Saturday, January 12, 2013


 A few weeks ago the Mark Sublette Gallery ( of Tuscon, AZ and Santa Fe, NM posted a beautiful photograph of a Navaho grandmother with her horse and dog herding sheep along the redrock desert
The exact location is irrelevant, yet is most probably in western New Mexico or eastern Arizona.  The Navaho have a centuries-old tradition of sheep herding and weaving. They are well known for their colorful rugs and blankets:!/photo.php?fbid=10151052735622732&set=a.225502162731.134165.221256922731&type=1&theater

I have always enjoyed wandering around the southwestern United States and learning about the Native American traditions and cultures. 

My first Belgian Tervuren female was born on the Navaho Reservation in Shiprock, NM, USA.  The dog breeder was a school psychologist employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and living with her husband and dogs in a house on the reservation.  I was living full-time in Albuquerque, NM, USA and attending the University of New Mexico at that time.   On the morning of November 3, 1997, I was browsing through the Belgian Tervuren magazine at home in Albuquerque, when I noticed the advertisement for a litter of puppies expected that month in Shiprock, NM.  I had planned for many years to get a Tervuren puppy.  On the same morning in November, I sent a quick email inquiry to the dog breeder and she promptly emailed me back that the puppies were just being born and that she would get back to me in a day or two.  I knew then that a Tervuren from this litter was meant to be....

So when the puppies were 6 weeks old in December, I drove to Shiprock, NM which was a few hours round-trip,   I met all the puppies and reserved a puppy from the litter.  There was one cute female that kept jumping-up to me in the puppy pen as I sat beside the pen with all the puppies.  She wanted all the attention as I was trying to pet each puppy.  This puppy's baby nickname was "Navaho".

During the University of New Mexico Christmas Holiday semester vacation, I went home to Connecticut for a while with my young male Brittany, Montana, and my 15 year old female Pointer whom I had adopted when she was 4 years old.   While home in Connecticut my female Pointer was found to have metastasized cancer in her spine and lungs and had to be euthanized on January 9, 1998.  She had been diagnosed with a tumor near her kidney months before and did well on Prednisone for many months.   I was told the tumor could not be resected because it was too close to blood vessels.   So Montana and I headed back to Albuquerque alone and with a heavy heart on January 11 of that year.  

When we arrived back in Albuquerque, I called the dog breeder and made arrangements to pick-up my new 11 week old Tervuren puppy, "Navajo", who I renamed "Monique" as her call name.  Hence, on January 14, 1998 a wonderful journey of life began with my girl Monique and our best friend Montana:

Monique (above photo at 14 weeks) was an excellent cow herder.  We did not have an opportunity to herd sheep since we lived in Albuquerque and the nearby mesa had a small population of cows but no sheep.  Monique was as swift as the wind running across the mesa.  Only a local coyote was faster than her. 

I used bring them to the mesa 3-4 times per week for exercise and training.  She and Montana, on one visit to the mesa, got into an impromptu play session with a female coyote - hide-and-seek.  This lone coyote ran about 300 yards, in full view, across the desert and started playing with Montana.  Monique immediately jumped into the action, however, the coyote female out-raced Monique and Montana to a nearby hill and disappeared.  When I finally caught-up to them they had stopped at the bottom of the hill searching for their new friend.  Coyote (whom I subsequently called Coyote Woman) appeared at the top of the hill panting and was looking down at Monique, Montana, and me - who were looking up at her!  What a precious and amusing moment.  

On another occasion a mother cow and her new born calf were stranded on the mesa away from the bull and herd.  Monique, Montana, and me were out for our usual exercise and fun.  Monique jumped on this situation, also.  She trotted right over to the mother cow and calf.  The calf would not get-up and the mother was very anxious about being stranded away from the protection of the herd.   To my amazement, I watched Monique move to the right of the mother cow and gently nuzzle her right side with her nose.  The mother cow got noisy and tempermental, but Monique kept at this.  She did not move to the left side where the calf was laying.  After a few nudges to the mother and a little dust stirring-up on the mesa, the calf stood-up.  For the next half-mile, Monique walked stride for stride with the mother cow and calf across the desert until they arrived back at the herd (Mother cow in the middle, calf on the mother's left side, and Monique on the mother cow's right side).  Montana and me just patiently followed about 20 yards behind.  She had not had any herding lessons. Monique was so beautiful, graceful, and good, and I was so very proud of her!

I did not carry a camera on our outings to the mesa during that time so I have no photos of these moments, yet remember each and every precious moment with her.  She died at the age of 11 years on January 27, 2009 at home at 3:20 AM.  I woke-up in the middle of the night to find her taking her last few breaths as she lay unconsious. 

Included are a few photos of Monique from puppyhood to her 11 years: 

Monique, Montana, and me are forever entwined in the Native American west and their peoples' culture from our joint life journey while we traveled around New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and back and forth to Connecticut.  What great times we had together.  I celebrate Monique/Navaho's life this month!

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