I didn't know it at the time, but they were the last groups of pronghorn for the morning.
The heelers and I'd just crested the ridge, creeping silently on the loose sand. A quick scan with the binocs found two pronghorn bedded to the west, and another buck farther off and to the north.
But it's late in the morning. The two bedded antelope look like does, but being this late, how do I know there aren't some fawns bedded with them that I just can't see in the tall sage and greasewood?
Well, actually, that's a problem fairly easily solved.
Let the heelers out.
One quick, noisy dragrace over the hill behind us, and every pronghorn within a mile will be standing and looking right at us.
And it worked. The two does were alone. As were the other two farther north who stood up, and the second buck who went into a panicked run.
I quickly wrote down all four groups, and figured out their coordinates. As I alternated between the spotting scope and writing data, I noticed the little maskless heeler, back from the race, snooping outside my door, and peeing.
All data taken care of, I opened the door to let her and her sister inside the truck.
But there was no sister.
Looking around, there was no canid, no bright orange bandanna.
Jump out and circle the truck, calling the blind heeler.
Twenty-some years ago, I lost another heeler, just a hundred meters south of here. Let her out late at night, and she took off after a jackrabbit. Far outside the headlights.
She didn't come when called, either. When, maybe almost an hour later I finally found her in the dark, she was surrounded by cactus, and too scared and tender-footed to move.
Being blind, this heeler might as well be out on a moonless night. I retrace their dragrace over the low rise.
And am immediately relieved to see the masked heeler in the two-track road.
But she's walking away from us, perpendicular to the track. Every time I call, she makes another panicked lunge into the cactus and greasewood, the wrong way, and stumbles back to the lane. Only to try to charge into the brush again.
And I see the problem. She hears me, but has no clue where my voice is coming from.
For probably the first time since losing her vision, she is truly, deeply lost.
And it's scaring the hell out her.
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