Mocha's story actually begins about two years before we got her in the first place. During spring
|Posing for the camera outside Eastern Market in DC|
*A note on Kona; he was the greatest kitchen scavenger of all time. Food that slipped off of the counter during preparation was almost always caught before it hit the ground. He also ate any stray bugs that came in the house.
And so, a couple of months after losing Kona, my parents drove to central California and came home with Severn, a male Chessie who was show-dog handsome but unfortunately tended to be dominance-aggressive. Within two years of getting Severn (who was indeed an intimidating dog; he oozed self-confidence in his walk, and was built like a linebacker), we moved back to Alaska, to the small town of Valdez. Valdez happens to have a no-kill animal shelter, and their small, fifteen to twenty-page weekly paper (the Star) always contains a 3" x 3" square advertising the shelter's "Pet of the Week." During our first summer, shortly after we had moved from the Ten Mile subdivision into the main part of town, the Valdez Star Pet of the Week was advertised as a year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Mocha.
|Severn (L) and Mocha (R) wading in Shoup Glacier Creek|
Mocha was a major wild child when we first got her. Despite being only a year old, we were already her third family and her third town (she had originally come from Seward via Glenallen). Her first family gave her up because their kids only teased her outside the reach of her rope (she was an outdoor dog then) rather than play with her, and so the parents finally gave her away. Her second owners were a young couple, but when the woman got pregnant, her boyfriend skipped out. Forced to deal with a baby or a puppy, the woman chose the baby and took Mocha to Valdez because it was a no-kill shelter. Since she had already been through the wringer twice, and because Severn never missed an opportunity to assert his authority over her as the lead dog in the house*, she was hardly affectionate, something which didn't really change until we moved away from Alaska.
*Since Severn dominated her, Mocha frequently took out her frustrations on couch cushions, humping them like a male dog.
We quickly learned that Mocha could not be trusted off the leash or near an open door. If the front
|On an early morning walk in Pine Plains, NY|
|Retrieving a tennis ball in Robe Lake|
|Romping in the snow above Thompson Pass|
|In a blizzard, happy as a clam|
|Off the leash and running free|
Mocha's one other pursuit of a rather large Alaskan animal did not present so much danger or possibility of pain to her, but could have caused some legal trouble to my parents. This time my dad took both dogs out on the Shoup Glacier trail (which would make it the summer of 2004). This trail winds through perhaps half a mile of bushes and small birch trees before opening on a broad tidal flat with nothing but grass and fireweed between the trees and the water. Near the shoreline Mocha spotted a sandhill crane, and was off to the races. Sandhill cranes are big birds, up to four feet tall with a seven-and-a-half-foot wingspan. While they are great at soaring on thermals, they need a lot of runway to get airborne, much like a 747. They also happen to be protected, so as Mocha charged across the beach and the crane started slowly flapping its wings and running through the shallows, all my dad could think was "Shit, how am I going to explain this to Tony (Beck, the town's state trooper and game warden)?" Mocha hit the shallows while the crane was still trying to get aloft, closing rapidly, then started swimming when she lost the bottom. With only a short distance to go between Mocha and her quarry, the crane got airborne and swung away. The problem was that Mocha was now far out in Valdez Arm, barking and swimming after the departed crane, in a body of water where fifteen-foot tide swings are fairly commonplace. Now my dad's thoughts changed to "Shit, what if she can't swim back to shore?" After several calls, she finally gave up her pursuit and turned around for the long swim back. Was she chastened after the multiple scares that she had given my dad? Of course not! She was as happy as could be.
|At the World War II memorial in DC|
*Unless, that is, we journeyed to the open farmland of my aunt and uncle's place in Pine Plains, New York. Then all bets were off and she acted as if she were a three-year-old again. This included chasing expensive thoroughbred horses. As my dad put it, "We were lucky some hedge fund asshole didn't send us to the poorhouse."
|Sneaking a nap on the den couch in Pine Plains|
|A rare glimpse of Mocha not in the pool in Pine Plains|
Throughout the past fourteen years, Mocha has been an indelible part of her family. She has rather stoically put up with jokes about her big ears (including having them folded back to "streamline" her), her shedding, her Glenallen redneck heritage (my dad would frequently ask her if she would prefer Reba McEntire or Garth Brooks to listen to), and her conspicuous lack of thumbs or frontal lobes. She has been universally beloved by people and dogs alike (except by the pug down the block, who was once attacked by a Rhodesian Ridgeback and maintained a hatred of all large, tan dogs). And as always, it hurts to say goodbye to a faithful friend. Dogs (and all pets, really) teach their people a lot of things. They teach selflessness, patience, and love. They provide comfort and affection, and an anchor during rough times in our lives. She may have been a rescue dog (and I would say the prettiest rescue dog, full stop), but she rescued us just as much as we rescued her. And when they leave, it is incredibly sad.
We said goodbye to the most remarkable dog we've ever had late this afternoon, petting her as she laid her chin down on my dad's arm and closed her eyes. In dog heaven, I know that Mocha is gallivanting through snow drifts with Sidney, swimming after innumerable tennis balls, startling all manner of wildlife, and finding a nice quiet corner to lay down in where someone can find her to stroke her ears. Goodbye, Mocha. We will miss you dearly.
|With her best bud Sidney in the snow|