Gertie’s Story, Part 1/by Steven Sable

Gertie is a Rez Dog from Thoreau, NM. Her story is typical of some of the worst you'll read about, but she's a survivor and is doing very well in foster.
Gertie is a Rez Dog from Thoreau, NM. Her story is typical of some of the worst you’ll read about, but she’s a survivor and is doing very well in foster.

Gertie is a Black Lab/Boxer mix from Thoreau, New Mexico. If she were human rather than a Rez Dog, you’d find her at a place like Woodstock: long, lustrous dark brown hair barely restrained by a Native American headband while she shared a twist of some calming substance with her many admirers. She’s THAT laid-back and pretty.
But her good looks aren’t conventional. Her nose points to the left when her face is looking straight ahead and the beauty mark beneath her left eye is actually a barely-healed scar. Trust me when I say “conventionally attractive” is boring. Boys like “character” and Gertie wears hers like the badge of courage it represents.
And don’t doubt that the boys do indeed like Gertie. She lived at the Giant gas station in Thoreau and her pack consisted of herself and two brown males. The “boys” may or may not have been responsible for her multiple litters. One good look at her puppies would confirm or discount paternity but unfortunately, we have no idea what her puppies looked like. The food vendors that worked next to the Giant confirm that she’d been pregnant several times but nobody knows what happened to any of the puppies.
We aren’t even sure she was able to carry her litters to full term. Gertie’s main water source was the sudsy runoff from the car wash. When the garbage had been picked clean and begging wasn’t working, she survived by eating food wrappers that collected against the fence. Not exactly the nutritious diet needed to survive, let alone nurse multiple puppies.
Gertie was a long-time resident of the Giant. That’s both good news and bad. Gertie is smart, tough and able to thrive in conditions that would kill suburban pets. We know this because she survived multiple High Desert Winters. The bad news is that eventually, all Rez Dogs run out of luck regardless of strong genetics or learned scrappiness. Gertie’s clock was running down and without intervention, a bad outcome was inevitable. The good news is that the Spring of 2016 arrived about the same time as Gertie’s rescuer.

Gertie's nose points in a different direction than her face, but she's a cute, lovable Rez Dog anyway.
Gertie’s nose points in a different direction than her face, but she’s a cute, lovable Rez Dog anyway.

Polly first noticed the emaciated black dog while gassing up at the Giant. Polly is an angel in human clothing and I’m here to tell you, Polly knows how to rescue. Each time she passed through Thoreau, Polly stopped by the Giant to deliver a big bowl of dog food or a special treat to Gertie. As time passed, Polly began to move closer and closer to Gertie before setting down the food. By inching closer during each visit, Polly began to earn Gertie’s trust. Over the course of three months, that trust allowed Polly to touch Gertie’s head. This soon lead to long compassionate strokes down Gerty’s side. Soon after, Polly made her move.
A friendly local helped Polly corral Gertie but it was a tough fight that took weeks. Each failed attempt started the cycle of earning and losing Gertie’s trust all over again. While Rez Dogs are bright by nature, they aren’t accustomed to confinement of any kind and the gentle petting of the week before came across as a death-grip to this Rez Dog that had earned her fear of humans the hard way. But Polly persevered and managed to get a terrified Rez Dog into her truck for the ride home.
Gertie’s panicked response to “rescue” quickly subsided. Not long after beginning the ninety minute drive, Gertie slipped onto Polly’s lap and pressed her face against Polly’s chest. Gertie’s fleas migrated from her head to Polly’s. Polly quickly realized that Gertie had spent part of that morning wading in the sewage lagoon down the street from the Giant. As I said, Polly is an angel and to her credit, she didn’t flinch. Mission accomplished. Gertie truly had been rescued.
But Gertie wasn’t out of danger. She was in much worse shape than Polly knew…



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