Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.6
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.6

           John Cerutti
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  Trainers, bronco riders, and calf ropers are risking their lives running into the wreck to rescue the teams of horses.

  Men brandishing blades of steel cut agitated horses from their harnesses. Spooked, shaking their heads, one Appaloosa and an Arabian dash in opposite directions. They run erratically through the arena, each turning at different intervals, only to dart back from where they came.

  More men rush to help, carefully crossing the track, glancing in every direction, not wanting to be trampled by horses running wild in the arena.

  One team of six horses, wagon less, is careening around the track eerily holding their heads high—manes blowing in the wind—bodies sweating—eyes bulging.

  Someone shouts in amazement, “There goes Doc Cuthberson! Look at him climb into the wreckage!”

  Another man yells, “He’s fearless!”

  Before anyone can blink an eye, he’s in the middle of the debris grasping the reins of one ensnared horse, pulling it to its feet. Reaching to untangle another, he coaxes it to his side. Everyone in the bleachers is in shock, motionless, eyeing his every move.

  Horses are still running loose in the stadium. Cowboys, with lassoes in hand, are chasing them down. Wagons from the massive wreck are being hoisted and towed from the pileup by teams of men with trucks and chains.

  Holding the horses, he perilously stands his ground, ordering the cowboys, “Pull there! Push that wagon! Now that one!” He yells, “Hurry boys, hurry.”

  Cowboys are yelling, shouting orders to untangle the wagons surrounding Doc and the two remaining horses. Working feverishly side-by-side, they thrust and heave, determined to free up the wagons. Finally, untangled, they are swiftly pulled away.

  Smiling, almost laughing, Doc emerges from the chaos jogging toward the main gate with the two horses in his grasp.

  Concerned owners and trainers run to him, eager to take their horses and calm them with familiar words and comforting strokes. Cautiously they inspect them for injury, and then whisk them away to their stalls for further care.

  Many in the crowd sigh, one concedes, “I’m glad that’s over with.”

  Another exhales, “That was a close call.”

  “Were any of the horses hurt bad?” I ask.

  “Won’t know till Doc checks them out,” someone responds in a hopeful tone, winking and holding up two crossed fingers.

  Now is my chance to see Doc Cuthberson—to save Neewa. I jump from the corral rails and sprint to the stables to find him.

  Arriving in moments at a gigantic wooden barn between the arena and stables, I hesitate before entering. Slowly I peer around the corner and inside. Thick wooden timbers climb from the floor to the crossbeams that traverse its length and width above me. Dim sunlight shines through a few tattered boards protecting the loft full of hay from rain and wind. Bowls of milk for the cats sit on the floor near more hay and next to the green poison for the unwanted rats that will soon prowl here in the night.

  On the hay-covered dirt floor, horses held by their trainers wait their turn for the vet’s assessment of every bump and bruise. Everyone is talking about the crash. Their voices are laden with concern. That’s when I see him, kneeling alongside an Appaloosa gelding of at least fifteen hands, examining, and gently patting his side.

  Tears stream down my cheeks as I stagger up to him and cry out, “Dr. Cuthberson, my puppy has distemper—she is going to die—you’ve gotta save her!”

  I plead, “Can you help her? Please?”

  Perplexed, he looks up at me as he gets to his feet. Stepping away from his patient, he takes off his big hat and with one great swipe brushes off his jeans. Staring at me, he circles around the far side of the horse and continues his evaluation, checking head, front quarter, hindquarter, and legs.

  At last he looks at me and says, “Little girl, what the heck are you doing here?”

  Glancing away he spits a wad of chew onto the dirt floor and then observes the tears streaming down my cheek.

  He leans over the horse between us and with a thick Western accent whispers, “Bring ‘er to my office tomorrow morning, I’ll take a look at ‘er, we’ll see what we can do.”

  “Thank you, thank you,” I blubber wiping tears from under my eyes, standing, staring at him, in shock.

  The concerned owner of this horse peers over Doc’s shoulder at me. Many others owners stand there among many horses patting their steeds, waiting their turn.

  Doc turns to the man and says, “This one will be all right. Wrap up all four ankles good and tight.” He nods to a man in a white coat to his right watching every move.

