Chief Butler

(1999 - 2011)

by Mason Butler  © 2014

S a m a n t i c s

    It all started with a road trip. 

❂ ❂ ❂

    I’m a fairly methodical person.  I like to plan most major events in my life to a certain degree.  I’d just taken a job with a software firm and was based in Boston when I got a message from a friend that she’d like for me to be present at the christening of her son down in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I’d known her for years and knew that she had 2 Samoyeds back in Charlotte; which I helped train.  So before I take off to Charlotte, I get a link to the Samoyed Rescue group down there.  I thought it funny and noticed that they had a few dogs.  Once down there, my friend drove me over to the nice lady’s house that ran the rescue group and introduced me to her 3 or 4 Samoyeds playing in the yard.

    They all seemed interesting, but I was living a lifestyle that was fairly prohibitive to adopting a dog.  Fifteen minutes into my visit, I was on her couch and one of the Samoyeds jumped up in my lap and lay there looking up at me.  She said: “This is Chief, he is very sweet but a little wild.” 

    Again, I thought it interesting and fairly nice that this dog would befriend me this way.  I tried to get up from the couch and had a bit of a hard time as Chief’s head lay in my lap and he wasn’t too keen to move it.  Eventually, I succeeded, but not in eluding Chief.  Everywhere I walked, he followed.  He stood at attention and stopped as I did. 

    We left the shelter a little while later and drove away.   A few minutes into our drive, I asked if she knew where a PetSmart was.  I think this took her aback, but she quickly took a few turns and found the parking lot of the nearest.  I then proceeded inside, found a leash, treats, a crate, ‘Pet-Be-Calm’ pills, and a collar.  As I put the items in her station wagon, she smiled at me and laughed as I called USAir to purchase a one way animal ticket from Charlotte to Louisville.  Yes, we turned the car around and then compensated the nice Samoyed rescue lady.  We then put Chief and his blanket (he carried a blanket around with him in his mouth) in the car.  That day changed my life.

    So we flew back to Louisville where I called a friend from high school, who is also a dog trainer, and they agreed to take Chief to be “trained” and then I flew back to Boston, not to return for a month.  Looking back, that was one of the best and worst decisions I could have made.  Some couple down in Charlotte wanted this cute little puppy, but didn’t know what to do with him when he grew up.  So they left him in the back yard for a couple of months and then threw their hands up in the air and he grew up and then they just gave up.  Well, as a first time dog owner, I was sort of doing the same.  So I was to fly back to Kentucky to celebrate my 30th birthday and be reintroduced to this dog I had just taken responsibility for and invested a cool $2,000 (at least) into getting “trained.”  Could he sit or shake hands or not bite, or just not go to the bathroom in the house???  All great questions that would take years to solve.  To my benefit, the dog trainer was a gem and it was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  Consider it like a down payment on a house, but the $2k was more of a ‘good faith’ payment now as I total it all up.

    So my business in Boston had concluded and I was now on the road or behind the windshield and so was my new partner.  We stayed in hotels, motels, and anywhere that was dog-friendly as I would go to meetings in the Midwest and Chief either stayed in the room or in the car or even with my loving parents. Some road trips required airplanes and my parents were still kind enough, and quickly fell in love with taking care of Chief and feeding and walking him.  So we traveled, but we didn’t sell anything.  So the travelling stopped and so did the job, and the next, and the next, and the next.  I changed jobs, or took on several small ones for the next 5 years.  All had minimal travel and all let me work from home.  So for the next few years, I had a buddy all day with me working from home, who continuously begged me for treats, walks, runs, and who jumped up on my bed and shook like a leaf in fall at the first nightly sign of lightning and thunder.  Oh the joys of dog fatherhood had set in; and I was smitten. 

    My days of late night dinners in fancy New York City restaurants, weekends in committee meetings and endless hours of corporate travel came to an abrupt end.  What happened one fall Friday afternoon would only add to my career misfortunes. 

    One day, I was conference-calling, cold-calling, and meeting online when I noticed that my buddy wasn’t laying under my desk in his familiar spot.  So I called and searched and didn’t find him.  I got in the car and started to drive around. He’d never gotten out before and all the doors were closed & locked.  So to the bottom of the hill I drove and happened to see the most terrifying site in my entire adult life.  It was Chief.  He lay on the pavement in shock, bleeding, not moving, but awake.  <stops typing as I’m having problems getting the words from my head to my fingers>   I found him.  He was still alive. 

