Dave G., a friend from the bar, were camping north of Reno last weekend in some serious bad-ass weather, and on Sunday he and a friend were shooting target practice when a large white springer spaniel stumbled over the ridge. The mutt was skinny as a rail and his muzzle was all scabbed and bloodied like something had been biting it, and he had a wild look in his eye as he came tramping into the campsite as if he couldn’t believe he’d actually found some people after all this time. He slobbered down the water that Dave and Matt gave him, but when they tried to feed him the only food they had, which was a bag of salted pretzels, he couldn’t even get them down—Dave said they just slid back out the sides of his mouth. He spent the next 24 hours curled up like a donut, with his nose tucked entirely up between his hind legs, but on the second day he sat up and started looking around. By then he’d gotten something to eat and the guys had scrubbed the blood off his nose and checked out the cuts on his face, and by two days later when the trip was over, he was acting like a normal dog.
He had tags on him that included a phone number, but Dave and his buddies hadn’t been able to call because they couldn’t get a signal for their cell phones from the campsite. When they got out of the mountains, though, they called the number and sure enough got the mutt’s owner. The guy and his girlfriend had lost the dog two weeks earlier in the mountains, and had had to turn around and give him up for lost after he’d run away. Two full weeks, that’s how long this dog had been wandering around the foothills of the eastern Sierras in early February, and in that time he’d wandered either two hundred yards or twenty miles—who knows?—before he came over a rise and saw a couple of sympathetic human beings staring up at him. The owner had to work or something so his girlfriend came to retrieve him, and when she showed up the dog immediately recognized her and started barking his ass off in her direction. (I can only imagine what he had to say to his actual master.) Anyway, it was beautiful the way Dave told this story to me. He did it just step by step, drawing me off-guard by talking about the target practice and so on before describing the sight of this horrible looking mutt materializing on the hilltop, and only very gradually did he make it clear that the dog not only would survive his ordeal but would be reunited with his grieving owners who couldn’t believe they were getting a second chance with him, and would finally get to go home to the place which the whole time must’ve been just simmering like a mirage on the back-burner of his brain.