The 14 students in the classroom seem relaxed and attentive. So was does the dog under the teacher’s desk.
This is the Taos Waldorf School eighth-grade classroom and the dog is the (unofficial) school mascot, Indy, who traveled a long distance — at least 972 miles — to get there.
“He showed up right at this classroom on Feb. 13,” said teacher Sarah Beasley, Indy's owner. “He came in and just sat down in front of me. He was skinny and dirty, and clearly had gone through rough times.”
Beasley and her students gave food and water to the dog.
“At first I thought he was a stray,” said Aydin Gates, a student who was present that day. “But he was super friendly.”
The newcomer soon made himself at home.
“He was so happy, wagging his tail and following me around,” Beasley said. “He looked as if he belonged right here.”
Beasley admits that she immediately liked the dog, but she did the right thing — she tried to find his owner.
The dog still had a collar with a phone number on it and she called it. The number wasn't the owner's, but a dog breeder's located in California. He told Beasley that the dog was a purebred treeing walker coonhound.
“The guy was baffled when I told him that the dog had showed up in Taos,” said Beasley. “He told me that he had sold him to a hunter from California seven months before so we assumed that the owner was hunting somewhere nearby and had just lost the dog.”
The story was more complicated.
When the breeder called the people who had bought the dog from him, he found out the owner died in a hunting accident in Arizona 36 days before.
The dog had a GPS tracking collar with a remote interface, which is often used to track hunting dogs. When the breeder went online to check, the GPS revealed the dog had traveled at least 972 miles, going three times between Arizona and New Mexico, and returning twice to the scene of the accident.
The GPS box fell off so there is no record of how much longer he traveled after that, or where he went.
“What we know for sure is that he was lost for 36 days,” said Beasley, “and had to fend for himself all that time. No wonder he was all skin and bones.”
The breeder got in contact with the owner's widow, but she asked him to find another home for the dog.
“I understand it,” said Beasley. “She had just lost her husband, had a 5-year-old child and a number of other dogs to take care of. So ... I decided to adopt him.”
Beasley had never had a dog in her life. “When I moved to Taos, I kept saying that the perfect dog would show up on my doorstep at the right time,” she said. “Well, when all this happened, I couldn't help but thinking that this was the perfect dog for me.”
Beasley is a full-time teacher and she didn't have permission from her landlady to have pets at home, but that didn't matter.
“Everything just fell into place,” she said. “I got permission to keep the dog at home and started bringing him to school with me. He either stays out in the car or sits under my desk. The kids love him. And he gets along with them all.”
The dog's original name was King Kong but Beasley renamed him Indy — for Indiana Jones.
“It just sounds more like him,” she said.
“We all keep telling her that she needed a dog,” said Delilah Himm, an eighth-grader from Beasley's class. “Everybody was happy when she adopted Indy. And he is a great dog.”
Indy has gained 10 pounds in less than two months and seems perfectly content in his new environment.
“He is a high energy dog,” Beasley said. “I can't let him off the leash because once he catches a scent, he follows it. But I take him to the ski valley, the creeks and other places where he can run on a long leash.”
Indy is such a friendly dog that it's a big surprise he wasn't snatched up by somebody else before.
“But, maybe,” Beasley said, “he came all this way to join the Waldorf School!”