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Friday, 19 February 2016

some Chase tails

Chase himself was kind of a myth. We met when I was picking up the stained glass shaman piece which hangs in my living room. I was sitting in my small red sports car (RX7) near Morley's house, when Chico wandered up leading the shaggiest mutt I've ever seen. Poor scruffy Chase was on the tattiest rope lead I've ever seen, & Chico, at five foot nothing, was in worse shape than Chase. Chico was almost crying, & he asked if I could please take the little dog because his sister had just died (I found out later from a lifetime alcohol poisoning & drug abuse, Chico died a couple of years ago from the same causes ).

Chase & I exchanged looks, which was hard to do because his eyes were barely visible, & it wasn't until I got him professionally groomed that I knew he had a proper doggy muzzle. Anyway, despite our mutual shagginess, it was an immediate connection, & I said Yes, I'll take the dog. I later gave Chico 2 beers as payment for ownership.

When I took Chase to the vet, I asked for an approximation of his age. By studying his teeth and general health, the vet estimated he was a middle aged dog, probably around 6 or 7 years old, and that was ten years ago.

A few years ago I met Poncho (spelling correct!), another of Chase's early 'foster home' caretakers and one of Chico's brothers. Chase had been passed home to home through a large extended family, and altho I'm sure he was never abused in these temporary situations, I'm equally sure he suffered some neglect. Poncho is an incredibly dedicated dog lover, and when we finally met in downtown Marmora after he recognized Chase, he told me he had Chase's brother, who was 15 at the time. This would confirm Chase's age as 17, perhaps 18, when he passed three weeks ago.

When I first tempted Chase with dog biscuits, he didn't seem to know what treats were. He sured learned that quickly. Whenever he'd do his poop I'd give him a treat as a reward (that he hadn't done it in the house, say). So when we'd do our daily walks along the river towpath, Chase would squeeze out a small piece of tootsie roll poop, I'd give him a biscuit, we'd walk another 50 yards, he'd squeeze out another piece of tootsie roll. Finally I realized he had quickly figured out he was being rewarded for pooping, & instead of doing one big poop, he was wheedling treats out of me, one small poop at a time  ;  )-

Chase came ready named, & it was certainly applicable in our first years of friendship. I don't like walking an animal on a lead, altho whenever I did put Chase on his lead, he seemed quite proud to be 'owned' by a human. Especially on our late night walks Chase would sometimes take advantage of his freedom to disappear on a mission. How he managed to disappear so quickly, like a doggy ninja, I never learned. He did this several times on the other side of busy highway #7, and he would always appear on my doorstep an hour or so later, a bit chagrined, but full of doggy adventures of his own making. I couldn't get mad at him, I was always so relieved to have him home, safe & sound. But Chase, yep, was a very applicable name for him!

I got Chase about a week after Morley and I built the shaman shack at ZenRiver Gardens. Chase immediately felt at home at ZRG, and he would follow Morley and me around as we continued to fix up the shack and explore the area. On one hike upriver, through the sacred cedar grove to the flat rocks, we passed a small turtle on her nest. Later that afternoon, as I was packing to leave, Chase came wandering up to me with a special gift clenched in his small mouth. It was the turtle from upriver! It was such a thoughtful & special gift, but of course I had to take the small mother turtle back to the exact spot where she had been nesting. But I've never forgotten Chase's special gift, and the turtle has been my first and primary totem since the third grade. Shaman dog!

Several friends have commented on how serene Chase always behaved, and how much of our conversations he seemed to understand. This was likely the result of Poncho's hours of conversations with the young Chase, lying on the floor in some Marmora area crash pad perhaps. Several years ago Morley and I undertook an ill-advised late winter hike on The Devil's Four Mile trail. We didn't take any food or water, as we hadn't planned to hike the whole trail, but for reasons unknown, we hiked all the way out to the trail's end at highway #44. By then, after about 2 hours of snowy &m strenuous cross country hiking on the rutted and hilly trail, we were all exhausted. Morley and I found a dry log of sit on, and we joked we were so hungry and exhausted we might have to eat our tired old dog. At that exact moment, Chase let out a harrumph sound that I've never heard since, and all the way back to the car, he proudly led the way, as if to say, 'fuck you, humans! I'm not as old and weak as you are, and if anyone's going to get eaten, it sure isn't the dog!'