Welcome to Chinook Saghali Connor's Rainbow Bridge Memorial Residency
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Memories of Chinook Saghali Connor
Chinook came to us on a beautiful springtime day in May 2001. He was just a puppy perhaps 6 weeks old, that we found at our mailbox out in the country in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee. He was as friendly as could be. As beautiful as he was, my wife, Lori, and I thought he had just wandered from home. We left him thinking he would find his way home. When we came back a few hours later, he was still there. I took him around to the neighbors which had dogs which resembled him. When I took him out of the car, the neighbors dogs came up to him immediately. He was friendly, but they backed him up against a wall. He was scared. I picked him up and took him home. He hid underneath the seat all the way home. When we got there, he went and hid behind my wife. He then barked at me, telling me what he thought of me. He has been barking at me ever since. From that day, we were his home and family.

My wife thought of the name Chinook Saghali Connor. Interesting she just got the impression that this was his name, not looking up names or researching it. Chinook means "a warm wind that blows through the Rockies". As a young puppy, he loved to run just as fast as the wind, and he certainly blew warmly into our lives. Saghali mean "holy" or "sacred" in Chinook, a tribe of Native Americans! I never realized that it would become so true for me.

At the time, we had two older dogs Buster 10 years old and Rexee 7 years old. I don't think they knew what to think of the energetic puppy whose paws were too big. I remember one day when he was excited to be outside the house, as we all were in the yard, and he came running to me from behind. When he couldn't stopped he hit the back of my legs and knocked me down. With his friendly face, there was no way that I could get mad at him. We also lovingly referred to him as Long Dog since his body seemed to be too long for the rest of him. He also had this remarkable ability to spring directly up in the air just like Tigger!

Chinook was the usual wonderful puppy, chewing up the furniture and wetting the floor. Eventually he learned to use the doggy door to the fenced yard we had. The older dogs eventually settled him down. Buster was definitely the leader of the pack, but usually just wanted a bit of peace and quiet around the youngster. Rexee especially kept Chinook in line. Rexee, who was such a loving dog to us, when we weren't watching would give a silent snarl showing Chinook who was boss. Chinook usually was not bothered by anything, but sometime however he would get a bit scared. I could tell that he had really bonded to me and would hide under the coffee table always next to where I was sitting if he did get frightened.

One thing that Chinook especially like was taking rides in the car. The only problem was his stomach didn't seem to like the rides as much as he did. Even after getting sick, he was ready to immediately go for another ride. This became a regular outing for us all with Buster, Rexee, and Chinook all taking turns on who got to stick their head out, however Rexee made sure he always got the front passenger seat. On one of these rides, though Chinook scared me to death. On our rides, I would roll the windows all the way down. Of course Chinook would climb up and stick his head out as far as he could. On one ride we passed a neighbors house that had other dogs. The dogs loved to bark at them. Chinook leaned far out and actually fell out of the window. Luckily I was going very slow and stopped immediately. I thought I had run over him. Thankfully someone was watching over him and he was fine except for a scrapped elbow, gave me a lick, and he was ready to go ago. After this I made sure I only rolled the windwows down so far that they could not fall out.

We did have a nice size yard, about 8 acres, that was fenced which the dogs got to know as their property. They knew they were supposed to stay on it. Every now and then they would get adventurous and go exploring off the property. There were a few worried times, and times I roamed the neighborhood, but they always came home. One of our neighbors though had a herd of goats. I was out cutting the grass one day when Chinook decided he had to chase these interesting creatures. My elderly neighbor though, didn't take very kindly to him and shot him with a bid of birdshot. He wasn't shooting to really hurt him, it was small pellets, but one pellet did him and Chinook started howling and headed for the house. Of course there was a trip to the vets, afterwards. Chinook never forgot this though and was always scared of loud noises like gun shots, fireworks, or thunder. I knew that I would either find him underneath my desk or hitting in our shower.

