I never thought I would sit down and write about this particular experience, the experience of having my dog stolen, and in turn my heart. It happened some time ago, but the after shocks are still very real.
But I was reading some blogs the other day, (yes I love to read just as much as I love to write), and I came upon a photo that knocked the air right out of me, and in the same instance produced unstoppable tears. I called my husband into the office and asked him to take a look, he calmly said “when did you post a photo of Chiquita?”. When I explained it wasn’t her, he also started to cry.
Let me start to put this all in context, It was a blog about a dog named Chancy, and the photo that just kind of brought everything back to the surface.
Right after Spore and I were married, a bit over fifteen years ago, we decided to take a camping honeymoon down to Baja. He was leaving for Antarctica for another contract so we decided on beach camping and warmth.
We were about twenty miles south of Mulege, and there were maybe five people on the beach when we arrived. There were easily three times as many dogs. We set up our camp, and went straight into the beautiful water.
While I was out snorkeling around in salt water bliss, something bumped into me. It’s a bit disconcerting to be in a deep day dream like state, with literally nothing around you for miles, and be bumped, bumped by what? I slowly turned my goggled face to the side, and just when I thought for sure I would see a shark, I was equally as shocked to see four little black legs paddling around.
This little black dog had paddled quite some distance out, and was now looking to hitch a ride back to shore. My back was apparently the mode of transport she was looking for.
So we swam back in together, she was amazingly at home on my back, and I was surprisingly at home with her being on my back. It really happened that fast.
She went right to our little camp, looked around, and then trotted off down the beach. She did this for about three days. And then one day she never left my side. For two weeks we lived on the beach together, went through two hurricanes, fishing adventures, snorkeling, hikes, and hours upon hours of beach combing.
When it was time to leave I put her in the car with us, it just felt right. My husband tried to tell me that we couldn’t take a beach dog home, he was leaving for six months, and I was going to be staying with a friend and couldn’t have a dog there. I looked at him and remember saying, “what kind of human being would I be if I just walked away, we belong to each other”.
Spore and I had lived and traveled together for three years before we were married, so he knew me well enough to not press it. But we did need to find a veterinarian, get a rabies shot, and border papers so she was legal to come home with us.
We located a person in the nearest small town, who knew a person, who knew a veterinarian, but they weren’t sure if he worked on dogs. Hmmm? I called and he agreed to meet us at his office the following morning. You see his office was part of a restaurant/cantina, during the off hours it was his veterinary clinic.
We met, he examined her, gave her a shot, filled out the paper work, ordered drinks and ceviche for us, and said, “what’s her name?”. Well, that was something we hadn’t thought about, I just referred to her as My Dog. I thought for a moment and said, “Chiquita”, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect name for her.
We borrowed a collar from a beach friend and attached her Olympic size rabies tag to it. It was her first collar and she loved it! We traveled north, ate tacos together, talked about our future, and everything was perfect. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. I was so happy and complete.
She stayed with my parents for two months while we settled in to our new work, and Chiquita managed to capture my Dad’s heart as well. They did everything together, they walked, went out for business lunches, took naps, and spent time in the garden.
And so began our journey and love story.
When we returned to our home in Wyoming, Chiquita seemed to take to the mountain life right away.
As the years passed our family grew. We still continued to travel, only now it was with Chiquita and our children. Our life was feeling complete, whole. Everything I loved and needed was almost always within arms reach.
This little dog that found me in the sea, was now traveling across the United States, mousing in Rudyard Kiplings orchard, living in Maine during the fall and winter, hiking the highest peaks in the Wind River Mountains, playing in snow, and kayaking across lakes and down rivers. She was staying up late at night with me while I nursed my babies, spending time killing mice in the yard while I gardened, laying next to me when I didn’t feel well, and trying to rid our neighborhood of the terrorist skunks. She blossomed over the years and grew into an amazingly confident, feisty, and incredible dog.
When my babies were young, we moved to Montana to continue our dream. Not long after arriving, Spore found a good job working on custom homes. He would bring Chiquita to work with him a couple of days a week, it was a ginormous house with acreage around, and perfect for walks at break time. They loved their work days together. She had a pillow in what ever room he was working on and a blanket to cuddle in. They would take walks together, explore some of the fields and trails, and both come home tired and happy.
