Willie Nelson’s heroes have always been cowboys. I get it; they’re macho, seem to have a mastery of animals, and that “Yee-Haw” gets your attention. But my heroes have always been common folk – the single mother working two jobs to provide, and a physically disabled person I’ve observed for decades walking around town, doing the best she can and never giving up.
The epitome of hero was Pat Tillman, who walked away from an NFL, $3.6 million contract after his explosive rookie season – against all advice from friends and family – to help find those responsible for 9/11. Never mind it might have been a bogus war against the wrong people, Pat sacrificed all before being shot and killed by “friendly fire.” “Hero” is almost an inadequate word.
But my heroes have often been animals, and not only dogs. You may have seen the video of a wild dog charging a toddler in his own yard when the family cat jumped into the face of the large, snarling attacker and continued to chase it till it fled the property. But dogs more often are proven heroes, and richly deserve that status. Whether a service dog diligently monitoring every movement of its vulnerable owner, a military dog sniffing out danger to his own peril, or Kelly Estes’ poodle, Bella.
Living near the river below the hospital, Kelly often walks Bella along those trails, as I have from time to time. But last week, a 6-point intrusion reared its ugly head, appearing out of nowhere and charging Kelly with mayhem obviously the goal. Miss Bella – and this is no teacup poodle, but a sizable gal who’s accompanied Kelly into the mountains many times – jumped into its path and launched a furious defense. Kelly recalls this stag had Bella on the ground, mauling her before mercifully running into the river with blood dripping from his rack while staring menacingly at its innocent prey.
Bella’s side was gashed open and they had a long walk to safety ahead of them. Kelly talked to her beloved Bella all the way – Bella looking up at her with a trusting, stoic stare. It wasn’t till Kelly carried Bella into Advanced Care Clinic she realized the buck tine had actually exited the other side. A suggested trip to Billings for round-the-clock care wasn’t practical, so tests were done and it turned out this courageous hero was also a miracle. The antler had fortuitously passed by every organ by fractions of an inch,
I stopped to visit Bella yesterday, whom I had already met on a previous roof repair, to see for myself what a survivor looks like. A couple of defensive barks, much like I get from most females I encounter, is all I witnessed before she happily allowed me access to rub her ample coat – a walking, tail-wagging hero.
I guess my heroes have always been chow boys. My Ginger turned 15 last Monday and for the five years I’ve been blessed with her, she’s been perfect in every way. She would take a tine for me any ol’ day. That’s what dogs that are loved and free of chains do.