I met Chara in 2001 when she came into the Army vet clinic on Guam as a hit by car. The lady that had her took dogs off the street and kind of gave them safe harbor at her farm. She did not have much money but she insisted we do everything we could for this dog. So we did. Lovey, as she was called then, had a ruptured bladder and some deep scratches and lacerations to her hind legs but no broken bones. Surgery fixed her bladder. In appreciation of saving her life, she promptly bit the vet when she woke up. I was the tech there and was tasked to change the dog’s catheter and care for her while she was in an in-house patient. I did more than that. I slept in the clinic for 2 weeks with her, and when we closed I let her out into the waiting room and she slept in my sleeping bag more often than she did in her cage. When she was healed enough to go “home” we wrote the surgery off as training and charged everything we did at cost. Still the lady could not pay for the dog. So I adopted the dog. And the vet bill. And “Lovey” was mine. I renamed her Ke’chara, which means “beloved” from a book series I was reading at the time. My then boyfriend, now husband, used to help me sneak her into the barracks (but I knew all the dog handlers and most of the base security so they sort of turned a blind eye to me and her.)
She didn’t look like much. I still don’t know what she was mixed with. Just a brown boonie dog. There are hundreds more on Guam that look just like her. But she was special. Without any kind of training she just “knew” what I wanted and she did it. I watched her blossom from a scared, timid dog to a loyal and confident companion. She got so reliable that I could tie less obedient dogs to her and if I asked her to come, she would pull that other dog right along with her until she was at my side, no matter the other dog’s size or weight. We hiked the woods and trails of Guam, got lost more than once, but she was always ready to go exploring. I kept her in the clinic but our receptionist took a liking to her and allowed her to stay at her place since I “officially” could not have a dog in the barracks. And when I left Guam I bought her a plane ticket and she followed me to New England a couple weeks later.
Chara became the unofficial mascot of my next duty station. She would sleep under my desk while I was working and on my lunch break I would take her out for a run. She made friends with everyone and she brightened everyone’s day greeting civilians and Soldiers alike.
Her favorite two places were the beach and the barn. She realized very quickly that Maine waters are much colder than Guam waters but she still loved to go. (She liked it even more when we moved to Virginia and the water became warm again). She even went on a canoe trip with a friend of mine and I. She loved playing with her dog buddies at the barn while I rode my horse and she LOVED to go out on the trails with us. She more often than not (surely not on purpose) spooked my horse running in and out of the trees but she never ran off and always stayed close.
For 12 1/2 wonderful years we had some great adventures. She was dressed up in countless costumes for Halloween and Christmas and featured in my Christmas cards. She was loved by all who knew her and she loved us all back in turn. She had a rocky start in life but she had an amazing 12 years. Some of that can be seen in her tribute video here:
She was a one of a kind dog. There will NEVER be another like her. In her memory I have adopted another “boonie” dog. I know she will not be Chara but a new dog and a fresh bond will help heal the hole that Chara has left in my life.
Run free, my sweet beloved boonie dog. But feel free to visit and keep the new pup in line 🙂