Unfortunately, my wife and I eventually split up, about the time that Chinook was 5. We agreed to keep all the dogs together. Since I was staying in the country where they had room to run and she was moving to the city, I became the sole guardian. My job had me working overseas 4 weeks away and 4 weeks off. Luckily I had a great friend Bob that took care of them when I was gone. He did this for 3 years. It was so difficult for me to leave them each month, but I at least knew they were keeping each other company. The dogs were the three Musketeers. This was great except at some point, I started letting them all sleep in the bed with me. Each one of them was at least 60 pounds. We each eventually found a way to fit. I was always on one side of the bed. Rexee like the pillow and would sleep on the bed near my head, Buster in the middle, and Chinook always at the foot. Throughout the rest of his life, this is where he always slept, at least to start the night. He did like to stretch and normally in the morning he would be somewhere covering the middle of the bed. Truly though in later years this was a comfort.

Eventually, as we all must, Buster passed away in 2008 at the ripe age of 17. I had him since he was about 3 years old, so had a very special attachment with him also. His passing was difficult, as he had cancer and I kept trying to fix him at the end, past the point I should have. Eventually, with many tears I let him go. Rexee and Chinook kept each other company for another year until Rexee unexpected passed at the age of 15. At the time, I was away overseas and got that awful phone call to tell me he was gone. I vowed that I didn't want that to happen to Chinook. Unfortunately, it did as Chinook passed when I was away too.

I changed jobs soon after and Chinook and I were off on an adventure to Houston Texas. The great thing was I was home with him every night. Of course we got in the routine of walks every afternoon and usually twice a day on the weekends. I made sure he again had a doggy door. As I think back, for him it must have been hard as he was in a new place, and I would leave during the day. He was always so happy to see me when I arrived home, it always made my day. We did visit doggy parks where he could spend time with other dogs, although he always seemed to be keener to mark every bush he could see. Sometime I would lose him in the dog park if he might take off running, but he always came back to see where I was. This held true for the rest of his time with me, except he never got out of eyesight once we moved to London.

Chinook and I made plans though to move back to Tennessee as my Dad was still alive and wanted to spend more time with him. As fate would have it, Dad passed away as I was driving to see him and my move back to Tennessee happened just weeks later. Poor Chinook, as I again had to leave and work a 4 week on and 4 week off schedule. At the time, because of the work commitment, I felt I need to complete that assignment which lasted another two years till August 2013. In retrospect, I wish I had cancelled the move and continued an assignment that I could have been home with Chinook. Bob again was terrific as he took care of Chinook for me. Bob's dog, Sara, became a companion for Chinook and every other night or so Bob and Sara would stay with Chinook at our old house in Cumberland Furnace Tennessee.

Two yeas later, I finished the assignment and made the decision not to take another job where I couldn't be home with Chinook every night. At this time he was 12 years old, and while still very healthy, and I didn't want him to pass on without me being there. While I was content to retire, and actually wished I had now so that I had spent even more time with him, my company offered me an assignment in London where I could bring Chinook along. Our adventure to London started with getting all his inoculations and paperwork together so that he wouldn't have to go into quarantine. I then had to buy a dog carrier big enough to fit all 72 pounds of him. After a drive to Atlanta, and an extended walk and pee stop, he was crated up for his big journey. He took it well, and didn't even cry when I had to leave him to get loaded. About 12 hours later, we had arrived in London, I had picked up a rental car and arrived at the wonderful Heathrow Airport Animal Centre. When he arrived they immediately took him out of his crate, let him use the bathroom, and gave him some water. Within one hour of arriving I had him in the rental car and we were on our way.

I had already found us a place to stay in Clapham Junction, with the assistance of my great friend Mary Ann, on the south side of the River Thames. The priorities were 1) it had to have a yard for him, 2) was close to a park to walk him to, and 3) close to the train station for me to go to work. We Americans would call it a townhouse, the Brits called it an attached house, but it was nice enough with a small grassy yard for him to go out to. My first task was to install a doggy door for him. Of course I had to convince him it was safe. After coaxing him through 3 or 4 times with his favorite new snack, cooked chicken breast, he finally trusted that Dad had done his job well. We did have some time off before I had to start work, so we explored the Common (Park), which luckily had many other dogs frequently and a small path of woods to remind him and me of home. There was a really nice pond with swans, geese, and ducks that he liked to walk to. Next to the ponds was a 24 hr food trailer. We got in the habit of splitting a cheese burger together. I had to get a double so that I could have a little of the burger. We had first tried the breakfast sausage, but he wasn't a fan and neither was I. Amazing how connected he and I were. Over the last few years, Chinook would always follow me to whatever room that I was in. We were definitely completely bonded with each other.

