Bern and I became Artists-in-Residence at Rancho Linda Vista, in Oracle, Arizona. We were given a studio and housed in a newly built guest house with thick, whitewashed walls, a red tiled roof, and spectacular views to the Santa Catalina Mountains.
We made lifelong friends among the artists. And Harpo made friends with the dogs, Royko the arthritic old Airedale, Guerro a terrier saved from kids who’d cropped his ears with scissors. One night we left the door ajar and woke with a neighbor’s beagle asleep on our bed.
When our residency at RLV ended, we rented a house across the road and eventually bought one up the hill. Wherever we lived, Harpo’s pals followed, appearing singly, in pairs or as a pack to play with him.
Every day, he and I got in the car, just us, and drove somewhere for a hike.
One morning I chose a winding, rutted road up the backside of the mountain, through boulders shaped like monkey heads. When the road disappeared, I parked and we got out.
I heard a high cry, scanned the winter sky for hawks, saw nothing.
After our walk, I heard it again.
Again I checked the air. I ran my eyes over the bouldered land around us, the sparse scrubby trees. Under a distant mesquite, something glistened. I climbed tumbled rocks to kneel beside a swollen, writhing baggie.
Inside, nose to tail, eight newborn puppies lay stacked and dying.