My favourite sound in the whole world was the sound of my mum’s voice. ‘Isabella, Isabella, dance your way here’ she would call. I’d leap up eagerly and swish my way towards the sound of her voice. Then I’d fall into her arms giggling and it’d turn into a play fight full of laughter and smiles. Mum and I lived in an old farm cottage in Wyoming. Our place was surrounded by lush forests and fields full of beautiful smelling flowers. I spent much of my childhood wandering through the fields inhaling the various scents. I could tell it was spring time by detecting a faint wisp of sweet nectar in the air, and that autumn was coming by the crunch of the leaves underfoot.
When I was 10 years old my mum gave me the best present in the world. A beautiful, bouncing ball of fluff named Jazz. She was golden Labrador and we were inseparable from day one. When Jazz was born she was smaller and quieter than the rest of her litter. She would huddle in the corner whilst the rest ran around playing and squealing. When mum went to choose a puppy for me she fell in love instantly with shy little Jazz. It wasn’t until she was separated from the rest of the puppies that everyone realised she was deaf. But mum didn’t care, she knew Jazz would be perfect for me, and I for her.
The first few weeks with Jazz were quite experimental, slowly mum taught me how to communicate with Jazz with my hands and soon we understood each other easily. Jazz, and many other animals, were my only friend for a long time. I didn’t go to the local school, mum home schooled me instead. The neighbour’s kids all hung out together but I was never invited to join in. It didn’t really bother me, I had mum, and now I had Jazz. We had our own little world full of nature and happiness.
My favourite season was spring. Everything smelt so fresh and the air sweet and warm. Life was buzzing all around, bees and birds, lambs and baby rabbits. We adopted a pet lamb the same year we got Jazz. The lambs name was Jessie, he had lost his mum during his birth and needed us to look after him. Jazz barked for the first time because of him, he would baa at her trying to communicate and one day she let out a little yip. Jessie bounced around happily and baa’d more which only encouraged Jazz to bark louder. They got on in an odd way, those two. Jazz pretended she didn’t like Jessie, but they were often found having a nap together. Sometimes I joined them.
I learnt a lot from my surroundings. The patterns of nature, the rhythm of the earth. I felt at home outside. I was always taking insects or leaves back home to mum so I could learn what they were. This was the start of a lifelong love affair with nature. Jazz accompanied me on many adventures through the forests. She would push up against my leg for comfort and I would stroke her head softly as we walked. I know mum worried about us, but as long as we had each other we were safe.
Which is why the day Jazz disappeared I freaked out. We had been walking a familiar path and I had just bent down to smell a new flower and when I stood up again Jazz was gone. I signed frantically for her to return to me but she never came. I was panicking, where was she? I rushed home to find mum so she could help find Jazz. Mum suggested I wait at home in case Jazz returned, and that she would go out to look for her. Grudgingly I agreed to wait. I hated those long hours waiting for mums return, not knowing if Jazz would be with her. Long after sun down mum finally returned. She had found Jazz, but she was hurt. Attached to Jazz’s foot was a rusty bear claw trap. Jazz was whimpering in pain and it hurt me to hear her in pain. Who would put these traps in our forest?! They were nasty, cruel devices set by hunters and designed only to lead to death. I was furious and wanted to find those hunters. But first my Jazz had to be attended to. We rushed her to the vet and I stayed with her during the whole ordeal. When she was all bandaged up and with a few painkillers to calm her down we got the all clear to head home. She slept in my bed that night.
The next day I paced restlessly in the kitchen. Mum had ordered me to stay home until she could figure out if there were more bear traps, and just who had been setting them. I hated being stuck indoors. The air was stuffy and my legs itched to be moving. But since Jazz was stuck here it was only fair that I stay with her too. I passed the day listening to old tracks of mum singing in her younger days. She often told me how she was quite a popular country singer before I came along. After my birth she was too busy looking after me for singing, but she always told me ‘I love you more than I love music’. It made me feel special, but also guilty. She hardly ever sung these days.
Finally mum returned with news, a hunter had been caught by the authorities with the bear traps he’d been illegally setting in our forest. But the worst news was that he’d already managed to kill two coyotes and a wolf with them. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about the poor animals being caught, injured and slowly awaiting their death. It was a horrible thought. Why was he even targeting our forest? It was ours! He had no right. Mum said he was most likely looking to sell the pelts to some black market traders since killing wolves is now illegal. I was furious that there would even be people out there who want to buy the skins of these special and rare animals. All for what? A trophy? Bragging rights? It was human greed in its purest form and I couldn’t stand it. That he had been caught was a relief at least, I could now return to the outdoors and the animals in our forest could relax.