Woman’s Best Friend by Tara (submitted via e-mail)
My husband lost his job and we ended up moving to a mobile home his parents own in the S. California desert where he grew up. After living my entire life in the liberal enclaves of PNW/N. Cali mountains & forests, an unexpected and unwanted move to a red zone where I knew literally no one besides my in-laws (who don’t particularly like me) was highly stressful to say the least. Add to the situation that our 6 year old was experiencing major culture shock and homesickness, I was about four months pregnant, and my husband was being a major taint crumb—just to give you an idea of the level of stress in the house. Oh, and did I mention we moved in the middle of July when temperatures were hovering around 120°F and my father in law neglected to tell us that the AC in the house was broken and there was no flooring in half the place? Yah. Waking nightmare.After about a month of the three of us living in my FIL’s tiny study, the house is finally livable. It’s located on the fringes of a tiny town that is about 45 minutes from the closest city. We have a truck stop gas station, a fire station, a corner store and a smattering of houses. Our street dead ends at and is is surrounded by BLM land and is tucked in between low hills/backs up to mountains. Half the other houses are uninhabited. My husband found work near his parents house in the “city” and since his parents were willing to help with childcare our kiddo started school there as well. This left me at home alone with no car for long hours, which I secretly loved because it gave me time to unpack emotionally and physically and also meant I had limited interaction with my in laws, so I could enjoy being radiantly pregnant without jabs about how fat my face was getting.One day, about three weeks after we moved into the house, something felt off. I was sitting down in the living room —which has no windows to the front yard —and suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that I had to go let my dog in NOW, even though she’d only been outside for a few minutes. As I walked into the kitchen, I realized that it was eerily silent and still outside. Keep in mind, it was late August in the desert so the windows and doors were all closed and the AC was on, so I’m not sure how I knew it was creepy outside before I opened the door to call in my dog, but somehow I did. Usually there’s a breeze or bugs buzzing or hummingbirds hitting up the feeder on our deck, which had been the case when I let doggo out. But when I opened up the sliding door to call for my dog, there was absolute silence. And when I looked out into the yard I realized why.Sitting at our gate was a gigantic black dog. I don’t just mean a big dog: the top of this dog’s head was just below the top edge of our 8 foot chain link gate. It was easily as wide as a Mini Cooper, and looked like a cross between a Newfoundland and a grizzly bear. My dog is a sharpei-pitbull mix and she only came to about mid chest on this huge beast. She’s sitting there, maybe ten feet from it with just flimsy chain fence between them, watching it quietly. Tears immediately started pouring down my cheeks (I don’t cry easily) and suddenly it felt like I was carrying two full sized adults over my shoulders. It took every ounce of energy I had to walk to the edge of our small deck. I tried to very quietly whistle for my dog, and nothing really came out or if it did it was swallowed by the silence. Still, right as I ‘whistled,’ both my dog and the black dog turned their heads to look at me. My dog slowly stood up and calmly walked over to me. You have to understand: she is the derpiest bounciest collection of happy squish face love and never does anything less than bound across the yard with her tail up, tongue out, and ears perked when she’s called, so this was completely out of character.When she reached me, she turned and looked back at the black dog, then back at me, then started to walk back towards it like she wanted me to follow her. I made a lunge for her and grabbed her harness. The dog stood up, and we locked eyes. I was then hit by the deepest sadness I’ve ever felt. Worse than when either of my parents died, it was a like a cold wave crashed directly in the center of my heart. I was sobbing uncontrollably as I dragged my dog inside.When I looked back, the black dog had begun to walk down the street towards the mountains. It went behind a large Palo Verde shrub, and disappeared. I sat on my kitchen floor sobbing and shivering for a good hour despite the searing summer temps.I finally calmed down and worked up the nerve to take my dog out again later that afternoon. When I checked the area around the gate for paw prints there were none, but there was a giant void in the sandy tire tracks my husband made when he left for work. My dog remained subdued for a while, but was back to herself by the time husband & kid got home. I didn’t say anything to him (things weren’t really great between us and he was in a bad mood), but he noted later on how funny it was that our dog kept pacing back and forth in front of the gate.About a week later I went in for a prenatal appointment. I’d lost my baby. The doctor said it was a failure to thrive/nothing I could’ve done/sometimes these things happen situation. I’d been feeling off for about two weeks, but had just chalked it up to how stressful life had been—I honestly would’ve marked the black dog off as a stress induced hallucination or something had my dog not ...interactacted?... with it so extensively.About a month later, I was hiking on the south end of Joshua Tree with my husband. We turned around to follow a hawk that had flown overhead and there on the trail we’d just walked was a big black dog. Not as big as the one at the house—this one was closer to the size of a normal Newfoundland. It sat down and—as funny as it sounds—sneezed, then got up and walked off. My husband tried to follow it, but lost it. The area we were hiking was all low plants, nowhere for this dog to have come from or gone to without us seeing it for quite a while. Before it appeared, we’d been talking about our baby and had actually settled on a name for him, even though we’d never meet him.I guess you could see the black dog as something malicious or blame it for losing the pregnancy, but I don’t. I think it came to escort the little soul I had onto its proper place in the universe, and it gives me great comfort to think of a little boy resting in the guard of a big, fluffy dog. My husband still thinks the one we saw while hiking was a stray, but whenever my dog meets someone new she sneezes as a sort of “I’m friendly!” gesture. I think the dog was letting me know that the little guy made it to where he needed to be safely.