I had nothing but a shiny, black plastic bag full of memories on the night my guardian angel joined me for the desolated roads. I actively chose to drop out of society with a backpack full of a few essentials and a one-way greyhound ticket to Alabama to meet my teacher of the road for the first half of my journey. He needed me to join him to balance out his hardened appearance so we could get “good rides” across the country. But I soon grew weary of drifting north and south, east and west, upon his time and demands. And I would become tire of the next companion and the next one as well. But I was a tiny, breakable girl so traveling alone was out of the question. I needed a dog—a big, black scary one. I just did not know exactly know this yet.
Six months into my wandering, an older man crept up behind me and interrupted my trance-like observations of people circling in and out of a crash house in the desert and whispered. “Hey, do you want a puppy?” Before I could respond, he added “they are part wolf.” I was fascinated with wolf-hybrids and I wanted a dog anyway, so I sprang to my feet and ran outside to meet the puppies. A gray, lean timber wolf met me at the door of the man’s Winnebago with a calm presence as one would expect from a proud, new mother. She placed her head on my shoulder when I sat down to caress one of the pups as if she was saying to me, “You can have one.” I chose the black, spunky female because many people are afraid of large, black dogs. I wanted a protector, so I could travel alone without the dependence on male companions. But she would soon become more than my guardian. She would also be my friend, child, playmate, and superhero of a teacher. And I would be the same for her. But more significantly, we gave each other freedom that we each craved.
For 13 years, she eagerly joined me in my aimless wandering across the open deserts beaches, and forests and cluttered cities in at least 6 states in the U.S. until she crossed the ocean with me to greet the Middle East. Her wild spirit often got me in trouble often. She disappeared into the night and jumped into wild packs of coyotes and boars only to return in time for breakfast. One time, she even ate a sheep in the desert and afforded us both an early retirement from wilderness therapy, and attracted special attention from the law due to her knack for grabbing the postmen and little boys by the seat of their pants for jumping too close or entering “her” porch or van. She was wild to say the least and that wild spirit is what kept me safe and permitted my freedom and it is probably what saved her time and time again.
Last month, Angel proved that she was also a superhero strong enough to fight the demon that was growing inside her, which is otherwise referred to as cancer. She seemed to have an exorcism, not merely a surgery. She awoke and sprang to her feet shortly after the tumor the size of a human heart was removed. Despite having a slice from top to bottom in her abdomen, she had to find me as usual. It was as if my heart had been handed back to me. Her soul rose and life returned to her skin, her nose became moist for the first time in over a year, and the shine and sparkle returned to her eyes again. “You scared me” I whispered to her. She peered into my eyes and looked at me with a laughing smile.