  The horse’s owner exhales in relief.

  Turning on his heels Doc walks away, headed for the next one in line. A rancher walks up to him. Doc recognizes the man and smiles.

  “Doc, I need you out at my ranch right away. I can fly you out in my plane,” the rancher says sounding troubled.

  “I hardly use a car anymore,” Doc says as he walks alongside the rancher. “I have to check on the rest of these horses first. Then we’ll go.”

  Both men have serious expressions on their faces as they go separate ways. Again Doc Cuthberson disappears, this time swallowed up by a swarm of horses and their caregivers.

  I am overjoyed. All I know is he’s gonna see Neewa tomorrow. He’s going to save her. I know he is.

  I turn and run toward the main fairgrounds leaving the chaos at the stables behind me. Sounds of whinnying horses being tended by worried trainers fade into the distance. While the cheerful sounds of the fair, come back into focus. I’m back in the hustle and bustle of the carnival and beside myself with happiness. Trying to hold back my sobbing and regain my composure, I stop near a bench along a walkway and sit.

  Below the evening sky are the bright lights of the fairgrounds. The Ferris wheel turns against the star-studded backdrop. Riders scream as they reach the top of its great circle and then descend back to the ground. In the distance the Egyptian Boat rocks one way and then the other, increasing its arc, higher and higher with every to and fro.

  I’m up and jogging again, encircled by people strolling, laughing, eating, and rushing to their next thrilling moment.

  Vendors hawk their toys, beckoning would-be buyers to come forward.

  The fair will be closing down later tonight, it’s over until next year.

  I run to Dad who is sitting at the information booth where we agreed to meet.

  “Christina, I haven’t been able to find him,” he blurts out.

  “But I have,” I shout. “I found him and we can bring Neewa to his office in the morning.”

  “He’s going to see her on a Sunday morning?” His voice gets louder in disbelief.

  “Yeah, I got it covered. I’ll tell you all about it, but right now all I want to do is go home.”

  Heading for the exit, with everyone else going home too, I spot Doctor Cuthberson being driven through the fairgrounds to the airport. He’ll soon be flying out to that ranch.

  “He is going to see a sick horse out in Winnemucca,” says one man to another walking next to us. “The ranchers depend on him to care for the large animals in this county.”

  “He’s the only one in these parts,” a woman chimes in.

  “Yup, he travels miles to care for the horses, cattle, and sheep around here,” another adds.

  Working my way through the crowd toward the van with Dad, my thoughts wander. No one told me he doctors only large animals. He’s different from the other veterinarian in town who cares for dogs, cats, and smaller pets. He stays in his office and has the animals come to him. Dr. Cuthberson flies across the county to take care of all the ranchers’ large animals.

  Once in the car, I tell Dad the whole story. How I first laid eyes on him through the crowd of people. Where I ran to find him at the chuck wagon race, and all the riders and horses that barely escaped injury in the terrifying accident. And about witnessing all the people running to the rescue, and the Doctor in the middle of the wreck saving
the trapped horses. Lastly, I tell Dad how I found him at the stables caring for every one of those horses.

  We arrive at home and I run to check on Neewa. She is not well, about the same as when I left her this morning, maybe worse. She tries to drink some water from the bowl I raise to her mouth, but only takes a little. Her nose feels like dried leather. Trying to greet me, she shakes as she stands, then collapses down to the ground in a ball of white fur.

  I cry as I tell her, “You have to hold on, I’m going to take you to the doctor tomorrow. He is going to save you!”

  Neewa looks at me as if she understands. But her look tells me, this had better work, because I’m not gonna be able to hold on much longer.

  I sob and tell her, “Tomorrow everything is going to be better. I know Dr. Cuthberson will save you.” I hold her close to me. “You have to make it through the night! You have to, you hear me!” I pull her face into mine. Her dried nose against my cheek.

  “I can’t keep you inside Neewa, you’re too sick. You have to stay outside again tonight.” She looks at me with her sagging big gray eyes. I clean the crusty discharge from the corners and hold her close to me as she closes her eyes and falls asleep in my arms.