I also of course had to get a car so that he could ride around in. London does have a wonderful transportation system, but I didn't want to deny him the pleasure of his rides and wanted us to be able to take car trips together. We did do several trips including Brighton ( where he did not like the stone beach), Portsmouth with my friend Natasha, Milton Keynes a town north of London, and Bristol. Chinook was always up for a short ride so we always found some reason to drive on the weekends, even if it was just to the grocery store.

Speaking of groceries, Chinook became very fond of chicken breast. I am afraid that I spoiled him too much. While I would try to get him to eat his regular dog food to keep his teeth healthy, many times I would eventually cave in to him to give him chicken instead. I felt guilty enough that I started at least cooking brown rice to put his chicken on which he did eat. We also got into the routine that before I had to leave in the morning for work, an early 6 am, I would bring him chicken for his breakfast in bed. He did like to sleep in a bit in the morning.

Our routine became me getting up at 5:15, taking a shower, getting ready for work. I would take him his breakfast in bed before I left. When I got home usually at 6 pm, he would meet me at the door, bark and be ready for a walk. I always asked how his day as a guard dog for the house went and usually would get a few yipes (probably about being ready for a walk though). At first I was afraid of taking him off his leash walking as he never had to be restricted back home, but eventually we tried it. Except for a few times when he pretended to ignore me, we did well. I did pull a few tricks on him and would hide a bit if he wandered away from me too far. It usually didn't take more than a minute or two and he was running back to find me.

After our 45 minute walk in which he would sniff and pee the same bushes and trees each time, as well as say hello to any other dogs which were out for a walk, we would then head for home and dinner. After fixing his first, then mine, we would sit down and watch a movie together. While he like to spread out on the floor on his doggy bed, every now and then he wanted to get onto the couch and lay next to me which I always adored. We then went through a routine of scratching his ears, rubbing his nose, scratching his butt, and getting a tummy rub. This cycle was usually repeat many times each evening. Then it was off to bed. I would usually have to wake him up at the end of the movie, tell him it was time to go to bed, and then we would climb the stairs to the bedroom. Once we got into the bedroom, I had to tell him it was okay to jump up on the bed. I would always tell him you can jump up anytime, but he always wanted to wait until I patted the bed before he would jump up. He then curlled up at the right side of my feet. Once we were settled both he and I would move up against each other as we both liked to feel the closeness of each other. These were some of my favorite times with him.

Chinook was a bit of a prankster though. Once I was out walking on him, on the phone and not paying attention to him. I am sure, to get my attention, he lifted his leg on a basket of childrens clothing outside of a shop we were walking by. Of course, the owner saw and was very upset. She ran out saying how could I let my dog do this, and Chinook just smiled at me. Of course, I offered to pay for anything damaged. She thought though that I would just leave and not return. The prior week she had a bad experience with some kids who tried to steal things from her show. I assured her though, gave her my phone number by calling her. I went home got the money and returned. She said I had restored her faith in people. We did settle on me buying the basket only and not the clothes, but I will now treasure that basket and take it with me.

We did have several friends visit us in London, Monica who loved to howl with him, and Natasha who cooked him wonderful dinners and stewed bones for him.

The house we were living in London though did have its problems, the boiler didn't work in the Winter times, and the bathroom floor leaked down to the kitchen ceiling. Eventually I decided we needed to move and found a really nice place in Wimbledon, about 3 miles from Clapham. It had a large backyard, a nice Common area to go walking in, and a wonderful Church around the corner, St Mary's church. For a short walk, especially late at night, we would visit St Mary's yard. Chinook really had an interest in walking through the old graveyard as if he were drawn there.

We moved there in July, 2014. I met the lovely owners of the house and the wife, Donnie, seemed to have a real connection to Chinook. She could get impressions of what he was thinking and shared how he loved the car rides and the walk around the lake. I was curious and asked if she had an impression how long he would be here, she got an answer of 3 which we both thought were years and I was relieved. Chinook and I enjoyed a wonderful 3 months in the new house at Wimbledon. It was warm, had a nice back yard, and several places for us to walk to. Unfortunately, the fact was that he actually only had 3 months to live.

