A Dog Named Chumpie

Originally published early January 2012

There is a little white dog with reddish-brown spots that lives, unfenced, two doors down from my mom (about 6 acres away). He probably isn’t full bred, but he definitely has a lot of Bud Light’s “Spuds McKenzie” in him or rather, Bull Terrier blood, that is.

I first met this little dog two and a half years ago when he invited himself to our annual 4th of July cook-out and homemade fireworks display, routinely held under my mom’s carport and in her rural back yard. Spanky, my mom’s 10 year old Schnauzer, is deathly afraid of fireworks and hides in the closet every 4th of July. He’s a house dog and only ventures out in the fenced front yard for necessities, so we didn’t expect Spanky would be joining in the loud festivities. Instead, this tough, stout, little white dog with a spotted nose and tiny triangular eyes came down and celebrated with us that evening. He never flinched when the fireworks got a little too close for comfort or when my mom yelled at him to stop chewing on spent sparklers. It was pretty apparent nothing fazed this little dog.

That night, I donned him “Chumpie”. I don’t know why, but it is a name that fits and he seems to like it. Chumpie has made a point to trot down and visit us at every family gathering since, and I don’t doubt for a minute it is because he netted a couple of grilled hot dogs (in addition to spent sparklers) that 4th of July more than two years ago!

Amber and Chumpie

Chumpie and my oldest niece on the 4th of July a few years ago.

Jumping to present time, last weekend, my mom’s Schnauzer, Spanky, in an extremely unusual act for him, dug out of the fence. He was gone about an hour before my mom noticed he had escaped. As I mentioned earlier, Spanky is an indoor dog that only goes outside into a protected chain-linked fenced front yard. Spanky is not at all adapted to the wide-open rural life as some “country” dogs are. Realizing what he had done, my mom panicked of course and immediately began looking for Spanky. She knew his sheltered life would not serve him well in a rural area that boasted of free range, territorial dogs – not to mention the occasional coyote, bobcat, rattlesnake, and rifle-carrying protective land owner. Most frightening to us, however, were the 75 mph missiles on the two farm-to-market roads that border my mom’s widespread neighborhood. Folks in the country do not tend to slow down when a “critter” is in the road. This is not so much because they purposely wish to run over the critter – but for two reasons, really. Number one – there simply isn’t any room to swerve on two-lane country roads as generally there aren’t shoulders present and you certainly don’t cross the yellow center line into oncoming traffic. Number two – most roaming country dogs know to get out of the way of vehicles. (I’m not sure how they know this, but they do. In fact, they know just how close they can get to your vehicle to chase beside it without getting hit. Ever driven past a rural home and out of nowhere comes a German Shepherd or Collie that can keep up with your vehicle as you drive the length of the property?) Well, at any rate, Spanky is not one of those adaptive creatures. And to top it all off, Spanky escaped on New Year’s Eve – the second most popular night for fireworks! My mom was having visions of Spanky darting in all directions trying to avoid the onslaught of fireworks exploding in the dark rural sky that evening.

After my mom searched for a couple of hours with no luck, she called me and I loaded up my car for an overnight stay and drove down there. It would be close to dark before I arrived at her home, but I had a couple of flashlights and binoculars and we would do as much searching as we safely and cautiously could, I supposed. If you read my blog regularly and in chronological order, you are aware my dad passed away recently. To me, this major loss and very raw wound increased the importance of finding my mom’s furry companion.

That evening we drove around four adjacent rural neighborhoods, calling out Spanky’s name between fireworks explosions and cautiously shining our flashlights into vacant fields. (Note my mention of rifle-carrying protective land owners earlier.) As we drove down one of the county roads, out of nowhere comes none other than Chumpie! He had heard us in the distance calling out to Spanky and decided he’d answer the call. (He knows Spanky as the dog on the other side of the fence, so to speak. They’ve met before – nose to nose.) At any rate, Chumpie decided to get out in front of my car headlights and lead the search party. This little dog ran in front of my car the length of two long county roads, stopping every now and then to christen a mailbox post. At the end of the second road, I took pity on poor Chumpie as his short legs had slowed to a trot and his tongue was dripping and hanging out to the side of his mouth. I lured him into my car, setting him between my mom and I in the front seat. I don’t know that he’s ever ridden in a car before, but he wasn’t afraid and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

Defeated for the night, we drove back to my mom’s, letting Chumpie off at his designated house along the way.

The next morning, my mom and I got up early and created about 30 posters with Spanky’s picture, description and mom’s contact information listed. We then resumed our mission, this time with the blessing of daylight. We passed out posters to folks working in their yards and taped the remainder to fence posts located at the entrances of several nearby dead-end country roads. As we did these things we continued to call out Spanky’s name. Well, you probably guessed it, here came along Chumpie again – this time running to us from a different direction and across another field. Again, he led the search party, taking the time now and then to walk up into some of the yards where we humans couldn’t legally venture. The three of us searched all that second day with no luck.

Spanky was found that night. Alive and well. Hallelujah!

He had dug inside the fence of a home located two county roads over from my mom’s. We can only guess that he became disoriented by fireworks, or any one of the other aforementioned dangers, and decided it was best to be fenced in after all! The problem was he didn’t pick his home to dig back into – he picked a vacant home several acres away in which to seek shelter. Fortunately, a kind and sympathetic woman noticed a little black dog hiding under the porch of this fenced-in, known-to-be-vacant home, put two and two together and called my mom’s phone number listed on the flyer that we had posted at the entrance of her development.

Jealous SpankyA jealous Spanky watching my mom and nephew bottle feed an abandoned feral kitten.


Well, in the end I’d like to say Chumpie had something to do with Spanky’s rescue . . .

So I will!

Although Chumpie did not directly find Spanky, he certainly led the search party for two straight days. Most of all, he gave us hope. How? We knew if Chumpie could hear us calling three county roads away, then surely Spanky could hear us too. We knew if Chumpie could run toward us, dodging thick brush, makeshift fences, creeks and ponds, then Spanky could most likely get to us too. We knew if Chumpie, a tad smaller than Spanky, was able to withstand the dangers and elements overnight, then Spanky probably could too – at least for a little while. Thus, Chumpie gave us the fortitude to keep on looking – all the while posting more flyers and searching further out than we originally thought plausible. Chumpie inspired us and proved that an unlikely feat can oftentimes be accomplished with mere perserverance.

Thank you, Chumpie. We definitely owe you a few grilled hot dogs at the next family gathering!

Kristin and Chumpie

Until next time,

Apologize for the rain-spotted pic. Wasn’t going to post it, but then again, it is telling of Chumpie’s personality. He’s escorting my youngest niece to her vehicle.


P.S.  If your pet gets lost, don’t give up – even if it has been gone a few days. Post flyers in your neighborhood (within sign ordinance guidelines), post ads in newspapers and online, perhaps your neighborhood watch  site, and call your local animal shelter and nearby veterinarian offices to make them aware of your loss. Be safe by limiting personal information (a phone number is sufficient contact info.)  In suburban areas, many folks routinely walk for exercise and have developed a keen sense for out of place pets along their path. You’d be surprised just how many people (and Chumpies) are out there willing to help!

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