THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Several weeks ago I wrote about my canine friend the Navajo Dog. Since then I’ve been inundated with questions about how this magical creature came into my life.
It was the summer of 1989. I was returning from a vacation in the Southwest with two of my children, Sabrina (then 8) and Wes (then almost 4). As we drove past Gallup, New Mexico, an unexpected thought flashed into my mind. Not being one to ignore unexpected thoughts, I immediately reported it to the rest of the gang:
“Sorry, kids, but it’s time for a little detour. We’ve got to go to Monument Valley.”
“I know,” Sabrina said, surprising me. “Our dog’s waiting for us there.”
And that was exactly what I’d been thinking, for no reason whatsoever. That we had a dog, and that the dog was up in Monument Valley, on the Utah-Arizona border.
Where it was—yes indeed—waiting for us.
We drove north to Kayenta, Arizona, a small Navajo town not unlike Paradise (except that I hadn’t discovered Paradise yet). Kayenta is the doorway to Monument Valley, an area of uniquely beautiful rock formations.
If you’ve seen any of the old Westerns John Ford made starring John Wayne, you’ve seen Monument Valley. If you haven’t seen them—well, either way you might think about spending a very special week there, as the kids and I had only a year before.
After a couple of hours of hard driving, the kids and I pulled into the parking lot of Monument Valley Tribal Park. I opened my door and, immediately, a small red and white puppy jumped into the car.
The puppy leapt onto Sabrina’s lap and started licking her. Sabrina squealed with delight.
“It’s our dog!” Wes shouted. “Our dog’s here!” He reached out and grabbed her. The puppy obliged by licking him too.
All I could do was stare. “This can’t really be our dog,” I said. “It must belong to somebody around here.”
The kids’ faces grew long. “Daddy! No!”
“All right. Let me check on this.”
Leaving Sabrina, Wes, and the red and white puppy in the car, I went into the visitors center. A park ranger smiled at me. “Can I help you?”
“A puppy just jumped into our car,” I said. “And the kids and I are wondering—”
That was as far as I got. “The red and white puppy?” she said. “Her mother’s been chasing sheep. Our people here make their living raising sheep. We’re shooting the mother and her whole litter tomorrow. If you want to take that puppy you’ll be saving her.”
I went back out to the car. The puppy was sitting between Sabrina and Wes, chewing contentedly on Cheetos.
“She’s our dog, all right,” I said.
Sabrina laughed and hugged the puppy. Wes got that suspicious look he got too often in his young life. “If she’s our dog, what’s her name?” he said.
“A reasonable question. Let’s find out.”
We drove to the nearest motel and checked in for the night. Then went to the little shopping center (so small it wasn’t even a mini-mall) and bought a leash, a couple of bowls, and some dog food at the market.
Our next stop was the Laundromat. The last time we were in the area I’d learned that the Laundromat was the closest thing to a local gathering place. My plan was to bring the puppy in and ask people for a good Navajo name for her, since she was, after all, a Navajo Dog.
I expected a variety of suggestions, but although we got a dozen answers, they were all the same. The men and women of Monument Valley took one look at the puppy’s red-masked face and all said the unspellable Navajo word for “bandit.”
She wasn’t a bandit, though, and the kids didn’t think the name fitted. We went back to the motel with an unnamed Navajo Dog.
That night I had a dream. I dreamed that the puppy walked up to me. Sat down. And said, very clearly: “I am Dineh.”
In the morning, I sat down with the kids and the dog. “I know the dog’s name,” I said.
“Me too,” said Sabrina. “I had a dream—”
“Me three—” said Wes.
And, together, “It’s Dineh.”
The Navajo word for—Navajo.
And there she was, for then and forever after:
Dineh. Our Navajo Dog.