Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ode to a Schnauzer

When I was younger my father was always the one to take Chipper out on walks at night. That was, of course, until I was old enough to do it for him. I remember before being able to go out with friends or if I was staying up later than my parents Chipper was used as leverage. “You’re going out to Starbucks at this time?” my dad would say. “Well, I guess that means you can take Chipper out then before you go.” I was an indentured servant earning my freedom. And, because I wanted to go out or stay up late I always took Chipper out. I remember on the frosty December nights and the heat of the summer I loathed taking him out, and Chipper knew it. He would first tease me with a very long stream of pee that would always get me optimistic. “Maybe this will be a quick walk” I would think to myself. It never was. Chipper had the ability of drawing out his walks for far longer than they need to be. He would continue to mark his territory with just enough pee to fill a thimble. Then he would spend a good five or ten minutes scouting out the best location for him to create his masterpiece, his magnum opus; only for it to be scooped up into a plastic bag only seconds after completion and still quiet hot. It used to annoy me to no ends. A complete waste of my time.
Some of you know Chipper and many of you know OF Chipper which makes sense—his reputation precedes him. Many would describe Chipper as Herr Hitler’s favorite hundchen from Berchtesgaden and, at times, he lived up to the reputation. You could cast every dwarf role in Snow White just with people he has attacked and some of us (me included) even have the distinct honor of being repeat victims. To everyone who sees Chipper in this light I can only say I am sorry you didn’t know him for the gentleman he was.
On the eve of my departure for India (with a brief layover in New York—seven days) I was lucky to take Chipper out one more time. He is quite old now and has had his share of problems in recent years and months and his long walks of old are a thing of the past. He usually takes three minutes and turns himself around before struggling up the steps a bit to return to his bed and his peaceful slumber. I don’t know whether this will be my last walk with Chipper but it certainly will be my last walk with him in quite some time. He must have known this because in true Chipper fashion he decided on one last hurrah… going out in a bang! I walked out the door and into the street with Chipper by my side. He peed as usual at the second tree past the mailbox. All was going fine. By the time we reached the road he had peed again—this time on the stop sign. We crossed the street and continued on. He began marking his territory with sprinkles and stopping to sniff for longer periods of time.
Now, if this had happened to me five years ago I would have been more than a bit annoyed at Chipper. Our walk was coming up on its fifteenth minute and Chipper was showing no intention of returning home. As we turned the corner, walked under a tree, and onto a street I had never walked down with him here in Rock Hill it suddenly dawned on me. Chipper, in his old age and wisdom was telling me something. He knew that this may be his last chance to teach me a valuable lesson. Chipper got it. Chipper had always gotten it. And, had I only paid attention to him all these years I might have gotten it to.
I lightly tugged on his collar and called his name out (much louder now then I would have had to years ago) and he looked at me. He stopped sniffing, turned around, paused and looked up at me. Our eyes met and without a doubt in my mind Chipper told me, “Stop focusing on all the shit to come and just enjoy the stroll.” It is a lesson that has been said by many people in many ways and yet it took a small, elderly, at times psychopathic, miniature Schnauzer to finally get the message through to me.
Amongst the vast number of people I am leaving to go to India, Chipper is amongst them-- a friend to me for over a decade now. I can’t imagine life at home without him and yet tonight he reassured me in a way that maybe only he could that to focus on all the shit to come would inevitably effect and impede upon my ability to enjoy the stroll. I hope to see him again and I hope to be able to tell him how right he was but that is shit that I shouldn’t be dealing with now. I know he loves me and would be proud of me. He understands that his place is here, to take care of my mom and dad. I know he will keep his pack protected and understands that I must go out into the world to make a life of my own. These are instincts he was born with.
And so to Chipper I say, “Through the barks and bites, and all the walks too, there has been no greater companion to me, than you.”


  1. I didn't cry all day until I came home at 5:15 pm and found this posted. Chipper is a wise boy, and I'm glad you finally got it.

    Love you.

  2. Damn smart dog, and a damn fine young man. Little Jim, enjoy your Indian Stroll, just don't drink the water unless you zap it w/ that UV gadget.

  3. Wow! I'll give Chipper an extra cuddle in Montreat! Young (not little) Jim- You are beginning an adventure that most never have the opportunity to take- enjoy, savor, learn and above all, be safe! Love you much! See you in a year!

  4. Godspeed, Jim! Thanks for sharing.
    Richard Nicholson

  5. Damn dude this post made me want to laugh and cry at the same time... and that's hard to do!!

    Jim I miss you. BUT I'm so glad you are going out there to change the world just a little bit, enjoying the stroll while you can. I'm glad we got to see each other this summer... it's truly one of my favorite memories. Miss you mate! Keep in touch.

  6. Ah Chipper. He treats his select friends and family whom he allows to pick up his poop with loyalty and love. I think that walk epitomizes him well. Thank you for your inspiration to stop looking ahead to shit and enjoy the stroll!

    Safe travels, Jim.

  7. dam smart dog Chipper ! take care love you lots

  8. We rarely give them due credit for what they teach us (on a daily basis). I've enjoyed getting to know you, however briefly. I look forward to keeping up with your adventure!

  9. oh my gosh, I love this! Well said, my friend :)