Tribute to Chip - and Remembering Grandpa
One time in my early adult life, I had to move into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs. My grandparents always had a menagerie at their place, so I knew that I could ask my grandpa and grandma to take my dog for a while, until I could find different living accommodations. Months turned into a couple of years and when I finally did move, my granddad informed me that I could NOT have my dog back because “Toy” was his brakeman. Everywhere that my grandpa went, that dog rode right along beside him in his pick-up. They were inseparable. My grandpa ran a truck stop and you would always find him leaning wa-a-y back in an old oak swivel chair with his feet propped up on his desk, cluttered with spark plugs and oil cans, sound asleep, until Toy would come in and bark to raise grandpa from his siesta to wait on a customer. I held no ill feelings toward my grandpa for not returning my dog. I knew no-one could love that dog more than my grandpa did. One time a customer complained about “the dog bothering her when she stopped for gas.” Grandpa quickly provided directions to the next closest place to buy gas (some 15 miles away). Remembering that made me smile.
I needed to smile this week. It has been a hard week for me. My beloved Sheltie, “Chip,” died on April 5, 2004. Until I sat down to write this column, I hadn’t realized just how much my relationship with Chip paralleled my grandpa’s life with Toy. When we moved to Dover three years ago, we immediately put up a fence around back to confine Chip’s area. He hated it! Seldom did we put Chip around back that he didn’t look at us as if we were punishing him. Chip needed to be out front where he could see everything that went on, and was able to be a guard dog. What was remarkable to both Mike and me was how quickly Chip learned what the boundaries for the Sage Inn were, and then faithfully he patrolled that area, chasing away stray cats and wandering dogs who didn’t know their own boundaries. Every morning Chip walked the perimeter of our property. He went out and fetched the newspaper. He went with Mike to let the ducks out of the duck house. He accompanied me to the post office. Whenever someone came to the antique shop, he barked until I would come outside, then go with me to the shop and wait there until I was done waiting on the customer. Having him was better than any doorbell (which works only half the time). Chip took his responsibilities seriously.
We were also amazed at how natural Chip was at becoming one of the hosts at the Sage Inn. Somehow I think he knew if they were carrying an overnight bag, they could be trusted, despite the fact that they were strangers. Once a couple checked in, no matter how many times they came and went, it was as if Chip knew it was ok for them to be here. Most of our guests really loved him. His picture appears in countless photo albums. In fact, like my grandpa, I couldn’t have cared less about having guests who didn’t like animals. Our cat, dog, ducks, birds always had pictures on our website so that guests knew right up front BEFORE they ever made a reservation that we were animal lovers.
And LOVED HIM we did. Chip was Mike and I’s boy. He was by far the easiest pet we have ever trained. But more than that, Chip was special. He was special because of the way he “sensed” your needs. He used his muzzle to check on you. If I cried, he’d nudge me to give affection. Only recently, after taking several trailers of leaves to the burn pile, exhausted, I laid my head on the steering wheel of the lawn tractor to rest. Chip came out and nuzzled me to be sure I was alright. During the time I was on crutches, Chip “herded” me, going a couple of feet at a time in front of me and turning his head to be sure that I was following. So many memories . . . So many routines to carry on without my sidekick.
Chip almost died when he was younger. He became known around the K-State Veterinary Hospital as the “miracle dog.” He defied all odds and lived, albeit a shortened life span. I’m thankful that God gave us the years that he did with Chip. I wasn’t ready to let him go, but I am thankful that he died in my arms at the Sage Inn. We recently received a buyer for our bed and breakfast. Chip wouldn’t have wanted to move from here, because no person, even I, could have loved this place as much as Chip. This was his kingdom. Goodnight, sweet prince.
As the song goes . . . only love can break a heart, only love can mend it again. It took some time to get over the grief of losing Chip. In October 2004 I found Jazzi, a sable papillion who looked like Chip as a puppy. She had been returned to a pet store twice for being overly exuberant. Her hiney wagged so furiously she could hardly stay on her feet. And she SMILES (honestly). I couldn't just go off and leave her - especially since the store would make me a good deal to be rid of her. I'd never seen a dog look at me like I was the center of the universe! Fortunately, I have an understanding husband and within a month, Mike felt Jazzi needed a brother. Little JoJo is only six months younger in age but smaller than Jazzi.
Jazzi and JoJo were joined by a new brother, a Jack Russell terrier we call Speckles, in March 2008. Huddled by our garage in the alley was a shivering little dog who was scared to death to let us touch him. We tricked him inside the fence and kept him while we made every effort to find his original owner. No one came forward to claim the little terrier who was now digging holes all over my yard and chewing up everything in site. It has taken some love and patience, but Speckles has turned out to be a really good boy. His high energy has been good exercise for the other two and there are never any dull moments around our house!
In May Speckles took great delight in watching Mike and I plant Canna bulbs around the yard. He watched so carefully. I told Mike that he was pleased that we, too, liked to dig holes. We left to go out for dinner and when we returned, our new little pup met us at the garage door, tail wagging so excitedly he was beside himself. Then we spied the pile of Canna bulbs on the sidewalk. He had dug up every one and made a pile, so pleased with himself as if to say, "I found them, I found them! Can we hide them again?"
Christmas 2008, we did it again! A sheltie rescue website sent me pictures of shelties that had been removed from a puppy mill that was shut down in Missouri. Shadow (who was scared of his own shadow) was smaller than Chip and was primarily black and white rather than mahogany. We decided that it would take someone with our patience to love Shadow out of his fear of people. He loved being around the other dogs but it has been a slow journey to build his trust of people. He now understands what "love time" means and will go sit in a certain corner if he wants me to pick him up. He will walk on a leash and enjoys the doggy door as it assures him of freedom that the poor caged pup never had before.
Update: Oct 2009 - Soon it will be one year since Shadow came to live with us. He "talks" TOO frequently, and enjoys running and playing with us, but still resists the command "come." He looks for a corner and stays there and waits for us to come to him.
Update: Aug 2011 - Shadow will FINALLY "Come." And by providing a secure home, both Jazzi and Speckles' nervous energy has subsided. It's surprising what a little love ... and patience, can do.