallen in love with our little Piper.
Why the hell didn't we just take her?
It was the worry talking nonstop inside my head.
We continued to search and after what seemed like a long time decided that the effort was very likely hopeless.
Too many trees. The river. The interstate. The surface road traffic. The cold.
She could be anywhere.
Hunkered down in someone's yard close to the gas station.
Floating in the river.
Who the hell knew??
We pulled off the search and headed for the grocery store.................
After leaving Wal-mart LC and I looked at each, silently wondering what more we could do.
We should have just taken her.................
Across from the gas station (and across four lanes of traffic) was a meat packing plant.
The plant also was situated beside one more section of the Snake River.
While LC went into the plant to ask if anyone had seen a small black dog (and again leave our phone number), I wandered along the partially frozen river.
Along the shore, in and among the trees, on the sections of the river that were frozen, there were tracks.
Lots of tracks.
Could they have been dog tracks? Certainly yes.
I scanned the shore, the river, in and among the trees, all the while looking for both a hunkered down and tired living puppy, and a frozen dead puppy.
At the bridge I carefully scrutinized every nook and cranny of its underbelly, everywhere that a young dog may have curled up and fallen into exhausted sleep.
When I heard the Tahoe start up I headed back in that direction, checking under bushes as I went hoping against hope that the meat packer guys may have seen her
They had not.
They asked the same thing we had asked "Why does someone let a dog off leash when the dog doesn't know where she is and doesn't think of her new owners as family yet?"
Quickly we decided that we would walk the river behind the gas station one last time and then head for the house.
The owners in Arco had wanted to get rid of this poor dog because she was afraid of gun fire and had no potential to be a bird hunting dog.
We had said no to the dog.
We had worked hard to try and find a loving new home for this dog, and now here we were wandering around in the cold looking for a lost and scared dog. At best.
I hated to think about the worst.
One more time we would look, but after that there was nothing more we could do.
And so we walked along the rivers' edge one more time
No sign of Piper.
It was time to go home.........................
Just as we were pulling out of the gas station parking lot Animal Control called us.
Piper had been spotted.
She was in the median of the interstate.
We were only a couple of minutes away and told the AC Officer that we would immediately hit the interstate and try to get to her before she got hit.
Speeding onto the freeway I implored LC to keep an eye on the traffic all around us. I would watch for the dog.
She was reported to have been seen between two mile markers, and I can't even describe the disappointment we both felt once we passed the second mile marker without catching sight of a small black dog.
You don't realize how many small rises and dips there are, how many small snow mounds, how many snow covered sage bushes there are on the sides and median of the interstate until you're driving 65 miles an hour (with cars and trucks whizzing by you) while looking for a puppy, and hoping you get to her before she gets hit by a semi.
LC did an illegal turn and we sped back the way we had come, heading back to Blackfoot.
By the time we got to the Blackfoot exit we still had not found her.
LC headed back onto the interstate, with us intending to try again.
Piper, where the hell ARE you??
A minute after we pulled onto the interstate Animal Control called me again.
They had picked up the dog.
She was safe at their animal shelter................
After one more illegal turn on the interstate, we sped back towards Blackfoot feeling complete relief that this puppy was safe.
LC was already talking about keeping her. We'd have to put Korys' bowls here, and Pipers' could go there and....................LC..................she's not our dog........................
By the time we pulled into the small Animal Shelter parking lot we had both already decided that we would have Animal Control contact Liz and see if she actually wanted to keep Piper.
If she didn't want her, we would take her.................
Climbing out of the Tahoe LC and I walked through the door of the Animal Shelter and instantly fell in love with the most beautiful black lab we had ever seen.
She wandered over to us eager and excited and all kinds of cuteness.
The Animal Control officer looked at us in astonishment when we told her that this was the first time we had ever met this dog.
When we had first stopped by a few hours earlier, we had told her that we had simply mediated an adoption for Piper. That we were not her owners. That we felt an obligation to try and help find her.
Those messages had obviously not gotten through and she had honestly thought that we were Pipers owners.
She called Liz. Asked her if she wanted the dog. That we were there and would take Piper if she no longer wanted her.
Liz wanted her.
LC walked outside to check on Kory and I stroked and reassured Piper.
What a sweetheart.
15 minutes later I walked outside, knowing that Liz was on the way to pick up her dog................
Later that same evening I sent Liz a message telling her how glad we were that Piper was safe, that she was a very lucky dog, and then I made a lame joke about wishing that Piper could talk so that she could share all her adventures with us.
Liz never responded back to my message.....................