For Laramie, Whenever I May Find Her
I come to find out that the dog’s name is Winter. The poor dog is a bright fluffy white, except for the specks of dirt and leaves and the red splotch around her rear left leg. Having felt her shiver in my arms and heard her whimper in the car all the way over here, knowing her name is of slight consolation. Knowing she has humans to take care of her would be better.
She was not wearing a collar, but thanks to a microchip implant, the doggy doctor is able to track down the owner. It just so happens that Winter lives about four doors down from me. I have never seen her before, nor do I recognize the name of the owner. Sign of the times, I reflect. A man never cares about his neighbors anymore, but will put a microchip in his dog when it runs away.
Gracie and Joker have been waiting patiently in the car for about 15 minutes by now. I told the receptionist that I would not be leaving the dog’s side until her owner showed up, but I am also conscious of my dogs and their bladders, so I decide to call my wife.
“Where are you?”
I proceed to tell her the story of Jeremy’s re-appearance, the chase, and discovering Winter. “It was crazy, Mo. I’m still catching my breath.”
“Did they find the dog’s owner?”
“Yeah, he’s on his way. He lives a few doors down from us… Hey would you be able to come by and pick the dogs up? I feel like I need to stay here with Winter.”
“Why do you need to do that? You just said the owner was on his way.”
“Call it a hunch. Nothing this bird has done so far has been an accident. I’m guessing there’s something more to him leading me to this dog than just a rescue mission.”
“Well, alright then. I was about to go shopping anyway.”
We exchange our “love-ya’s” and our “see-ya-soons,” and hang up our phones.
Sitting here in the lobby of the doggy hospital, I struggle to put it all together. From the moment this bird entered my life, everything has had a mystic air to it. The feeding frenzy he procured for his flock after scaring that squirrel into the jaws of my dogs; the charm bracelet with the due date of our miscarried first-born; rescuing the fawn in my underwear in the park; and being led to a broken dog in a tipi. None of this can be coincidental. It simply must have a purpose. I have seen far too many coincidences to believe in them anymore.
I recall the video lessons of the Crow Stalker, but learning the calls and the body language of the birds only gives me the substrate. I recall the Legend of Sun Breast, but it doesn’t make any more sense to me than it did the day I read it. Herman Blackclaw died in Laramie at the same time my wife and I were on our honeymoon. But what does it mean? I resolve to spend some more time on the Seven Suns website when I return from the pale green waiting room of the pet ER. There’s got to be something I’m missing.
The pictures of the tipi Mo and I stayed in – now carried in my wallet – stand in stark contrast to the drab surroundings in which I currently sit. I pull them out, unfold them, and flip back and forth. My eyes pour over the creased Kodaks. Unsure what to look for, I frantically dart back and forth from detail to detail. Maybe all I’m missing is a single puzzle piece, some minute point within these images to trigger a memory, to make a connection, to turn into that eureka! moment that I’ve been so desperate for.
The photos of the inside of the tipi offer no such moment. The headdress, the animal skins, the owl… the white owl. Well, it was the same color as the broken dog I just rescued, and they were both on the inside of the tipi. The words “seems like a stretch” slip out of my mouth. Nevertheless, I add “owls” to the things to look up when I return home.
On the outside, the bison and horses dancing on the plain on the outside of the tipi vaguely remind me of the dogs at the park, if the dogs were about 4 times bigger. Pitched against the rolling field of wheat, they appear playful. The brave, standing tall with his bow and his hatchet, looks stoically off in the distance. And then there’s that damned black bird, watching, waiting, knowing. The way the photo is creased, I can flap the bird’s wings by folding and unfolding it.
That provides some slight amusement for a while. My brain has been grasping for a pattern that doesn’t want to present itself – an unmanifest destiny, I think, and chuckle aloud. I have been thinking about this for too long. And lo, in this brief state of mental relaxation, I see something I had not seen before in the photos: a man in the background. “What? Who are you?”
At that very moment, the bell above the door swiftly clangs, and a tall, determined man enters. He wastes no time moving to the vacant reception desk.
“Where is my dog? Where is Winter??”
“Just a moment!” comes a voice from the back. The man raps his fingers on the desk and nervously leans back and forth. I decide not to introduce myself until he’s been assuaged by the receptionist. Impatient, he turns and looks directly at me. A sudden glimmer of recognition sweeps his steely gaze, as though I return it with a furrowed brow. Just as he opens his mouth to say something, the sweet voice of an elderly woman drifts through the doors.
“Are you Mr. Nomee?”
“Yes, yes. You have Winter?”
“Winter? Yes, she’s sedated right now. That gentleman there brought her in.” She points at me, and he turns around with the same faint memory in his eyes. He opens his mouth again, but instead of words, he opts to bow his head in gratitude. He wears a long ponytail that is starting to grey, with dark wheat skin that is beginning to crack.
“Would you like to see her?”, she asks. He nods and follows her through the doors. As they disappear down the hallway, the receptionist begins to ask him the 20 questions required of any owner who unexpectedly needs to get a procedure done on their pet. Some thank you!
My phone goes off; my wife is 5 minutes away. I decide to step out for a cigarette.
The cold air that once brought shivers to my spine this morning is now a bright, hot July day. I can hear my dogs whining in the car. I go to give them some pets, but not before I glance overhead to check for crows. None found here.
I return to my photos and study the man behind the tipi in the outdoor shot we took of the brave and the crow, at the tipi’s entrance, but all I can make out is his skintone: a burnt orange. Even with my reading glasses from the car, I can not make out a distinct facial feature. The man is not looking at the camera, but at the tipi itself. His body is hidden from sight.
Faintly, I hear: Caw! Caw! Caw!
I shiver. Looking around there is no bird in sight. I wait for more calls. None come.
My cigarette seems less appealing now, and I toss it as it is halfway done. My wife’s car pulls in as I walk through the door, and my dogs start their whining again.
Back in the office, Mr. Nomee is sitting in the chair that I had previously occupied.
“Phil Rosette,” I say as I offer my hand.
“Alfred Nomee. Thank you.”
“Of course. What happened?”
“I was hoping you could tell me. I let her stay outside last night, and this morning she is not there.”
“Funniest thing: I found her in a tipi.” Pausing, I decide not to tell him the bit about the crow leading me there. “I’m not sure what made her gimpy but it looked like she had just crawled in there to hide.”
My wife walks in to the office.
“Hi, Honey. Maureen, this is—”
“Alfred Nomee. I thought I recognized you, Phil. Now that I see your wife, I know where from. Laramie, Wyoming.”
Suddenly, everything is very cold again.