I was twenty-four and single when I decided it was time to grow-up a little. I was going to become mature and responsible and stop living such a carefree lifestyle. I was going to get some relationship stuff happening.
I was looking for the perfect match to fit my lifestyle of seasonal work. I was looking for strong and handsome, quiet and willing. A relationship that would make me feel safe and secure and not so lonely.
So I started looking for a dog.
A dear friend of mine who worked at a vet clinic called me up one day and said, “Hey some lady came in with some posters of a dog she’s giving away. I think he would be perfect for you.” She passed on the lady’s phone number and I called her up.
We met at Southland Dog Park in Calgary. She rolled up in a four-door sedan and out popped two large dogs, three kids and her husband.
I barely even got to see the dog I was coming to take a look at. He was off at a run, checking out every bush in the vicinity. Tail high. Tongue lolling. A big happy grin on his face. His backend looked somewhat disjointed to his front end, but he was galloping around in apparent glee.
His name was Chevy and he was a lanky looking white-silver-black, Alaskan Malamute X. He never once acknowledged me on that walk at Southland, while he owner gave me his story—what she knew about it. She picked him up as a 1 year old because she loved big dogs, but now as a four year old she was forced to give him up because the doctor was recommending getting rid of all possible allergens in her house. Her husband was breaking out in unexplained allergies and was not getting better. She had already re-homed 3 other dogs Chevy’s size but was keeping the big Rottweiler that had come with him on the walk. She had three kids, three cats, another smaller dog besides the Rotti, and lived in an apartment with no yard. They were smokers as well. Allergies? No kidding! I decided right then and there I was taking the poor dog.
I gave her 20 bucks for the can of dog food and leash she was giving me and I loaded up the big furry dog in the backseat of my two-door Chevy Cavalier. He took up the whole backseat. He was not happy to be going home with me.
I didn’t have a yard either, but I didn’t think the dog would mind much, as it was early April and I knew that at the end of the month I would be headed back to the bush for the season. In the meantime, I walked him for hours every day after my work shifts and took him on various hikes.
From the first week, I knew I had lucked into a great dog. He had great house manners. He was excellent off leash. He was quickly attached to me. The only major issue was his shedding. He left a cloud of white hair everywhere he went. That and his size.
I ended up buying a little truck to accommodate him a little easier and off we went, headed to Smithers, BC for the spring bear hunts. I was cooking for a sister-outfit to the one I had worked for up in Atlin the previous summer.
Chevy rode in the back and was an excellent traveler. He absolutely loved the back of the truck and he especially loved going places. He would stand with his head hanging out the side, nose up and just lean into the wind for miles. It was a good trek we did through the mountains, stopping for occasional pee breaks and the leg stretches.
We found our new home 51 km up the gravel road in the Kispiox Valley, north of the town of Hazelton. It was an old log home in a wide green meadow, near the river. The road ran down the middle of the valley and afforded a grand mountain view to the south and east. Massive cotton poplars lined the bank of the Kispiox to the west of the house.
I unloaded my gear and both Chevy and I acquainted ourselves with the surroundings. Immediately we hiked across the meadow to the cotton poplars and the river and then explored along the bank. We plunged into the bush, and quickly discovered that walking in the bush in BC is much different than walking in the bush in Alberta or further up north. Rosebush thorns stickered my legs straight through my jeans and then I had my first encounter with Devils Club. If you don’t know what Devil’s Club is, count yourself lucky. It’s appropriately named.
Both dog and I happily found our way back to a trail and pretty much stuck to roads or trails for the rest of our time in the Valley.
The first hunters arrived and I started my work, cooking and cleaning and helping out the guides. Since it was spring, the days were long, and so there was lots of spare time between my chores. These I filled, at first, with long walks with my dog down the logging road that ran down the middle of the valley. Our walks on average were 6 to 8 km in the morning and about the same the other way in the evening. Later on I started running in the evenings. I’m not a runner but I was so bored that I eventually made it up to 8 km at a time. I chalked it up to running at near sea level as opposed to the high prairies I was used to.
Since Chevy was such a big, tall dog I thought I’d try packing him. Make him carry his own dog food or such. I was getting him ready for the long days on the trail that were ahead of us, when we headed up north to Atlin.
He was a horrible packer.
He was slow and miserable. Halfway into our trial walk, he looked so mournful that I took the packs off and his tail bounced up and down the trail he went with his disjointed trot, leaving me to tote the pack back home. I figured his back was too long for packing and never tried again.
The outfitter brought out some horses, so on top of our morning and evening walks/runs, I added riding in the afternoon. One of the horses was an ex-barrel racer. I threw a saddle on and jumped on for a ride. As soon as I clicked my tongue and loosed the rein expecting to head off at a walk, I was nearly blasted off the back of my saddle as the dang horse took it as her cue to run full-out.
Good thing I had a high back saddle!
I regained my seat and held onto my hat as we tore out of the yard and down the sandy shoulder of the gravel road. This mare loved to run. She didn’t know any other gait. It was stop or run. Chevy lost a lot of weight trying to keep up to us. He wasn’t a fast dog. But he never quit.
