September 9, 1990 - January 13, 2005
A Dalmatian

Our friend, loyal companion, get in our way, always looking for a treat, handsome, beautiful, energetic, gentle and loving dog, Rainbow Cholla of Spottsboro passed to the other side. He will be missed. Tears shed by the family. Hearts broken. It hurts, but isn't this what we deserve, after loving him so much? Perhaps that is why he decided to stick around for 14 ½ -years. A gift, actually, but it does not make his departure any easier to bear.
Memories: The puppy, fondly named Jaws by his breeder, the alpha pup, the one with too much black to be considered "show quality", but he might pass as a cow; the first to leave his litter. Afraid and timid, he hid behind the truck seat as he was driven to his new home. A new name given, CHOLLA, for those sharp puppy teeth and because he was a bouncing puppy (aka "Jumping Cholla") Cholla cactus, a native plant to his new home, the Santa Monica Mountains. He learned his name through his cant, "Puppy, Puppy, Puppy, Jaws, Cholla." Cholla answered to "Puppy, Puppy, Puppy . . . ," through his entire life until his hearing diminished during his geriatric years. Of course he was fondly known as "Puppyface," too.
Cholla, who was never going to sleep on the bed, worked his magic on Bonnie quickly. Stephen went away for a few months to the academy, and Cholla wanted double the attention. It took him only two nights to work his way to hogging the bed! He got to sleep in bed with us until the babies arrived. (At one point the cats joined in, too! It was quite crowded.)
First snow. Big Bear, California. White, cold, fun stuff to run in. How cute against his black cow spots.
Uh-Oh. Cholla did not know how to stay in the back of a pickup truck, even after someone promised to hold him. At 25 MPH he jumped out while driving on Bonsall Drive, and with a yelp, gave us all a big scare. The vet's prognosis was an injured paw with some bruising to his back and spine . This came back to haunt him during his geriatric years, as his back injury led to painful arthritis. He never rode in the open back of a pickup truck again. (Check out the photo where he is playing in our yard. The taped front left paw is from that incident. I didn't realize this until I used that photo as a screen saver, and when the photo was enlarged I noticed the vet wrap.)
Friends. Cholla had many of them, human and dog. He should be playing with many of those dog friends now. Some of his favorites were ROWDY, his beloved boyfriend, a big beautiful Rhodesian ridgeback. Maggie, Chloe, and Badger, his Malibu, mostly-mutt pack. Dagwood and Blondie, his cocker spaniel cousins, Nicky, his liver-colored brother, Yarrow, Belgian, Nikky, Spike, Galyn, Bracken, and so many other wonderful canine companions, too numerous to name.
More fur in the household. It didn't smell like a dog, look like a dog, or speak like a dog. Meow . . . first it was Splash, the cat. Indifference. Next, Diego, the cat came to live with us. He was a bit friendlier. Later, after Splash disappeared, Spirit the cat joined the family. But, these kitties had to be aware that it wasn't a good idea to walk past Cholla's "room" (kennel) when he had a bone . . . or to let Cholla sniff at those private places, as once he nipped and sent Spirit to the vets office! But later they kissed and made up, and I think she even misses him.
Once a Dalmatian, always a Dalmatian. There may no longer be horses and carriages to run with and protect, but thou shall run because you can. If not chasing squirrels or running the length of the yard, he would make circles around the couch. He loved to play "chase" and tug-rope. . . and he had a trick, which he performed until his arthritis made it impossible. Point your finger at him like a gun and say "bang" and Cholla would fall over "dead." If we the did the trick over and over, he would get very dramatic. It was very cute; he always scored some extra attention and a treat when the trick was over.
Fences. They are supposed to keep animals in and other animals out. But often times they do not work. Cholla had several adventures by going over barricades such as fences and walls. He was quite athletic. At Zuma Canyon he decided to chase coyotes on at least two occasions. He jumped over our fence and into the park like the fence did not exist. Luckily the fence surrounding his run was a bit higher, and it contained him when we were not home. When we first moved to Thousand Oaks, our wall was only four feet high. We were living in the house for only two weeks, when on Independence day 1996, I heard a ruckus outside. Cholla had jumped over our wall into the neighbors yard where he had trapped a mommy opossum with babies on her back. She was hissing at him. He ignored my calls and pleads to "come." (It is hard to believe that this was the same dog who was awarded the blue ribbon at the end of obedience training!) By the time I dragged him back home, she was "playing possum" by pretending she was dead.
Immediately after that incident we added a two-foot high fence on top of the wall, and he stayed in our yard and chased "his" squirrels. Luckily he never caught one. He did not bother the many birds that we attracted to our yard, but then again, eating their birdseed became one of his bad habits!
"One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you
visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret
but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my
long happy life with you: 'here lies one who
loved us and whom we loved.' No matter how deep my sleep I shall
hear you, and not all the power of death can
keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail."
-from Eugene O'Neil's 'Last Will and Testament' of Blemie, a dalmatian