I’ve been doing a lot of traveling this summer and I have managed to visit many First Nation communities. One of the things I noticed that is common to these communities is the large number of dogs, in every shape, size and colour. I love dogs and I am drawn to them as though they were old friends. I am reminded of my own dog Chip, who in his short life was my very best friend.
Chip was a wonderful mutt and as near as I could figure out he was a cross between a collie and a husky. He had big brown friendly eyes and was mostly dark brown with a white belly and collar. His face was brushed with white eyelids and a lighter shade of brown ran across his snout. Come to think of it, he had the look of a funny little clown.
The first time I ever saw Chip was in the summer of ’95. I discovered him and eight other little puppies on a bitterly cold February day. Just as I was climbing into our tractor to head out on a refueling job for the band, I heard a whimpering sound and decided to investigate. I looked around for a while and followed the sounds until they led me to the back tire, where I was shocked to find nine little puppies and their mom, Suzy, laying oblivious to the danger that hung only inches away. It was a sad sight because they were all born in the worst part of the building, in front of the main doors, where there was a slight crack for the cold wind to whistle through. Four of the pups were frozen and the rest were huddling together. I scooped them up and carried them to a bed I made of insulation, old coats and blankets in a part of the garage that was more protected.
I tended to Suzy and her surviving pups for a couple of months. I made sure mom got enough food every day so she had the energy to care for her remaining pups. I remember the joy of waking in the morning and heading out to the garage to check on Suzy and her family. After work at night, I would check in again and spend some time with my new friends.
Two months went by and the time came to give the pups away but only after I had chosen my Chip to stay on. Chip was the odd one of the group in his clown-like appearance and spotted colour.
We had some great times together and it seemed that he was almost always by my side. I can still see him following behind me, as I rode the tractor doing odd jobs around the community. Everywhere I went Chip was not far behind. Sometimes it just felt so good to have him jump up into my arms as I would give him a big hug. Chip was wild and constantly active. Most of the time he was in hot pursuit of me, as I rode away in the truck, on the tractor, the four-wheeler or a snowmobile.
Chip and I had a unique relationship in Attawapiskat. Most people I know keep their dogs tied up and don’t spend very much time with them. It is as though they are seen as remnants of the past when dogs played an important role in transporting my people around the frozen north. We have lost our respect for these wonderful animal friends of ours.
I didn’t cry when I heard that Chip had been shot by one of our local police officersand his body taken to the dump. I went to the dump and found him lying in a heap ofburning garbage. I dragged him to a spot in the woods, put him in a plastic bag, dug ahole and buried him. I stayed for a while to say my good-byes and then left. It is onlyrecently that I have learned how to cry. The pain I felt that day Chip was removed fromlife was devastating and left me numb for days. Now and then I take the time to think ofChip and I am thankful for the short time I knew him. Chip was my best