By Frank Crane
Spooner left us in November. Having gone downhill over a period of several months, his final departure, though heartbreaking, did not come as a shock, and to be honest I’d already given some thought to a next dog. But the holidays were coming, I knew I still needed time for grieving, plus in January I’d be returning to a three month work gig in Atlanta, so it just made sense not to rush into things. And then a chance encounter of a Face Book post featuring Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue crossed my desk.
All those brown dog images evoked memories of days afield with my loyal companion. With spring hiking weather just around the corner and river trips beckoning early summer, wouldn’t it be great to have a new buddy along for the ride. But you’re 66 years old a friend said, do you really need to bring an unknown 80 plus pound dog into your house, a house with stairs no less, and into the steep mountain terrain where you live and hike? “Of course I do” was my instant reply, “what better to keep me young at heart”!
Still planning to delay any decision until April when I’d be back in the mountains, I figured there was no harm in looking. Perusing CBRRR posts, it did help curb my enthusiasm each time I’d see an interesting dog in Minnesota or Washington State, figuring it wouldn’t make sense to fly all that way to see a dog that might not be the right fit. But then one day I just couldn’t resist inquiring about one beautiful west coast dog and during the conversation learned of Sarah Scheel Cook in Georgia who heads up the Southeast CBRRR. During the three months in Atlanta I’d be near Sarah’s location, so the thought occurred there might be a chance of finding a dog fairly close by. A couple weeks after reaching out to Sarah and sharing my plans regarding timing, low and behold she had a dog she thought I’d like to look at.
Talk about blind dates! Ranger (I hate the name Ranger) was two years old and overweight. Only recently neutered he was full of himself, going 90 miles an hour, jumping up on me-did I mention it had been raining- all while I’m trying to make a good impression with Sarah since she held the keys to my eventually finding the perfect dog. Every trait I saw in him just didn’t measure up to Spooner (bless his heart, nobody could), but one thing was for sure, he was all Chessie. He had a good disposition, had strong retrieving drive, did surprisingly well on a lead; his potential was obvious. Let’s do this!
Sarah was amazing. She had no problem with my inquiry about her possibly fostering two or three months until I could get the work gig behind and take him to the mountains where we’d have every day to get to know each another. Sarah was perfectly willing to care for him, arrange some rudimentary training and have me visit any time I’d like. Everything was going to work out perfectly… until that first three day February weekend when back home in the mountains all I could think of was what a good opportunity I was missing with the new dog still being with Sarah. Shortly thereafter another long weekend was coming up, so I contacted Sarah with my idea of maybe going ahead and taking him and arranging day care training in Atlanta while I worked. She liked the idea, all arrangements were made and I took him home. After only two weeks Covid-19 hit. Long story short, how blessed I am (I like to think him too), that things worked out for “Chug” and me to find each other before being sequestered in the mountains for almost two months now!
You read that right, “Chug”. While signing the adoption paperwork I discovered it was actually “Ranger, aka Rug”, and learned that his trainer had been using “Rug”. Well, that didn’t do much for me either, but on our first hike back home I’m walking along repeating Rug and sound-alike names when the old Roger Miller song Chug-a-lug popped into my head…what better moniker for a dog who is destined to witness a cold one or two being chugged following our days afield.
It took a few days to really bond, a couple weeks before I was comfortable allowing him off leash, another week or so until I’d allow him to range out of sight while hiking. Once we learned to trust one another his progress has been amazing. As with every Chessie I’ve been around he is intelligent, quick to learn, eager to please, loyal and protective and at two years old just one big goofball who’ll do anything for affection. I’m smitten, and like to believe he is too.