I had planned to retire in April, 2015, and planned for Chinook and I to do a round the US car trip. Thinking of him, I kept putting off business trips, and except for a short trip back to the US in Aug was able to stay at home. During that time, a wonderful friend named Lara and her friend Alice stayed with Chinook and kept him company. Eventually though, I had to take a business trip away for 5 days. I was leaving on Sunday, so Chinook and I did our usual long walk on Saturday. I do remember though that I was on the computer for a while in the morning, and he had to encourage me with quiet whines to get up and take time for a walk. We did have a wonderful walk, it was a beautiful day, and we had a great day together. That night I did go out for a while to a Halloween party, and got back in a bit late. I then had to pack, which of course he didn't like, and then had a chance to sleep next to him for a few hours before getting up and leaving to catch the plane at 4:30. He wasn't ready to get up with me, but I did bring him his breakfast of chicken, giving him a tummy rub and butt scratch which he loved, before having to leave for the airport. If I had known that, I wouldn't see him again, I never would have gone.

A wonderful friend of mine, Katiuscia, took great care of him while I was gone. Several walks each day, he would go to the door so she would put on his collar as soon as she arrived. On Thursday, the day before I would be flying home from Kazakhstan, Kat took him for his usual walk about 10 am. He was very happy to go and just seemed a bit tired and restless when she got back. He went to lie down upstairs on the bed and seemed to be resting. Kat left but sent me an email to let me know she was concerned. She had a bad feeling and returned about an hour later to find him laying on the floor and having trouble breathing and shaking. After a phone call to my vet, she tried to take him but couldn't lift him. She was able to get a pet taxi which arrived quickly within 30 mintues when she explained the situation. The driver, Yuri picked him up gently and got him to the clinic in record time. When he got here, Chinook just stopped breathing. My wonderful Vets were able to restart his heart, quickly evaluate him, and took him into surgery. It was a tumor on the spleen which had burst, something I have found out is much too common in dogs. They were able to remove the spleen and tumor, stop the bleeding, replaced his lost blood, and I think we all though he would recover. However his wonderful heart started to fail from all the trauma and I really think it was just meant to be his time to pass on. However, he fought to stay here and they were able to restart his heart three times. When they thought he was in the clear, it stopped again and they couldn't restart it. I had lost my wonderful companion and pal.

Katiuscia kept me informed throughout all of this as I was sitting in my hotel in Kazakhstan, due to fly home just the next morning. First finding out he was close to death, then everyone feeling that he would make it through, then his final passing. We all know what the loss of our loved ones is like. Arriving home, stunned and depressed, I first visited the wonderful Vet clinic. The head nurse Nadia was so caring, sympathetic, and cried with me as she told me the story. While I couldn't see his body, I was able to be next to where he was laid and could feel him there which did bring some closure. I also found out that the cancer was a very aggressive one, and he would likely of only had 3 to 6 months to live which would not have been easy.

After walking our usual walk in his honor and buying us a cheeseburger which I shared in memory, I talked again with my friend Donnie. She could still feel connected to him, could tell he was spiritually walking with me, happy, smiling as he did, and young again. He also showed her another dog, running next to him, a white dog with a black spot on his right side, and black ears not quite as tall back at our old home. We thought perhaps it was another furry friend I might meet in the future. She also said he would be staying with me for as long as I needed him.

While we all have different beliefs spiritually, I am convinced that I was not meant to be here when he passed. I think it was both to allow him to pass easier, he would have just fought that much harder if he knew I was there, and save him from a lingering painful end. I think it may have been also to save me some of the pain of seeing him go, and allow me to remember him just the way I left him.

While people may be doubtful, I do think since my friend Donnie could communicate with him that our loved ones are around us spiritually, just that most of us can't perceive them. My ex-wife, Lori, is wonderfully gifted and I know been communicated to by my parents after they had passed away. She was able to tell me things that only they would know. Amazingly to, she had the feeling of deep sadness on the day before Chinook passed. I think he knew what was coming and didn't want to leave, but it was for his own good. I think there was also a message there for me to get on with the rest of my life, so I will be retiring as soon as I can. I really want to develop the ability to communicate with others beyond what we can see too.

My sister and another friend, Joi, also shared the passage of the Rainbow Bridge. Here it is. It made me cry and hope it is true.

Thanks for reading my story of Chinook and what a wonderful friend and companion he was.

The Rainbows Bridge Poem

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

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