Kaya and the Injured Dog

Short story collection published in 2006; author Janet Shaw; illustrators Bill Farnsworth and Susan McAliley


Kaya's harvesting medicinal plants near where one of her uncles is fishing, and takes some time to play with his dog. She misses Tatlo bitterly, and her uncle's dog helps ease the pain. But the dog is still young and not fully trained. Still, the dog is loyal: when a bear charges toward Kaya, the dog fights it. The dog doesn't fight very well, but enough to distract the bear from Kaya and save her. Before the bear leaves, it takes a final swipe at the dog, severing one of her front legs. Kaya's uncle thinks the dog is dying and is about to euthanize her when she opens her eyes. Kaya insists that the dog wants to live, and they bring the dog back to camp. There, the medicine woman treats the wounds as best she can, and instructs Kaya to continue treatment.

Gradually the dog gets stronger, much to the surprise of a boy who likes to tease Kaya. When the dog starts learning to walk on three legs, he still manages to get in a jab that if the dog can't be trained Kaya should name it Magpie. Angry though she is, Kaya knows he's right. She starts training the dog, but she isn't sure if the training is taking until they come upon another bear. Kaya orders the dog to stay put--the bear hasn't noticed them yet--and though she desperately wants to fight it, the dog obeys. The bear leaves, and Kaya's uncle, who she didn't know was also there, praises the dog and her trainer. The teasing boy is also there, and grudgingly congratulates Kaya. Kaya graciously says that she wouldn't have worked so hard to train the dog were it not for him. Kaya's uncle, seeing the bond between Kaya and the dog, says that Kaya can keep the dog for her own if she wishes. Kaya gratefully accepts, and names the dog Three Legs--with four legs, the dog was brave; now with three, she is brave and trustworthy.

Looking Back

Like all peoples before the advent of modern medicine (and plenty today), Kaya would have relied on medicines made from the natural world: roots, leaves, bark (willow bark can be used to make aspirin, incidentally), and many other things. Nez Perce with special knowledge of these natural remedies were called tiwata'aa if women and tiweet if men. Often their wyakins would be in the form of bears, considered very gifted in medicinal powers. Nez Perce today avail themselves of the modern conveniences but also look to traditional medicines. The combination gives them access to a wide variety of credible treatments.


A lot of the sketches in this and the other short stories are the same ones from the main six books.

No comments: