“Tłicha”came into his life when he started to learn to walk. Since he was learning to speak at the same time he only knew the word for dog. He called him: “Tłicha.”
Most people grow up with them and they are attached at the hip for the short time they are with us.
“Tłicha” was always there through the days of joy and happiness and at the same time was always there to share the hardships he went thru.
“Tłicha” was another one of the many Rez Tłicha that show up one day and decide to adopt a family and stay.
Pure black except for a small white patch on his chest. Short skinny legs led up to a big body. He looked like a lot of Men around the reserve – the only difference is he walked on 4 legs and not two. He always looked like the Dog that comes to escort people when they leave this world and head up to the Milky Way to meet Starblanket Woman. Yes he was there to comfort him.
“Tłicha” would follow Him everywhere he went. Kunshi and Isaugh never worried about him because they knew Tłicha was there. There were other dogs as well, but,…. Tłicha was given by the creator to be his special guardian. That is what Kunshi said to him when he was ready to go exploring the world through the eyes of a young boy.
They would crawl up on their bellies through the brush to sneak up on deer grazing in small openings. Tłicha would be just as quiet with eyes looking forward. Neither of them would move a muscle. Soon, when the deer sensed something was amiss they would start stomping their feet trying to catch a scent looking in every direction until a small wind shift would give them away and then they would bound away. Tłicha hot on their heels. He would never catch them but he sure showed them how good a sneaker upper he was. He would come back with swagger. Wagging his tail and head held just a little higher with his tongue sticking out. He knew how good he was.
When they would sleep outside Tłicha would stand guard at the tent door until he felt that all the mosquitos would not fly into the tent and then curl up next to him and they would compete for snores. It was in that dream world they would converse with each other.
“Good hearted boy, go back to sleep, the night is good.”
“Wakinya Duuta!, There are things for you to know. Your family from long ago sent me to help you for a few years.”
“I won’t be here for very long but for your young years I will not leave your side,” Tłicha said to him.
“First you must understand the importance of ceremonies because it will be what you need to carry you through your life”
“It will be a long time of teaching. Your family will send you all over the world and you will see other people who are Chadit’a-na – Holy people”.
“What you will come to know is that you will learn to stop trying to fix things all the time through ceremony.”
“Some things are the way they are suppose to be and there is nothing you can do. That is just the way it is.”
“We animals are powerful beings but we are to be respected and not idolized.”
“Most have forgotten what it means to live with us. They prefer to try and bully us around and think that they are our masters.”
“Others think that we are going to give them special medicines.”
“We don’t speak to the humans anymore.”
“Carry on with life in the ways of your family but always take time to honour us and give thanks for what we provide for you.”
“My body is getting tired and I won’t be here for much longer but we will try and catch those deer once and for all.”
As Tłicha got older he slowed down and wouldn’t go out into the bush with Wakinyan Duuta anymore.
Wakinyan Duuta was getting older and bigger. He started to carry a gun when he went out into the bush. First it was a small caliber 22 rifle for rabbits.Then it was a large caliber gun that would shoot Deer, Elk and Moose.
Always Wakinyan Duuta would bring a special portion for Tłicha. He would cut it into smaller bite-size pieces along with a crushed up aspirin that would allow Tłicha to feel the aches of age less.
Even though Tłicha was slow he would get himself up around mid afternoon and make his walk to the end of the road about a quarter mile away and wait there until his bus would pull up and He would get out. Together they would slowly walk back and he would tell Tłicha about his day at school.
Wakinyan Duuta learned from many teachers about the value of dogs. It was an Aboriginal man in Australia who was crippled by years who taught him a simple truth.
“The creator asked the dogs to take care of humans. He asked them to put their lives in front of them when they were in danger. Dogs have high mortality because of that”.
And so it was true. It was “Tłicha’s” time to leave.
Wakinya Duuta got in a traffic accident and got very sick. Modern Medicine and Traditional medicine were not having much success. He was home but it was a slow recovery. Tłicha was around and waited by the door not leaving him. He would not move away and everyone had to step over him. His uncle was getting impatient with Tłicha being in the way but Kunshi scolded him and said to leave him alone.
“That is his only friend that won’t leave him so he has the right to be right where he is.”
“Good hearted boy, go back to sleep, the night is good.”
One warm afternoon when the sun and wind were blowing a gentle breeze through the house “Tłicha” inhaled his final breath. He simply looked around and went into the house and laid his head down and closed his eyes.
Wakinya Duuta cried silently in his bed. He knew his friend was gone.
He looked outside into the sandy ground and saw stars glimmering. Stars, sand,…. they were all the same. Countless numbers… But,… in one of them “Tłicha” was wagging his tail and barking back at Wakinya Duuta.
Wakinyan Duuta got well again before too long but he remembered his friend well
When it is his time, He will see “Tłicha” waiting for him to take him to see Starblanket Woman and creation.