Chinook is defined in some circles as a warm wind out of the north in winter. That’s why I picked it for a name of the Alaskan Malamute I adopted out of rescue in 1998. She was a warm, quiet, some would say regal, soul in the form of a big snow dog. We spent eight years together, and she was the center of my life for much of that. They say that rescue dogs end up rescuing their humans; Chinook was no exception. We leaned on each other as we grew older together.
The 7.5:1 ratio isn’t fair, but it’s what you get with a dog. Chinook outpaced me on the aging front, and with rescue dogs you sometimes don’t know how old a dog might be. When I figured Chinook was about 10 or 11, a new vet told me “look at the jaw musculature: this old girl is closer to 14”. The time came, we curled up together for a couple of hours to commune, and the folks at Alpine Hospital were sensitive and wonderful. I put my hand up to her nose as she drifted away, hoping she’d carry my scent with her on her next adventure.
Months later, I still had the urn with Chinook’s ashes. I’d told myself that I’d take her up into snow country to spread them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave her up there alone somewhere, as if she still might be in that jar. One Sunday morning, I woke up to bright sunshine and eight inches of new snow. It occurred to me that I was, for the moment, in snow country, and that Chinook could share my new home even if belatedly. I pulled on trousers and boots and coat, and hiked up the property to a place with a great view. I knelt in the snow and started to unscrew the lid to the urn. It stuck, and as I fumbled with the damn thing the tears came, months after the event, thinking how this little plastic bag in this little jar was all that was left of my dog that I could touch. Such a small container for such a huge presence.
The ashes are in the soil now, and the view is still wonderful, and I have two more Malamutes, rescuing me once again. I think they would’ve liked Chinook.