During his senior year in college, my son Evan was coming home from the bars with a buddy late one night when they noticed a small dog peeking out from underneath a car. He was covered in white paint and huddling in a brown paper bag. The poor thing was all wet, lost and alone on a cold spring night.
So they scooped him up and brought the dog back to the Psi U fraternity house on the University of Chicago campus. They cleaned him up the best they could and he slept the night in my son’s room.
A couple weeks later they held a Beer Bash and charged a cover fee to pay for the dog’s veterinary bills. Evan named him Chuck after the man that owned the building because there was a No Dogs Rule. Yet my son, ever the politician, knew that some heartstrings needed to be pulled.
And it worked: “Well, I can’t kick him out if he’s named after me,” the landlord admitted.
This little story may not be historically accurate in every fine detail. Yet it’s the story I’ve shared with dozens of people over the years. My son provided the core elements of its truth. He rescued a stray dog that most surely would have died somewhere in a dirty alley had the events I just described not take place. From that point forward, that little dog crept into the hearts of many people.
Upon meeting Chuck the first time, my daughter Emily fell for him and when Evan landed a job that would require some travel, she begged my wife to take Chuck into our home out in the suburbs. So Chuck came to live with us. That pup quickly won over the heart of my late wife who’d long sworn we’d never have a dog because she was concerned that she’d get stuck with all the care, walking and training a dog requires.
It didn’t work out that way, as that little mutt took over my heart as well. I became the Chuck Walker and after my wife passed away, he lived with me until my daughter got out of school and found an apartment of her own.
In truth, Chuck has proven to be an able companion to everyone. On occasion he’s stayed with my sister-in-law, and now she’s fostering other dogs until they find a good home. So Chuck has had a grand effect on all of us.
To be truthful, he’s always been a bit possessed by separation anxiety. He prefers, above all things, to huddle next to one of his human “tribe” whenever that circumstance presents itself. He’s a Grade A snuggler.
Until this year, he was the only dog in our extended family. But this Christmas he got to meet the dog my son adopted this year from a shelter out in Venice, California. That dog is named Luke Skybarker. He’s a Chihuahua-Corgy mix with cute ears and a pleasant little soul. Following the initial humpfest that occurs between small dogs trying to establish dominance in a new dog relationship, things settled down and the companionship between them was a pleasant surprise.
I’m relating all this not because Chuck somehow slots into my running, riding and swimming. He’s never trained with me and frankly hates cold weather and rain. The only running he’s done with me has been short sprints in which we take off for fifty or sixty yards. His ears fly back and his hair flows over his body during these sprint sessions. We both wind up panting at the front door from the anaerobic effort.
Once in a while as a pup, he’d take off on running in crazy circles to work off pent up energy. I’d given him a bath one day and decided to walk him before leaving for work. We went to a local park and he proceeded to take off running in circles on a wet, sandy baseball field. He was orange-brown on the lower half of his body.
If we don’t watch him closely, he likes to wander off on journeys of his own,, following his nose right wherever it leads. Fortunately, he’s never truly gotten lost because we watch him closely. But he is a subtle little bugger and at a yard party with other dogs present he snuck off and wound up nosing around the garage of a neighbor, who brought him back with a grin while saying, “I assume this guy is yours?”
His only real flaw over time has been a bit of leash aggression toward certain dogs, especially big, dark dogs that are also on a leash. Something about that sets him off. And he’s quite protective of my daughter as well. I worked with Chuck and a trainer early on, and she knew how to get him to behave better. But my own wrestle with authority and the methods required to truly train a dog made me anxious. I can’t help it. I’m too sympathetic.
What I’m really trying to relate in all this recollection is the realization that this Schnoodle or whatever his genetics dictate has been in my life for ten whole years now. That’s one-sixth of my entire life. Anything that lasts that long in your existence truly deserves a ton of respect.
He’s still healthy and not showing many signs of age, just yet. But I realize that things can change fast with pets of any kind. For now, I’ve been paying attention to him in the ways I always have. There’s the daily big greeting at the door, a kindness he extends to all. He’s slept on the bed some nights when my daughter and her boyfriend who live with us are not home yet. My wife Sue has learned to love Chuck’s quirks and the rest of the household too.
He’s a good, good dog. That’s all I’m trying to say. And thank goodness that little bugger came into our lives. If you’d like to share a few words about your doggo or kitty I’d love to hear them.