"Honey," My throat tightened. "Put his head down and come to Mama. We'll go find help."
Reluctantly, Becky got up and kissed the wolf on the nose before she walked slowly into my outstretched arms. Sad yellow eyes followed her. Then the wolf's head sank to the ground. With Becky safe in my arms, I ran to the barns where Brian, one of our cowhands, was saddling up to check heifers in the North pasture. "Brian! Come quickly. Becky found a wolf in the oak stump near the wash! I think it has rabies!"
"I'll be there in a jiffy," he said as I hurried back to the house, eager to put Becky down for her nap. I didn't want her to see Brian come out of the bunkhouse. I knew he'd have a gun.
"But I want to give my doggy his water," she cried. I kissed her and gave her some stuffed animals to play with.
"Honey, let Mom and Brian take care of him for now," I said. Moments later, I reached the oak stump.
Brian stood looking down at the beast. "It's a Mexican lobo, all right." He said, "And a big one!"
The wolf whined. Then we both caught the smell of gangrene. "Whew! It's not rabies," Brian said. "But he's sure hurt real bad. Don't you think it's best I put him out of his misery?"
The word "yes" was on my lips, when Becky emerged from the bushes. "Is Brian going to make him well, Mama?" She hauled the animal's head onto her lap once more, and buried her face in the coarse, dark fur. This time I wasn't the only one who heard the thumping of the lobo's tail.
That afternoon my husband, Bill, and our veterinarian came to see the wolf. Observing the trust the animal had in our child, Doc said to me, "Suppose you let Becky and me tend to this fella together." Minutes later, as child and vet reassured the stricken beast, the hypodermic found its mark. The yellow eyes closed.
"He's asleep now," said the vet. "Give me a hand here, Bill." They hauled the massive body out of the stump. The animal must have been over five feet long and well over a hundred pounds. Bullets had mutilated the wolf's hip and leg. Doc did what he had to in order to clean the wound and then gave the patient a dose of penicillin. Next day he returned and inserted a metal rod to replace the missing bone.
"Well, it looks like you've got yourselves a Mexican lobo," Doc said. "He looks to be about three years old, and even as pups, they don't tame real easy. I'm amazed at the way this big fella took to your little girl. But often there's something that goes on between children and animals that we grownups don't understand."
Becky named the wolf Ralph and carried food and water to the stump every day. Ralph's recovery was not easy. For three months he dragged his injured hindquarters by clawing the earth with his front paws. From the way he lowered his eyelids when we massaged the limbs, we knew he endured excruciating pain, but not once did he ever try to bite the hands of those who cared for him.