One day he called during his morning break. I was looking forward to hearing about her squirrel adventures. Spore said that Chiquita was missing. For some reason my brain didn’t compute what he said, I couldn’t, or wouldn’t allow myself to believe what his words were saying. He told me he would take a walk to look around and call me back in an hour.
I loaded the kids and we drove the hour to his work site. We walked around, looked for tracks in the snow, looked for signs of anything, and what was so puzzling was, there was nothing. And you have to keep in mind that she never was more than 20-30 feet from us, ever!
When I took the kids home, with me now in full blown sobbing tears, Spore stayed in his car on the drive way of his job site. In case she came back he would be there. He camped there for four nights.
The next morning I made calls everywhere, the Sheriff, Highway Patrol, Animal Control, Shelters, Rescues, Home Owners Associations, etc. The Sheriff in this area told me to get over it and get a new dog, and to not call him again. Highway Patrol was similar, and the list of doom and gloom people went on for days.
My husband asked the crew what they had seen, if anything, and for any kind of help. He spent four nights in a row in his car and searching during break times. At night he would put on a head lamp and search the area looking for anything, any clue. A collar, blood, fur, tracks, something.
What kept coming up was, nothing. And that kept striking us as odd and scary. When our ads hit the paper we received tons of well meaning calls, but not in the right area, or it was the wrong description. Then the calls from psychics, intuitive’s, and animal communicators started coming in. Not just a few but a lot.
I couldn’t catch my breath, I couldn’t stop crying, and I felt so panicked. Did she slip into a snow bank and is trapped, did coyotes draw her out, did she wonder off and get lost? I would walk on the trails and look for any clues, throw myself in the snow and cry, beg for her to come home, plead for a miracle, anything. But there was a reoccurring theme, what really didn’t make sense was the fact that she never was far from us, ever, at all. Even though I was jacked on Adrenalin, crying, and my heart was breaking, nothing was adding up. It was confusing. I felt so raw and exposed.
I very tenderly asked my husband to think back to the day she went missing, and to remember everyone who was at the job sight, or anyone new that came on to the job sight. DING! There was one person who showed up that was looking for wood workers for his house and he wanted to check out the work that was currently being done. When he was gone so was Chiquita.
And this is where things get weird, as in surreal. The details don’t matter so much any more, as they are so convoluted, twisted, and weird, that it would take away and diminish the meaning of this story. It would be safe to say, we eventually found a way to contacted this person, he was surprised at how much we loved her and how hard we were willing to get her back, he passed her on because he didn’t want police coming around, and we know she ended up some place near Bath, Ohio. This all transpired over a six month period. We used pretty much ever scent we had and then some. We wrote, called, traveled and looked. My husband quit his job because there was a connection with the person who took her. I had to stop answering the phone because it became psychological warfare for me. An intuitive telling me where she was, how she was doing. A young kid thinking that she may have run through their back yard earlier in the morning. FBI calling to tell me to get passports and pack bags for all of us because we had stumbled on a hornets nest of bad people. And on and on.
And why? It was more or less a heartless, soulless, super wealthy scum of a person that wanted to add a mascot to his lifestyle. And she fit what he was looking for, so he took her.
Having a loved-one stolen is traumatic, debasing, and an assault on the heart. I don’t think I have ever gotten over it. I more or less have learned to live with it. But there are days, like recently, where it all comes to the surface.
She was stolen in March of 2002, and every once in awhile we will get a call, not often, but they come. I dream of her every now and again, and when I wake up I have that whole and complete feeling, even if just for a fleeting moment. Every so often I will be overwhelmed with her smell, the feel of her fur, or a memory, and it’s hard to recover. Those days are further and further apart now, but the intensity has never lessened. It is the not knowing that is the hardest.
Have I forgiven this person? I don’t think about him hardly at all maybe three times including tonight in the past ten years, but no I have not forgotten this cruel act, nor have I forgiven him. I’m not sure how to do that.
I have wished and hoped that she ended up in a home that loved her to the moon and back. A home that had good dirt for digging, and mice to chase. I love her deeply to this day, and I think I wear her on my heart each time I step out to do anything challenging.
I don’t think our love story is completely over, not just yet. Nancy