Our first hunter brought in the first black bear. It was a dandy. A beautiful coal black boar. I’ve never seen a dog more excited than Chevy as he checked out that bear lying on the ground. His quivering didn’t stop for hours. Outfitter/Guide Clint skinned it out and then came in for lunch. When he returned to his work, he discovered that my dog had promptly buried the skull while we were dining. We looked for a long time trying to find that skull, until Clint got the bright idea to pass him a paw and see where he buried that.
Chevy took the paw handed to him and stepped out right smart to the bush behind the barn. He kept looking back at us and if we were watching he kept walking, but as soon as we turned our backs, he got down to the business of burying. We watched from a distance, trying to landmark where he was doing his work. Then after he left, we started the search. Even with three of us fairly certain we saw where he had buried the paw, we never did find it—or the skull. He was a master at disguising the location and he rubbed his nose raw and bloody from scraping earth over his treasures. Thankfully that hunter hadn’t intended on keeping the bear skull. We knew after that to not leave any skulls or “wanted” parts on the ground.
Chevy must not have liked that hunter, because the entire week he refused to let the guy enter the house. He would guard the front door and growl every time the hunter tried to come in for breakfast or supper. So the poor guy always had to come around and knock on the kitchen window and I would have to go drag my dog away from the door. I think it had something to do with him carrying a gun.
Chevy didn’t like it when anyone carried a big stick-like object in their hands. The first time he met my vet, she was carrying a broom and he lunged at her with his teeth bared. Then the first few hunts he would growl and bark at the hunters whenever they carried their guns. I ended up having to throw him to the ground and hold him by his neck and until he submitted to me. After that he was okay for the most part, in fact a couple of hunters later in the season offered me 500 dollars for him. I turned them down flat. A good dog isn’t for sale.
I always wondered though, if someone had taken a stick to him, or had trained him to act this way as a protector. He never did growl at hunters after I threw him to the ground, but I could always tell when he didn’t trust someone. He had a great alarm bark and looked very fierce when he growled and the ruff on his neck stood up.
He made me feel safe.
It was especially nice to have him on walks in the bush. A few times he alerted me to bears, and he wasn’t one to chase after them. He always stuck close to me. One time I even saw a rare Kermode bear while on an evening walk with him. Thankfully the bear didn’t see us.
On the hot days I would take Chevy dog down to the river and let him swim. He was a wonderful swimmer. Strong—and he didn’t mind the water. He liked to fetch sticks, but not too much. He would get bored after a while. He preferred to go chase smells or find a fresh cow patty to roll in.
The first week the cows were brought in, he went from white to green. He loved rolling in cow shit. He was extremely proud of himself, until he realized he was not allowed in the house. Then he moped. He had to be close to me, at all times. So much so, that he earned the moniker from Clint, “Chevy Tailgate”.
During a break we had between hunts, I took the big guy on a few mountain hikes around the area—the Glacier Gulch trail above Smithers and the Rocher de Boule Mountain across from Hazelton. That dog loved mountain climbing! The higher the better. We were of the same heart that way, not much would keep him from scaling parts most dogs wouldn’t even dream of tackling.
On the last hunt, the new guides brought in hound dogs. Chevy liked to lord it over them that he wasn’t on the chain and could go as he pleased. Those dogs were noisy too. They would bay all day and all night. One particularly noisy night, Chevy got up from my room and gave one commanding bark and they all shut up—for a bit.
That hunt, three of the hound dogs got lost way up in the back country chasing a grizzly. After many hours of trying to search them out on foot, the guides came back and commandeered a helicopter to go looking. The country in that valley was so inhospitable to walk in, they figured the cost of a helicopter was worth it.
They let me go along. It was my first helicopter ride. It was pretty dang exciting!
The pilot was excellent—and set us down in some pretty wicked spots—one in a tight gully down on the river and the other on a steep mountainside meadow. We found 2 of the dogs, and the other (old Happy, who had just survived a recent cougar attack) took off for the road when he heard the chopper. They picked him up hours later only a hundred yards off of where he had left the road after the bear.
After that hunt ended it was time to pack up and head up to Atlin. I was taking all my gear—plus a couple of wall tents. There wasn’t much room in the back of my truck for Chevy. He ended up riding the whole way up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and then the Alaska Highway, stretched out on top of a tent up against the back window of my truck. It’s a long haul, well over ten hours of driving. I got snagged for speeding just past the Teslin Bridge in the Yukon, only three or so hours from my destination. Thankfully the cop let me go with a warning and never did say anything about the dog not being properly contained or restrained.
We arrived in at the ranch near Atlin at midnight just as the world was turning dusky. Chevy carefully stood up on the tent to get a better look at the horse herd in the meadow, as I drove slowly down the long driveway. From city apartment to the wilds of the north country, he was totally livin’ a dog’s dream.Chevy died at the age of 13, October 29, 2013 on my acreage in Alberta. He lived a full life and these are some of my memories of him. He was a good ole dog and will be sorely missed.