One of the rules of MVC is that you cannot have any pets during the year because it can negatively affect the community. When we got to Arizona, we had no plans to have or keep a pet, and our stipends certainly would not cover the costs having an animal would incur.
We did not count on the Rez dogs.
Mikey was a sweet, young dog. Half pit-bull and black lab, he was playful and protective. The volunteers from last year told us that he basically came with the trailer and he owned the porch. He was never violent or hostile or any other negative thing you hear about pit-bulls and Rez dogs. He would trot alongside us as we took the garbage out to the trailer courts next door and walked with us to Mass and to the Navajo Nation Parade until the crowd got too big and he wandered back to school.
Mikey was taken in by the humane society last week and will be put to sleep based on his breed.
I told myself I would not get close to the animals out here, and I came with the impression that they were wild animals that I would want to stay with. But Mikey wasn't He would sit with his head in my lap as I sat on the front stairs reading a book. He barked at the random cows that wandered in our yard when we forgot to close the gate, insistent that they leave before they left a mess in our yard. He would run up to our car when we pulled in from school and circle excitedly until we put down whatever we were holding to give him a scratch behind his ears.
He never came inside our trailer, and we never spent our money to feed him, although a few wayward recipes made their way to a discarded bowl under our porch. He wasn't ours because we couldn't tag him or help him in anyway, but I miss him.
I miss him a lot and it breaks my heart to know that everything I have tried to do to help him hasn't been enough. It seems strange to eulogize a dog I told myself I didn't want, but Mikey didn't have a chance out here and I felt like all I could do was stand by and watch it happen.
He reminds me a lot of my students. Of course, my Native American students and a Rez dogs are entirely different, but I keep thinking about how people didn't give Mikey a chance. People saw that he was part pit-bull and feared him because of that. They didn't know the sweet Mikey that walked with you so you felt safe, they saw every negative encounter with dangerous dogs rolled into one.
There are a lot of people who don’t give the Navajo students a chance. They see the problems that plague the reservation and assume that because of their genetics they will fall into the same patterns. They don’t always see the creativity blooming from the students, the dreams that they aspire to fulfill; their desires to leave the reservation so they can make a better life for themselves.
I miss Mikey because he was loyal and great company. I am glad that I had the few months I did with him because he made that time better. Losing him has made me think about what all the people who live here stand to lose because of unfortunate societal judgment, and what I can do to make sure some of that is alleviated.