LuckyPup Ranch


I live on a horse ranch in the eastern foothills of Arizona’s Rincon Mountains, elevation 4200 feet.  A dry wash runs the ranch’s eastern mile, a ridge parallels the wash to the west. To the north of the ranch, where the ridge serrates into the Rincons, mesquite trees speckle shade onto rocky pastures.

The afternoon wind here sweeps you up and deposits you at night in your own old age. Wrinkles bloom like childhood acne. The sun, even winter sun, eats the tops off ears, the ends of noses, the backs of necks burned year after year.

The road in to the ranch is six miles of washboard dirt gouged through the desert by hooves and wagon wheels, and the wide blades of tractors. It’s a scruffy, snake-pocked landscape inhabited by mule deer, bear and mountain lions

Eighteen years ago I saw a black and white dog sitting beside the road. An hour later, going the other way, I saw the same dog lying down. My neighbor Josie knelt beside her truck, hands outstretched, treats in her fingers. As she inched forward, the dog inched away. 

“I’ve seen him here for the last three days” she said. “He won’t let me catch him.” 

I bent and lifted him into my truck. I felt each rib sharp under thick fur. His pricked ears were lumpy with ticks. He was medium sized, his harsh black coat highlighted by a white ruff, white paws and a white tip to the tail that curled over his back. I’d never seen a dog like him. He looked like a cross between a small akita and a border collie.

I took him home to our six other dogs. Lying in deep shade, licking between their toes, the pack eyed him. Gilly, the silvery wolf-dog we’d found starved the year before, got up and fought him to a tie.

I named him Huckleberry. Huck had a certain kind of silence to him, a stillness totally different from our other dogs.  At night, he chose to sleep outside, near the horses, with Gilly. When the stars called me out from the house, I lay with them, bedded on loose hay, hands under my head. I wore my glasses so I could see the stars, the clouds, the distant glow of Tucson.  Huck lay beside me, his head on my stomach.Image

The road to LuckyPup Ranch.



About heidivanderbilt

Owner LuckyPup Ranch, Benson, AZ where I raise, board, rehabilitate and retire horses. Recipient of a special Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America. Married to artist Bernard Fierro.
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