  Chapter 9 - Doc’s

  It’s morning and we arrive at Dr. Cuthberson’s ranch. Dad and I carry Neewa into the office.

  His assistant, the one in the white coat at the fair, comes to meet us. “I’m Lyle, the doctor is helping one of his mares give birth. Do you want to come watch?”

  “Bring your puppy, she can’t hurt any animals here,” Lyle says as we walk through the empty waiting room.

  Mumbling as we walk, “I don’t want to see this, I really hate blood.”

  Jackie follows the assistant saying, “I want to see.”

  Dad carries Neewa in his arms. She is limp, not at all the same frisky puppy we adopted at the pound months ago.

  Keeping my head down and hiding my eyes, I enter the barn. The faint scents of manure and hay hang in the air. Every stall is clean, with a layer of fresh hay and a bucket of oats hung on the side. Colorful blankets are draped over the sidewalls of each stall, and a wooden name placard prominently hangs above each gate.

  “Where are all the other horses?” I ask Lyle the assistant.

  He answers, “They are out in the pastures for the day, we bring them in around five.”

  Unsure of myself, I lag behind everyone as we enter the fifth stall. The mare is lying down, breathing heavily. Her foal is beginning to show. I can already see the foal’s legs outside of the birth canal. Above the stall’s entrance is her name, “Queen Ann.”

  Doc says, “It’s her time to give birth.”

  Jackie’s eyes are wide as she and Dad watch.

  I decide to leave and maybe come back later, when it’s all over. Dad holds Neewa as I duck into the next stall, hoping I don’t puke.

  “Is it a filly or a colt?” Lyle excitedly asks the Doctor.

  As I peak around the corner, the sounds of water gurgling and suction emanate from the stall.

  Sweat drips from his forehead as he answers, “Don’t know yet.”

  I stare as he helps Queen Ann. He gently pulls the legs of the foal, who is born a few seconds later.

  “It’s a filly!” He exclaims.

  Slinking back into the birthing stall, I watch the newborn lying on the hay next to her mother.

  My stomach begins to settle. What a great movie this would make, someone should videotape this. But it isn’t for the fainthearted.

  Doctor Cuthberson says to his assistant, “Lyle, you watch the filly. I’ll be back after I take a look at the puppy.”

  We follow him into the examination room near the front office. Dad places Neewa on the stainless steel table in the middle of the room. She collapses into a white lump.

  Ammonia, strong enough to cause me to tear, permeates the air in the clean and organized room. I gaze around the room at locked medicine cabinets. Under the large windows is a row of glass cases. Inside are Native American artifacts and artwork, with pottery, baskets and weapons labeled and dated just like in a museum. Woven blankets and oil paintings of fierce-looking Indian chiefs cover the walls.

  Doc Cuthberson turns from the sink and begins the examination. Methodically he looks at her eyes, nose and mouth, quickly completing the procedure.

  His voice is confident as he quickly speaks, “I wanta give her a shot of the live distemper virus, maybe jump start her immune system. It’s not the usual treatment, but it’s her best chance to live. It could kill her too. If I don’t give her the shot she’ll die for sure.”

  Swiftly and just as convincingly I reply, “Give her the shot.” Dad nods his consent.

  Doc doesn’t say a word as he leaves the room, returning in seconds with the shot. He grabs a hand full of her butt cheek fur and skin and sticks the needle in. She yelps.

  Without delay he says, “Leave her here overnight. Pick her up after school tomorrow. We’ll keep an eye on her.”

  He politely says, “Good luck,” and hastily heads back to his new filly.

  I look at him, “Thank you for helping Neewa.”

  Doc looks at me with piercing blue eyes surrounded by dark skin and a furrowed brow. The door slams closed, locking behind him.

  Neewa is still on the table. “You have to stay here tonight,” I hold her. “The doctor will take care of you.”

  Tears run down my face as I squeeze her close to me. I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do but pray.

  Moments after Doc leaves, Lyle the veterinary assistant enters the room.

  He looks at me saying, “The doctor gave her the live virus in hopes that her immune system will strengthen and fight off the disease. Don’t worry, we will keep an eye on her for ya.”

  He gently takes her from the table and my grasp. I lunge forward to give her one last kiss and hug.

