Eleven Days

For eleven days, Rusty was nowhere to be found. Of course, we notified the local animal shelter, put up posters everywhere that made sense, notified people via Facebook. But it was disheartening looking out at 1.3 million acres of forest, a forest with mountain lions, and Coyote packs.

Officer M. Vigil arrived shortly after we ran off the road and Rusty had bolted. He looked to be about 40, slow moving, calm. The first thing he did was take down a lot of information about me, and just what happened. “I’m supposed to give you a ticket, but it’s been a bad enough day for you as it is, and the last thing you need on top of it is a ticket.” After a neighbor, Ernesto Trujillo, a generous man, came down and took Yoshiko and her mom, Masako, back to the house, and after all the kind people who had stopped to make sure we were okay had left, (some of them drove around looking for Rusty), there we were, just Officer Vigil and I, waiting for a tow truck to arrive. Given how far away we were from civilization, it would likely be a while.

Feeling shaky, after having withstood such a strong impact, I was a bit wobbly around the knees, and without thinking, I just leaned against the police car. When I noticed what I was doing, I said, “I hope it’s okay I’m leaning against your car.” “Some police officer’s are mighty protective of their vehicles, but no, please, go ahead, just rest.”

I don’t know why, maybe it was from all the training I had with Byron Katie, all that work we did on seeing through our prejudices, undoing all the beliefs we have about all kinds of people, about all police officers, or all republicans, or democrats, or about all Spanish, Anglo, Native American, African American, or Asian peoples, or about all gays and lesbians, or about all very overweight people, or about all people who live in the city or in the country, or about all old people or young people.

But whatever it was, I just saw this man next to me as a person, a person I knew little about, other than that, so far, he had been kind to me. And then again, it was as if I did know him, the way we know everyone, when we really see them.

“Where do you live,” I ask the officer? “I’m from Taos, that’s where I was born and raised.” “How was that, I asked?” “Well, Taos was a whole lot smaller when I was growing up. No Walmart, no big stores of any kind. No fast food chains. Everybody knew everybody.” “What did your parents do?” “They were both schoolteachers…’ and so it went for the next 40 minutes, as we waited by the side of the road, leaning on his super clean car, on a perfect sunny day, under a vast blue sky, with nothing around us but open space going forever in every direction.

The tow truck came. It wasn’t easy getting the car out of such a deep ditch. Officer Vigil stayed until the very end, just watching, making sure everything was going to work out. As I was hopping into the tow truck, I looked back, and called to him. “By the way, what’s the M. stand for on your badge?” “Matthew.” Looking at him in the eyes, I said, “Matthew, thank you for all you did for me. I won’t forget it.”

Eleven days later I get a call. “Is this Bruce?” “Yes.” “This is Matthew. I’m the officer that helped you out when you had the accident. Do you remember me?” “Sure I remember you.” “Have you found your dog yet?” “No, we haven’t.” “Well, I’m down by Abiquiu Lake keeping watch over things here in the campgrounds and there’s a dog roaming around. Is your dog kind of red in color, male, mid size?” “Yes,” I say, as I stand up looking for my coat.“I think this may be your dog. Take my phone number down. I’ll be here. Don’t rush.”

A half hour later, Yoshiko and I pull in next to Matthew. We shake hands. “I didn’t think I’d see you again Matthew.” “Good to see you too,” Matthew says with his straight face, unemotional voice, but sparkling eyes. I turn, whistle loudly. Rusty comes over. He’s thinner, but fine. We thank Matthew again. We drive by the campers who fed him that night and thank them too. On the way out we pass the gatekeeper. “I hear you found your dog. I’ll tell you, there’s something special about that officer. When he came in tonight he asked me if I had seen a dog roaming around. I hadn’t. He was driving around here for the past hour looking for him.”

Last night Rusty slept soundly. Sometimes his eyes would kind of turn back inside his head and begin to flutter, his body twitching. I would have given anything to know where he was, where he’d been, how he survived.

It’s morning. Rusty’s resting in the sun. Curious, I Google, “what does the name Vigil mean?” The Vigil surname comes from the word “vigil” which is from the Latin “vigila,” meaning “wakefulness.” Also, it may derive from the town of Vigil, in Asturias, Spain.

Then I Google, what does Matthew mean?

Gift from God.

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