    We drove to the nearest animal hospital, which was 15 minutes away.  I called them as I broke the sound barrier and the speed of light at the same time in my Oldsmobile station wagon with Chief in tow.  I stayed at the hospital all weekend long; screw work.  I don’t know that I’ve cried that much in my entire life and I’m not a crier.  Monday afternoon, the diagnosis didn’t look good.  He had a crushed lung and it continued to fill with fluid.  The vet’s recommendation was to put him down, unless I was interested in taking him to a university small animal hospital that could put a tube in his chest so to give the lungs a chance to heal.  I prayed.  I prayed some more.  We made a call to Purdue University, they agreed to try. Chief was transported by my 100mph+ brown Oldsmobile station wagon up Interstate-65 where he spent the next 2 months and I was politely asked to leave the university by the small animal hospital staff.  We negotiated.  I agreed to exit the premises and they agreed to two conference calls with me a day.  So I drove back up, thanked my cousin for letting me stay with them for a week before I was kicked off campus and thanked my parents for helping me with the bill; well, ok paying the bill. 

    He later walked out of the hospital with a towel wrapped around his groin holding him up and came over and licked me like nothing had ever happened.  I bawled.   I thought I had cried enough when he got hit, but I was like a waterfall.  So the vet instructed me on what I needed to do.  Confinement, an all-protein diet of steak & eggs, and I would walk him with a towel wrapped around his belly to hold him up, because his hip socket broke and his leg would slip out of place sort of like dislocating your shoulder.  They had him on pain meds and I gave them twice a day only to try to wean him off over the next 3 months.  I have to say, much credit should be given to the vets up at Purdue and to my parents for allowing me to make this decision; sorry; this expensive decision.  As I type this, I’m sure there is a special room they get access to in Heaven for helping me with Chief.

    After three months and a ton of steak and eggs, slow walks, nights sleeping on the floor or in his crate with him, and Chief was finally able to walk unassisted.  Five-and-a-half-months later he galloped.  Eight months and he was running again, but in slow motion in comparison to pre-accident.  When I get to Heaven, I have a few questions about God’s role in my life and I really want to know how He pegged me for a dog lover.

    2005 brought the biggest change ever, as we moved from Kentucky to northern Virginia.  We lived with my aunt and uncle the first month, then a town house with other dogs for a year, and then we bought a condo in Arlington on the 8th floor and yes, we only looked at condos that were dog-friendly. 

    He loved everything about the condo and especially the people.  I never in a million years would have thought he could go from a 3,500 square foot house on an acre of land to a 900 square foot condo eight stories high, but he loved it.  He would sit on the porch and look at the other office buildings all day.  I hired a dog walker from an ad that one of the employees of the company next door solicited.  She loved Chief and he loved her.  Actually, everyone in their office loved Chief as most of them begged her to help walk him.  Once one of the attorneys wrote a poem and gave it to me.  Yes, Chief was a hit.  He was best friend to anyone and everyone who knew him and who had a treat!

    I could tell his hip was starting to bother him as he was having trouble running with me and my hardwood floors kept getting to him, so I switched to a low-protein diet and got him on a fantastic glucosamine treat/drink.  He still tried to get up on the bed with me during thunderstorms and on the 4th of July.  He also still played a mean game of hide and seek with me; which he won more often with only 900 square feet of space!  In the fall of 2011, after I’d taken him to numerous vets in the DC area and had researched just about everything I could read, I started putting him on a high dosage of a pain medication.  It was an anti-inflammatory coupled with glucosamine to help him get around.  Unfortunately, his bowels didn’t perform the way his joints would.   So I was faced with one of the hardest decisions I’ll ever have to make.

    A little over two years later, and making the decision is still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I miss our walks and runs in Kentucky and here in northern Virginia.  I miss putting him in my convertible and letting him feel the wind on his face as we drove across rural Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.  I pretty much miss him every day and not a week since has passed when I don’t think about him.  I love that Samoyeds need exercise and they need to run and I just couldn’t take him outside enough.  That was my favorite part, next to the early mornings of “wooing” me up to go out.  I helped him with a loving home and he helped me with a loving heart. 

    Every time I get to our family lake house in Kentucky, I stand next to his grave and look out over the cliff and watch the sun go up and then back down.  There I think of Chief’s life, his unconditional love, his fighting spirit, and his gregarious nature.  Sure, there are things I would have done differently, but only a few.  Sometimes, dogs work their way into our hearts and into our lives in ways we would never have imagined.  We bonded for life.


“This is Chief,

he is very sweet but a little wild.”      


                   - Rescue Coordinator

“Oh, the joys


dog fatherhood

had set in...”


”Sometimes, dogs work their way into our hearts and into our lives in ways we would never have imagined.”