Snow Dog

By Brenda Wolfenbarger, January 2022

Grandpa and Gran carefully drove down the winding Colorado mountain road. It was well below freezing, but the heater in the truck cab worked like a champ, and the two were bundled up snug as bugs after snowmobiling from their little vacation cabin to the truck. Their cabin was isolated from the road in the winter and they liked it that way. Grandpa could see Old Baldy mountain in the distance, beckoning him to the road home to Albuquerque. He shifted gears.

“Would you look at that, Jim? It’s a dog! Stop, Jim, stop the truck!”

“Out here? In this cold?” but Grandpa slowed the old truck and trailer down and looked in the rearview mirror. Sure enough, there in the deep snow to the side, he could see a black nose and two dark eyes looking right back at them. His white fur blended in with the snow, but the struggling puppy was clearly visible if you were looking. Grandpa got out of the cab and made his way in the slippery snow over to the pup.

“How did you get out here, boy?” Grandpa crooned softly as he approached the puppy, careful of his boots crunching the snow. The puppy stopped wiggling and waited for Grandpa to scoop him up. There were no tracks, nothing around the pup to show where he had come from. It looked like he had just popped up in the snow. Or jumped out of a vehicle. Or worse, been thrown out.

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“Is he hurt?” Gran was the Florence Nightingale of critters, always finding injured animals in her forays into the forest surrounding their vacation cabin. This though, a puppy in the middle of midwinter nowhere, was a first.

“Naw, seems just fine, probably just a little cold.” The wiggly little mite looked like a snowball himself, all fluffy white fur with a pink tongue sticking out, trying to lick Grandpa’s hand. “What do you want to do, Emmie?” Grandpa sighed inside. They’d spent years without a dog because of their traveling back and forth, but he suspected that was about to change.

“Well, we can’t leave him out here to die. The Masterson’s aren’t even up here until spring and there’s no one else around for a couple of miles. There’s no way to tell where he came from. We’ll have to take him home with us.” Gran sounded matter-of-fact, but he could hear the excitement in her voice. It had been a while since she’d gotten to add to her menagerie. They were down to just the two cats now, the crow with the broken wing had healed up and flown off this fall, and the squirrel that lived under the front sidewalk was keeping himself to himself for the winter. Grandpa just knew they were about to be the proud owners of a husky or whatever kind of dog it was.

“He looks like a Samoyed to me, you know, those Siberian dogs? I bet he’s not feeling the cold a bit. He is a he, isn’t he?” Gran didn’t care, a puppy was a puppy. Oh, the grandkids were going to be so surprised!

“He’s a he, I’m pretty sure. I didn’t want to get too personal. Here, let him sit in your lap.” Grandpa brushed most of the snow and ice chunks off the dog and deposited him on Gran’s lap in a blanket. He started up the road again, mindful of the snowmobile trailer in the back. They’d have to stop in Pagosa for food and water. And a leash. If the pup had jumped out of a vehicle, he didn’t want it happening again.

“Who would’ve just left a precious puppy like this by the side of the road?” Gran sounded incensed, as she should be. Dumping puppies by the side of the road was unacceptable, particularly right next to National Forest, where they’d soon become a meal for something larger and hungry.

“I don’t know, hon, we’ll ask around in the spring, see if anyone knows anything.” Grandpa stole a look at the puppy happily ensconced in Gran’s lap. He fully expected the dog would be theirs now. He shook his head. He hoped the dog traveled well. The furry little fluffball licked his hand where he’d reached over to scratch behind its ears. Well, he got used to the two cats, he would get used to a dog. He patted the puppy snugly curled up in Emmie’s lap.

“Well, doesn’t he look like a little cub. Let’s call him Bear.” Gran always thought of perfect names. Bear made little satisfied puppy noises and wiggled a little deeper in his blanket. Seems like he thought so, too.

Photo: AdobeStock

Brenda Wolfenbarger is a returning student studying English at the Central New Mexico Community College. She enjoys writing and has had previous work published in Leonardo Long Form and OkayDonkey Magazine. She lives in Central New Mexico with her family and cat, Trixie, and her dog Ginger.

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