"Mommy !" cried Becky, "come see my new dog." Becky's mother, Penny, had just
finished washing the dishes when she heard her three-year-old daughter shouting
from the backyard of their house at Spring Valley Ranch in Sonoita, Arizona. She
was not surprised to hear the cries. Their home was situated in a
remote area and had become a lonely place
for Becky, especially since the death of their old dog. Becky's parents had been
planning to buy her a new puppy for some time but while waiting, Becky seemed
quite satisfied to make do with pretend puppies. Becky's cry came again,
interrupting her thoughts. "Please hurry, Mommy. He's crying and he can't walk."
Thinking that this was slightly odd, she rushed out. Rooted to the ground, Penny
stared at the sight before her as a cold
shiver ran down her spine.
Becky was sitting on the ground cradling the head
of a wolf on her lap. Getting a hold of herself, Penny moved closer, hoping to
extricate Becky from the dangerous situation. Becky herself seemed
totally oblivious to the danger, while she
continued to stroke and caress the coarse dark fur of the wolf. The wolf seemed
quite comfortable with Becky. However, when Penny edged closer, it narrowed its
eyes and exposed its fangs at her.
Becky had begun to feed the animal while
Penny watched with a mixture of fear and confusion. The animal's thirst was
insatiable and it suddenly hit her that it might be suffering from rabies. Her
fears escalating, Penny slowly pulled Becky away and ran to her car. Speeding to
one of the barns where Jake, a cowhand, was working, she screamed, "Jake, come
quickly. Becky found a wolf and I think it has rabies."
Back at the house,
Jake began to examine the beast. The Mexican Lobo did not have rabies but
gangrene. Part of the hind leg was decayed due to bullet wounds. Penny was very
tempted to take Jake's suggestion and put the beast to
sleep, but sensing Becky's tearful face, she decided to call the
veterinarian instead. Peeling away the rotten flesh, the doctor cleaned and
treated the wounds.
Becky and the wolf, which she named Ralph, soon became
good friends. The little girl took good care of it during its difficult recovery
while Ralph, in turn, adored Becky.
Ralph was also a great watchdog.
He never bit the hands of those who cared for him
and was obviously very happy at the ranch. Despite this, however, he made it a
point to disappear into the mountains for several weeks every year. While he was
gone, Becky fretted anxiously about his safety since ranchers were often looking
out for wolves, coyotes and other wild animals. This
ritual continued for twelve years and Becky and her family often
wondered about Ralph's other family -- his mate and the wolf cubs that he had
Inevitably, however, Ralph returned home one spring with another
bullet wound. Becky was fifteen years old at that point. Together, Penny and her
husband had managed to remove the bullet that was lodged in Ralph's body but his
condition did not improve. He no longer behaved like Becky's constant shadow,
but instead lay still, resting quietly in the backyard. Becky and her family
tried desperately to pretend that it would
never happen but the day soon came when they found Ralph lying motionless in the