Grey Lady



Mary Alice Betley


 
© Copyright 2019 by Mary Alice Betley




Several years ago I taught at a B.I.A. school at

Teec Nos Pos, AZ. When I first arrived, I was assigned
Apartment #15. As I was moving in, a large collie—type
dog came up to me, acting very friendly but also
skittish and frightened. Her ancestry appeared to be
mixed with other breeds, perhaps even coyote, as she
had light gray eyes and silvery gray fur on her back
while the rest of her body was mostly white with some
blonde fur here and there. I began to call her Grey
Lady.

She lay on my porch stoop most of the time. At

first, I didn't feed her because I figured that she
probably had an owner in one of the other apartments.
Besides, I already had my‘small poodle and really
didn't want another pet. I asked my next door
neighbor about her and they said that she had
belonged to a previous teacher who had moved and
not taken her with them.

As time Went on, I couldn't help but notice that

she was becoming visibly thinner so I started giving
her some dog food every night. She now became more
friendly and less frightened of me but she still
wouldn't come to me When I called to her nor enter
into my utility room in order to be fed.

Now, it became evident that she had come into

her estrus cycle as many male dogs were following her
all over the school compound. (The Navajo
Reservation contains thousands of homeless dogs.) I
hoped that the smaller white Spitz dog would mate
with her but he couldn't fight off a larger black dog so
that one became her mate.

She began to wait for me to leave school every

night and would come running up to my car, hopping
up and down On all four feet in her excitement. When 
I got out of my car, she would take my hand gently

between her jaws as I walked up the sidewalk to my
door. I began giving her extra food every day and also
arranged for a neighbor to feed her over the weekends
when I was gone. On Sunday evenings she was
always waiting for me on my front steps when I
returned.

Since she was less shy and trusted me more, she

now let me look closely at the tag fastened to her blue
collar. There was a veterinarian's name and phone
number as well as her I.D. numeral so I jotted that
information down and then replaced the collar around
her neck.

The next time I went to Cortez, I stopped in at

that vet's office to attempt to find her owner. They
gave me the name of a young couple who lived near
there. When I contacted them, they told me that they
had given Grey Lady to a teacher at Teec about two
years previously. When I checked out that person, I
found that he used to teach down the highway at
Beclabito but no longer did and had apparently
abandoned his dog.

My principal told me that she usually didn't

encourage her staff to adopt strays but that this dog
appeared to have some special traits so she wouldn't
enforce that rule and I could continue caring for this
dog if I wished.

Having been the daughter of a farmer, I was,

aware of the 62 day gestational period for dogs so I
calculated that Grey Lady, or Coyote Eyes, as I
sometimes call her, would most likely birth her pups
near Thanksgiving.

As that holiday approached, I began giving Grey

Lady extra food when I noticed that her teats were
hanging low. Once again, I arranged for my neighbor

to feed her as I left on my holiday vacation.

When I returned, Grey Lady didn't meet me. I

didn't think much about it until the next day when
some of my students asked if that grey dog was mine.
Then, I wondered if she had been hurt or someone had
picked her up.

A couple of days later when I returned from the

local post office, there she was, all skinny and happy
to see me. She laid her head against my leg and let
me pet and pet her. My neighbors came out of their
apartment, smiling and laughing at how happy she
was to see me and how glad I was to see her.

I told Grey Lady to go to my back door and I

would get her a lot of specially good food because she
needed it it to feed her puppies. (That was one thing
that Grey Lady did: she seemed to understand
whatever I said to her.) After she was done eating, I
wanted to see where she had hidden her brood so I
could put them in my garage out of the cold weather.
My neighbors thought she had probably hidden them
in one of the fields surrounding the school compound.

Grey Lady just stood on my back porch, looking at

me so I said, "Alright, show me where your puppies
are."

She ran a little ways in front of me and then

came back, then ran a little ways more ahead again,
then came back and tugged on the side of my jeans
with her mouth. She kept acting like this all the way
across the backyard, through an empty lot, across
another neighboring lawn and up to a fence
surrounding a field.

She began, looking for a place under the fence

where she could crawl under. I certainly couldn't
crawl under there so instead I walked along the fence
until I came to an iron gate which was wired shut and
also had earth mounded up against it on the field side.

Even though I was 60 years old, I climbed up and

over the top of the gate and entered the field where
Grey Lady was. She just stood there, waiting for me.
She ran ahead and then ran back again across this
field up to another fence. This one was barbed wire
which most definitely is not my very most favorite
thing! Although I still had on my teaching clothes, I
carefully climbed through the barbs.

For a while, I couldn't see Grey Lady. Then when

I did see her, I would watch for her to flash the plume
of her tail so that I could see it through all of the high
sagebrush and weeds. This behavior continued until
near dark.

I was thinking of how I was following a wild goose

chase and that the darned dog was just fooling with
me so I began to walk back towards the teaching
compound area. Just then Grey Lady bounded up to
me and once again used her teeth to pull on my jeans.

Then, she ran ahead and then back to me once again.

At this, I said, "OK. but you better show me your
babies so I can take them to a safe place or I'm just
going home!"

Grey Lady ran straight in front of me for about

800 yards, then she ducked under a thorn tree. I
followed her and crept under those nasty thorny
branches. There the puppies were, lying all together
in a warm bundle in a hollowed out space near the
tree roots. I tried to carefully back out while gingerly
lifting the sharp branches with one hand while the
other carried aisquirming little body, one by one.
Meantime, Grey Lady just stood there, occasionally
gently licking one or the Other of her babies. 

After I had all eight pups out into the open, I had

to come up with a way to carry their fat little bodies
back across the open fields. After a little hesitation,
Grey Lady let me place them all into the improvised
pouch" of my sweater.

I tell you, I had an awful time crawling between

the barbed wire on that first fence! I must have been
a sight—-climbing up and over the iron gate——an old
lady who looked very pregnant herself. All I cared
about was getting the pups to safety while still keeping
as much of my modesty intact as possible.

Grey Lady followed me across the compound to

my garage where I constructed a nest for them. She
continued her excellent mothering and the pups
flourished, becoming fat and sassy. Many of the staff
began asking to adopt them so that problem was
solved.

I would so like to 'say that this story of an

exceptional dog had a happy ending, but, sadly, it
doesn't. .

Shortly after New Year's the local tribal

dogcatcher made his annual rounds of the school
compounds in the area. Because of the local
regulations and the huge number of homeless
animals, these men had to dispose of any unconfined
animals rather than catch them and take them to an
animal shelter.E By the time, I ran out of the school to
find Grey Lady it was too late; I couldn't save her. 





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