The last thing I see at night (other than the book I often fall asleep reading) and the very first thing I see every morning is Taga, who jumps up on my bed if he's not already sleeping on the foot of it, and pokes me with his now quite large nose when he sees that I've woken up. He will only then crawl up to the area of my pillows to pat me gently with a paw until I will begin to scratch the spots that itch around his ears and chin. If I don't start soon enough, he uses a paw to skillfully pull the comforter down until he can find my hand. Then he plops his big head into my hand or will use his nose to fling my hand in the air just perfectly so that it lands where he wants to be scratched. He is far more polite than his father was though and waits for me to wake up on my own. His father would simply bounce on top of me, letting his 80+ pounds wake me up with a surprise and most often a few cuss words. But (as long as you're not a small rodent) Taataga has always been a very gentle guy and with maturity came our shared love of sleeping in. In fact, all my adult dogs these days like sleeping late. I have no idea how that happened or how I got so lucky after many years and previous generations of dogs that wanted up and out at the crack of dawn. If I'm lucky, he lets me sleep until 9am on weekends though during the week he's determined that I get up the moment the alarm goes off. There is no ignoring a dog who drags the blankets off me.
My Second Generation "Heart Dog"
Taga's sire Thunder was, like Taga, one of those very special dogs that breeder raises that seem to worm into our hearts deeper than the other pups. We love all our dogs but some just seem to tug a little harder on our emotions. Thunder was getting older when he was bred to Taga's dam Taaku and sadly, passed away before Taga was born. I was so sad I was convinced that I would never find another dog like him. I proclaimed to everyone that would listen that I wasn't going to keep a pup from the litter. But even though there were just three pups in the litter and I was flooded with inquiries, I seemed only able to place two of them.
But Taga chose me. He made it clear that he didn't want to leave. And so he stayed. Though baby Taga looked very much like baby Thunder, as Taga grew, he clearly became his own dog, having some traits of both his parents, but for the most part, looking like his ancestors, Hurricane Mackenzie and Hurricane Cheechako. Where Taga's sire Thunder was short and stocky, and his dam Taaku quite petite, Taga has long legs, and surpassing 26" in height before his first birthday. Now mature, Taga weighs in at 80+ pounds without excess weight. (I can't abide a chubby dog.)
Taga is a sheer joy to live with and makes me smile every day. He took to training with enthusiasm. Every time we pull into the training facility, he starts whining for joy. (That's impressive considering that he also lived there for six months while our new house was being built and I was living in an apartment.) When we get out of the car, he drags me to the door of the classroom. He is very quick to learn and will take on anything I ask him to do. He is somewhat a momma's boy and wants to be with me all the time. That can have its downside but it also means that he rarely needs to wear a leash.
Taga's happy nature goes with him everywhere. He's almost aggressively friendly, wanting to sit on the lap of everyone that walks in the front door. Every human is his friend and he loves every dog he meets. His favorite playmates growing up were his cousin Brett, and uncle Kodi, both of whom are intact males. It just goes to show how little dog aggression Chinooks have that they can mix with other intact males that they don't live with on a day-to-day basis. He has easily matured into being Head Dog of Rain Mountain yet still puts up with litters of puppies crawling all over him every summer. His patience with young ones and little dogs is endless.
Though I had no immediate plans to use Taga at stud, he and Lolo had other ideas. He sired her accidental litter of six sons that were born on February 22nd, 2007. The pups have grown up gorgeous so far and Harry (Grand Ch. PR Rain Mountain Skookum Tumtum) won Best Male at the 2008 Chinook National Specialty and will sire a Rain Mountain litter in spring of 2013.
What with spending weekends helping out my very frail mother, I don't have as many weekends for dog shows as I have in past years. Taga doesn't seem to mind as he's happy to simply ride along on a visit to Mom's apartment about two hours south of me. He finished his UKC Championship in the summer of 2008 and since I had decided to not breed him again (he has a non vision affecting small punctate cataract), he was neutered. Now that we've moved to our new place, he's busy patrolling the property and keeping the woods clear of the occasional mouse or mole. (Click here to join in on Taga's valiant mouse hunt.) Whenever there's a "Meet the Breed" event, Taga is invited since he's known for being Mr. Social. Like his father, he's a good weight pullers too and at this writing is only one pull away from his title.
Summer of 2011 Taga did me proud. The UKC Chinook National Specialty was in the Northwest and though I wasn't feeling well and had a litter of young puppies at home, I went down for the one main event. UKC had recently added shows for altered dogs and I thought it would be fun to show Taga even though I knew the competition would include at least TWO former National Best of Breed winners. I didn't feel well enough to show him myself but Corine Lindhorst of High Plains Chinooks in Montana has met Taga before and knew all the right places to scratch so she did a great job taking him into the ring. I was thrilled to see the judge point to him again and again until finally he was awarded the final trophy. Exactly ten years after his sire had achieved the rank of Number 1 Chinook in UKC points, Taga walked away with another achievement that I'm equally proud of. He won NATIONAL BEST of BREED (Altered)! Defeating two former National best of Breed winners and assorted other wonderful and stiff competition, my boy was the best, both in my heart and int he show ring. I went into the hospital for a week the next day and I don't remember who won what for the rest of the equally as important awards but I remember that my Heart Dog won. That is what will always counts to me.
Overall, I could not ask for a better dog. Taga is the reason that I have Chinooks and breed litters. I want others to have a dog as physically and mentally fine as Taga.
Copyright © Ginger Corley, Rain Mountain Chinooks, 1988 to present. No material may be reproduced without permission, though permission is usually granted. Logo by Susan Fletcher, Frontier Chinooks, used here with permission and much appreciation of her great talent.