  Lyle walks us to the exit. The door shuts with a bang. I walk away sniveling.

  Jackie is upset and puts her arm around me as we walk to the van.

  Dad embraces us and says, “She’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

  Driving out of the Doc’s driveway, I look out the window. Somewhere on this ranch, Neewa is lying helpless in a cage, alone in the desert again, just like when she was born.

  Jackie all excited says, “Christina! Look at the K-2 meter. It’s flashing like mad.”

  I look toward Jackie, tears still welling in my eyes. “I can’t think about that right now.”

  Dad gushes with excitement, “Did you see those masks on the wall? One was labeled, ‘Sun Dance Headdress’ and another marked ‘Shaman Spirit Mask.’ And there were ancient medicines and powders in that other glass cabinet in the corner.”

  Jackie adds, “I saw a scepter that had some kind of hair on it. I hope its not human hair, eek!”

  Dad turns toward me with a glaring stare, “Doc Cuthberson is either a collector, or a shaman. I’ll bet they have secret ceremonies out here.”

  Jackie shrieks, “I brought the pocket spectrometer and the radio frequency meter too. The readings are off the charts!”

  “What’s going on out here?” Jackie yells.

  Dad eagerly says, “Let’s do an investigation when we come back here tomorrow to pick up Neewa. We’ll bring the cameras and take video of the ranch. I’ll bet this place has all kinds of paranormal activity.”

  “Christina, what do you think?” Jackie asks, trying to distract me from Neewa’s critical condition.

  “I’m worried about Neewa. I pray she lives.”

  Chapter 10 - Back to Doc’s

  I’m waiting at the curb for Dad and Jackie to pick me up.

  “Let’s go, Dad,” I demand, jumping into the back seat. “I have to go get Neewa.”

  The ride out to the Doc’s ranch seems never-ending. I twitch and move around in my seat but I can’t settle down. Finally we arrive.

  Dad points to some boxes in the back seat. “We have the cameras and some of the other equip
ment for our investigation of the Doc’s ranch. I’ll set everything up in the back of the van before I go in. Jackie, you stay in the van and watch everything. Make sure the cameras are running.”

  Jackie moans, “I don’t see why I have to wait out here and take the video while you guys go inside.”

  Jackie smirks, “Yeah, yeah, okay I‘ll stay here and sweat to death. No, I’m going for a walk around the ranch till I find a nice cool shade tree to sit under.”

  Dad whispers, “Okay, but keep everything in sight. I don’t want to get caught snooping around.”

  In the waiting room, I clench my sweaty fists and pace from wall to wall. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” I pray Neewa will be all right.

  Dad is walking around the room looking at all the artifacts. He’s taking notes as he goes from one display to another.

  “Here she is,” Lyle boasts, walking her through the door into the waiting room.

  “Neewa’s walking,” I exclaim, jumping to my knees to embrace her.

  She is wagging her tail. That’s good, really good. Even her nose is a little wet. I hold her close as I feel the thump, thump, thump, of her tail on my ankles.

  Dad gets his traditional sniff and lick on the hand. In return, Neewa expects and gets a scratch on the head, just behind her ears.

  “Is she okay? Will she live?” I stutter, blinking my eyes, anxious to hear his answer.

  He kneels next to me, stroking Neewa’s ivory white coat, scratching her behind the ears. “Doc thinks she is going to make it, but she’s still in danger.”

  Walking us to the front of the building Lyle says, “The doctor said give Neewa plenty of water, dry food only, and one of these pills every six hours. You have already given her the best chance to live.”

  I stare at the sign on the wall, “All Doctor’s Fees are Payable on the Day of Examination.”

  Lyle sees me and says, “We will take no money from you and Neewa.” He hastens, “Doc wants her back here in two weeks. Oh, and he had a question… where was she born?”

  I answer, “The dog catcher said she was born in the desert, just outside of town. We adopted her at the pound.”

  “Oh,” he nods closing the door behind us.

  Neewa walks across the parking lot. Excited to be free, she tenderly frolics around us on the way to the van. She runs to Jackie who hugs her, and in return gets a lick on the face, from eye to forehead.

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