Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

The Runaway

Yesterday a friend and I went for an afternoon drive to the  town of Madrid located on the Scenic Turquoise Trail between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, pretty much in the middle of nothing but beautiful landscape. Madrid is an old mining town turned hippie hangout turned, it seems from what I saw yesterday, Disney World-ish, but I guess the  300 residents must make a living. We did not stay for tea.

We drove on to  Cerrillos, another old turquoise mining area. The only people visible were two bearded guys in yellowing white tee shirts sitting in a trailer near the road. My thought is you visit Cerrillos for the landscape or to disappear from the face of the earth.

In any event, as we are driving back from our swoop through the area to return to Santa Fe, we see a big golden hair sheppard-retriever-and something else dog standing in the middle of the road wagging her tail. We stop. I open the passenger door. The dog walks right over, steps into the car, sits on my feet and smiles at us like, “Hey, I have been standing here in the middle of the road on a very hot day hoping you would stop by.” Her eyes have warts on the lids and her teeth are yellow. She is just a sweetheart.

We begin the finding-a-lost-dog-routine so familiar to both of us in New Mexico. Once we drive to higher ground with cell phone service, my friend calls the number on the collar. No one answers. She leaves a message. I call the number for the Santa Fe shelter on the license tags. I speak with David who reports, “That dog has been turned in as lost before.”

David gives me the owner’s address. We drive back to Cerrillos. Now we are on a quest.  The dog steps calmly into the back seat where she settles in for her road trip, smiling contentedly. We bump down an unpaved dirt road for a few miles when we come to the road we are searching for and turn right. We see a double wide off the road.

As we pull up, I recall a conversation I had with a local in 1988 when I visited New Mexico from Atlanta. “If I get lost in the mountains, is it ok to pull up to a house and ask for directions?” He  answered, “Never go to the door and knock. Sit in the car with the engine on, honk your horn, roll down your window,  put a big smile on your face and say hi.” That is what we did.

A woman in her thirties and a young boy emerge. They are friendly. We tell our story. They peer in the back and announce with a smile, “That’s Sandy. She  lives with the woman next door.” “Next door” is a ways away. Turns out Sandy is deaf. Sandy has taken that long walk to the highway before. The woman tells us Sandy’s owner is not vigilant about keeping her on her property. Then she throws her hands in the air and gives us a look as if to say, “I have things to say about this owner but I am not going to.”

I ask if they will return Sandy. They say yes. The boy literally pulls the amicable Sandy out of the car. The dog does not want to leave.

We head back. We don’t feel good about any of this. My friend and I both know Sandy will walk out to the highway again, undeterred by her person. I hope the next kind person who drives by the little runaway will open the car door, let  Sandy step into the car and take her seat, and just keep driving.

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