THE FAMILY ALBUM: Pets of The Haasienda ~ Chief

My adult life has been enriched by the love of the pets who have lived with me.

Let me introduce my furry kiddos, past and present.

CHIEF

This is really a tough one to write as this boy has aged and doesn’t move around as easily as he once did. I know this happens and is part of that blessed circle, but this pooch has my entire heart.

In Navi’s story, I described how we came about adopting Chief and Navi in February 2011. I’d rather just launch into my life with Chief.

First of all, I told the boys, Jose and Quintin, that they could name the dogs. Jose wanted to call Navi, “Baby Girl.” Ugh. No way. Cool, different names only.

The boys gave me the names they had selected for the puppies. I took their photos and posted the pictures and names on Facebook.

Within a few minutes, I was getting emails, comments on Facebook, a few text messages, asking, “Is that really the boy’s name?” A former student, then a freshman at The Ohio State University, left a message on my answering machine, “Darin, I have a feeling you did not name the dogs. Or, at least the boy. You might want to look it up.”

Then, Mother called. “Who came up with the boy’s name?”

The Boys.

“That’s what I figured. Do you know what it means?”

No.

My mother explained to her 46 year old son what Choad meant.

I hung up the phone. “Boys! Get down here!”

The footsteps bounded down the stairs and when in the kitchen I heard one son ask the other, “Do you think he figured it out?”

I changed his name to Chief. It was to be a temporary name as Chief was a bit ordinary. That ship sailed.

As a puppy, Chief was the essence of orneriness, mischief, fun, adorable, pissing me off, but displaying such a huge heart.

Chief and Navi arrived shortly after ten year old Flyer lost her sight after a near deadly bout of pancreatitis. While she managed remarkably well, there were occasions when she was in the backyard and would become a bit disoriented. Chief would use his shoulder to nudge her in the right direction, hurry to the top of the deck to bark so Flyer could follow his lead.

Chief was my climber. I have almost too many stories to list but I am attaching a video of his climbing the stove! I could hear when he was on the stove lifting pan lids to see what was cooking!

One day, I set out three hogs hooves for the three dogs. I watched Chief hop up on the cabinet and grab one. “That little shit!” However, he hopped down, carried the hoof into Flyer, and laid it down in front of her. He returned to the kitchen to hand Navi her hoof, and then grabbed the last for himself.

When returning to The Haasienda from walks, Chief was, is the last one to re-enter; he sits and waits for the others to go inside first. He does the same thing when we come in at night from the deck. Chief also allows The Girls to head into the kitchen for meals, first, before he goes to his dish.

Chief was incredibly mischievous and he could push me to my limit.

One day, he was being a sweetheart of defiance and not executing his commands. Since both Navi and Flyer had completed their commands, I broke his treat in half and gave it to The Girls. Without breaking our staredown, Chief backed up, hiked his leg, and urinated on a row of musical theatre binders on the bottom row of a bookcase. I was too busy laughing to reprimand him.

One night at dinner in the kitchen, I was seated in a roller secretary chair from my study. Chief got very upset with me for something, backed up, and head butted my chair. The head butt hit the release bar on the chair; the seat went crashing down with my full weight. My backside rammed directly onto the metal support bar, breaking my tailbone.

In July 2013, Flyer began her final descent. Chief, not yet three years old, was extraordinarily attentive to her and was often right next to her during naps or waking moments. I often laid on the floor next to her pallet, holding her, and listening to music. When it was time to teach a lesson, I would rise and Chief snuggle next to Flyer, wrapping his paws around her.

When the sad morning arrived and Flyer departed for Rainbow Bridge, Chief was inconsolable. I lifted Flyer’s earthly form into a plastic storage crate and placed it in the living room before I drove her down to The Pines for cremation. I prepped Chief and Navi for our regular 7:00 AM walk. Chief approached the storage crate, sniffed around it, and then began head butting the container, crying and howling. During our morning walk, Chief cried.

Five months later, four days before Christmas, we had to bid farewell to Navi who had been hit by a car in front of our house. Chief never left my side and was grieving as much as I was.

Christmas night, after a whirlwind of situational comedy, I returned from the Mason, Ohio area with two 8-week old sisters. I stepped inside the house and Chief looked at me from behind the gate. I set The Sisters down so he could sniff them through the gate. They were trying to get through the gate to meet Chief.

Finally, I brought Chief into the front room, The Sisters dancing about him. He observed them for a few seconds before dropping to the floor, wiggling on his back as tiny sisters crawled excitedly over him.

After some “getting to know you: time, I carried The Sisters upstairs, tossing them into the king sized bed which was actually two twin beds fastened together. Before climbing into bed, Chief went over to one of the high backed chairs and nibbed around for something. He came to the bed, bringing each girl a puppy blanket. I had forgotten I washed Flyer’s blankets and set them behind the chair, out of sight. But Chief remembered and returned the blankets to use for his new sisters. If either, or both of the puppies got too close to the side of the bed, Chief would grunt; apparently, they got his message and returned to the center of the bed.

Training two rambunctious puppies while trying to teach was a challenge. With Chief and Navi, I had sons to assist with their needs while I taught or was in rehearsal. These two girls, Bailey and Harrigan, were all on me! If they became too distributive during a lesson, Chief would step up to them, or between them and growl. They’d leave the study and he would follow them.

Now, Chief and Navi are Staffordshire bull terriers and black lab. Staffordshires were reported to have been the nanny dogs for British babies. I think that lore has been put to rest. However, Chief was the perfect example of a good old fashioned Nanny.

Several years ago I posted a photo of Chief and Dee Friesenberg, a neighbor friend, commented, “Look at his white face.”

I scrolled back up to his photo. All of a sudden, and without my noticing, Chief had begun looking aged, but in a very paternal, wise-looking way. It cut to the core. He’s at that age where his breed lives to be 10 or 12 years old. He turns 11 in November.

Mother and Chief were always pals. When she came to visit, which we now realize was for the last time, she had crawled into one of the twin beds in the guest bedroom. I told the dogs to head upstairs to bed; The Sisters bolted upstairs. Chief stood in the guest bedroom looking anxious as he looked back and forth between Mother and myself.

“Do you want to sleep down here with Grandma?” Mother asked.

Chief did not wait for my permission and snuggled next to Mother. She got a little teary-eyed. His devotion meant so much to her and she said he kept his paw on her arm all night. I believe he senses Mother has passed but still livens up when I say, “Grandma!”

I hug on my old boy every day, reminding him how much he is loved. His puppy-side emerges more frequently and he loves his time on the deck, especially at night. I think he’d spend the night on the deck if he could.

Chief has seen three sons pass through the house, bid farewell to two members of his pack, even two cats, Neko and Clyde, who were also members of his loving pack, tons of students and their parents, and has been a staunch figure at my side through so many life changes.

Oh, how I do love my Chief. He’s the best boy in the entire world.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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