Father’s Day 2011:
The Journey: It’s not a long way from the Bay Area in California to the Foothills of the Sierra. A couple of hundred miles as the dog rides. Fuji woke, as he normally did each day, not with a whimper but as a force of nature, a tornado, ready to create havoc. A rescue Chin, Fuji was the product of a puppy mill, a pet store, a neglectful first owner (“Bought on a whim”. Funny how quickly the new wears off of a whim purchase, especially if it poops and pees on the floor), a concerned friend of the first owner and “his first savior” (after his first rescue, he had to have his collar cut from his fur), Cindy Herns (his first stop in the rescue chain), and Kathy Kettle (Fuji’s foster Mother). For Fuji this day was, once again, moving day.
Now, I met my first chin in 1998 when my Friend Coleen was socializing a Chin puppy for future delivery to a new home and I was the outsider for him to get used to. She had her own personal brood, her husband, and my best friend Mike had his personal Chin (Fuz, pronounced Fooze) and all was good in their world. A few years later, Coleen called me about a Chin pup she had placed who was being returned. I recall that the reason was that the pup, named Zoey, did not get along with the Chin already in residence. She asked if I was interested. I was. Zoey was personally delivered, to us, by Coleen during the Winter of aught4 (This is another story for another time). Making a long story short, Zoey became Sasha and Sasha became a local legend (Chin are very rare up here in the Foothills and Sasha became known as the Biker Babe, White Water Rafting Babe, horseback riding Hottie and all around cattle dog leading horses, goats, cats…). Truly the finest dog I have ever encountered (I know, just like all of us Chin owners). Years pass and the desire to add another Chin (to help keep Sasha young and energized) becomes a quest. I am referred to JC Care. I take some time to fill out an application, locate a dog who looks like he can use a home and submit my application. Within the hour I am on the phone with Kathy and she tells me of this rescue Chin she is fostering. A 14 month old ball of fire. Goes by the name of Fuji. Am I interested? Of course says I. After the character check (marginally acceptable), reference check (same result), she grudgingly (I am kidding about the grudgingly, I think) Kathy decides that she will bring him up to have a look at us and see if we look like a good match.
Father’s Day 2011
The Destination: I dress in my best Harley-Davidson T-Shirt (Redwoods Harley-Davidson), Wranglers, Black riding boots and wait for Fuji to arrive. Sasha sits beside me. I remember the day clearly, I had coffee and Sasha had peanut butter dog treats. The morning was fine, the delta breeze pushing gently through the yard and the sun hovering just above the tree tops. An SUV pulled into the driveway and Sasha and I went to open the gate and meet our new friends. Sasha has not seen another Chin since she left the Right Coast back in 04 (except for the Chingirl calendar she gets for Christmas each year, the one with the peanut butter scented centerfold she seems to enjoy so much). Fuji exits the car like a Tasmanian Devil, rolls Sasha, and runs non-stop until he runs out of gas and starts his search for the watering trough. Kathy introduces herself, introduces Fuji (I had already guessed that he was the black and white blur dashing madly across the yard). Kathy and I chat for a while, walk the property and watch Fuji run. Kathy says she was hoping she could place Fuji in an environment like ours. Lots of room to run and plenty of trees to, well, you know how the boy Chin love their trees. After a few pleasantries, we go inside to view his sleeping arrangements and then we get to the paperwork. Once the paperwork is completed Kathy is back on the road and Fuji is staring at the gate watching his most recent family depart. Now, at this time, I am not familiar with this term “forever home” and I am certain Fuji isn’t either, considering his penchant for relocating during his 14 months in this world. He spends the first day running himself into heat exhaustion and the first night sound asleep curled up next to me and Sasha. In one week we have him potty trained, in two weeks we have him boundary trained (yes Fuji, I know you can find a way out of this yard if you really try) and he has full command of sit, stay, come, no you can’t sleep in the pasture with the baby goat, and yes I know you look alike and are about the same size. In the third week he is on his first Motorcycle ride (Auburn to Bodega Bay to Quincy to Auburn, three days about 600 miles with detours). He loves the Ocean, loves the bike, and loves people. He is the perfect foil for Sasha who loves the Ocean, loves the bike and dislikes pretty much everybody. In his fourth week, Fuji galloped toward me carrying with him a violent sneeze and a head full of cobwebs. The cobwebs I understood, the sneeze I did not. After about an hour of him sneezing I gathered him up to check for the source of his violent head snapping, fearful of whiplash at least or a concussion from ground. Two of us try to hold him still so I could get a look up his nose. Anyone who has ever tried to get a Chin to sit still while you examine the inside of their nasal passage will attest to the fact that this process is not possible without the aid of a strong sedative or an industrial vice. This is a ‘no go’. After cleaning my glasses of the Fuji Tinsel, it is off to the vet we go (I swear, when he first got here his nose was 4 inches long, by the time I got him to the vet it was 2 inches long from sneezing his face into the driveway). First question, from the Vet, as Fuji is leaving Chin Snot on anyone who gets within his exhaust range is: “does he have access to any foxtails?” Well, we live in the country and foxtails are a way of life so I tell her, “Why yes, we do”. Her guess, like mine, is that Fuji has ingested a foxtail into his nasal passage. Surgery is in order. “We will prep for surgery now”, she says “and he should be ready to pick up in about three hours”. I hand Fuji to the vet and start to walk away. At the last second I look over my shoulder to tell him I will see him in a bit and he has this sad look in his eyes. It was as if he were telling me he was sorry that he didn’t work out. That it was fun while it lasted and he would do better in his next home. I walked back to him, gave him a scratch and left. Three hours later the Vet called and three hours and five minutes later I was standing at the counter. The Vet brought Fuji out. She handed him to me and I held him as I would hold an infant, he opened his eyes briefly, looked up at me, gave me a sloppy lick to the glasses, curled up and went back to sleep. I collected his medication (ear drops and antibiotics), listened to the post op instructions and took him home.
Fuji has recovered nicely. He does not roam far from his people. He still finds the cobwebs and searches for the ‘not so elusive’ foxtail. I hear it said that the Chin needs only occasional grooming, I would disagree. Fuji requires constant grooming, the result of rolling in horse poop, goat poop and Sasha gnawing on his neck fur when he decides that Sasha needs some exercise. But, he is a peaceful boy and, after four months, he seems to understand that this is the last stop on his journey. He likes: Fuji apples, cherry tomatoes split in half, black cats, Home Depot, PetCo and motorcycles. He likes his face in the wind and he likes to run. And someday he may, again, wind up with a foxtail in his nasal passage and I will take him back to the Vet and have to hand him over. He will be okay with this.
I believe he understands that, with us, he is forever home.
For the biker it is always about the journey, the destination is secondary, and subject to change. Fuji has arrived at his destination but, his journey will continue. As for us, we will be happy to be along for the ride…