December 17th, 2005, I walked into the Boise Humane Society to find a dog, a companion, an alternative to anti-depressants. I brought my three oldest nephews with me so that I could make sure that whatever dog
I picked picked me would be good with a few rambunctious kids.
We walked through the seemingly endless rows of kennels. Lot of sweet dogs, lots of eyes staring up at me asking to be taken home. My nephews kept gravitating towards the puppies and urging me to take a little puppy home. "No," I told them. "Those puppies will be be swooped up and taken to new homes in no time. I want a dog. A dog that wouldn't get a good life otherwise."
They sulked a bit, and we continued to walk around the kennels. My girlfriend at the time was mystified by my method. There are hundreds of dogs with sad eyes that need a good home, she kept saying. Why can't we just grab the first one we saw, save him, and spare ourselves the heartache of looking at all those other sad eyes?
She had never been to a pound before. She didn't understand. I tried to explain that they pick us, but she thought I was crazy.
I was about to call the search off until another day and gather everyone up back in the car when something tugged at me. No, not this aisle, no, not this one- this one.
I walked until I came upon the kennel that was calling my name to see a fat, silver Pit Bull. He was cute and seemed nice enough but, no, that wasn't him. I stood there for a moment, confused.
Then, from behind the other side of that kennel a dog approached meekly towards me, his head bowed, his eyes pleading. How had I not seen this dog throughout any of my other trips down these aisles?
"This is him," I announced. Everyone stared at me in disbelief. This meager, timid, skinny and scarred dog? The one that was obviously a stray and was standing by the kennel door with his head hung low? Really?
I went to get a leash from the clerk so I could take him out to the play area with the kids. He has to be good with kids. There are a lot of them at my house on any given weekend.
He walked down the hall leaning against my leg, until we got him outside. All the kids parted to make way for him to run. The timid, weak dog of a second ago took off running, jumping, and prancing around, stopping whenever he came near one of the kids to give them some love.
My ex and I stood back and watched. She laughed at his dancing and prancing and said, "That's a good dog."
"Yep," I said. "He's ours!"
Soon after, we all piled into our friend's van (she and her daughters had joined us for the occasion) and headed home. The unnamed but adorable dog didn't hesitate when he got in the van. He jumped right up on my lap, curled into a ball, and licked my hand the whole way home.
At home we argued about what to name him. I wanted "Prancer," my nephews wanted "Judas," and my friend's daughters wanted "Chachi." We took a vote and "Chachi" won, although "Prancer" was always his nickname because of the way he danced, pranced, and leaped around like a reindeer.
When we got home, I collapsed into my girlfriend's lap and wailed.
When we moved from Boise, Chachi's age had begun to show a bit. He was getting on in years and he didn't like the move- it stressed him out quite a bit. So it had been in the back of my mind for a while that my days with him were numbered. I expected it to hurt. I expected to feel lonely.
What I did not expect was to feel like I had lost a part of myself, but I have. I was 26 when I brought him home and I'm almost 35 now. That's a lot of life that he shared with me. A lot of memories. A lot of happiness.
My grief is indescribable, as anyone who has lost a pet knows.
But it is tempered by humility and happiness. He picked me. He saw me and knew I was the one who would give him the life he wanted, and I did. For that, he repayed me with a LOT of laughter and fond memories. He was a neurotic, wacky dog- a personality unlike any other.
I never thought of him as a rescue dog or a pound puppy. He was just Chach, my sweet boy who had a rough few years before we found each other. Then we were neurotic and goofy together, sitting side by side, paw in hand.
None of this has fully sunk in for me. It's too hard to consider that I'll never see those sweet eyes look at me again, or feel his head in my lap, or sit on the patio with him leaning against me. I feel like I've lost a limb. There is a part of me that is now gone.
But I sure enjoyed walking through the world with that sweet boy, and eternally grateful that he left the world peacefully.