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Erased: the story of Canelo & Cha-Cha MITN#1

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Coming next will be a photo of my dog, Canelo – Actually dog-by-default. They got him next door, at my nephew’s house for his cousin’s birthday, but the puppy was so cute they saved him.
Photo: Canelo as a baby. {still looking for it}

He wasn’t allowed in their house and lived outside in his igloo in the garage for a while- maybe a year? And then he made his move. He barked a lot, especially at 5:30 AM, and eventually so pissed off anyone nearby that he was able to worm his way into my house.
Where he now sleeps on my bed, curled up next to me – unless he decides to take a brief visit outside, then the outside door is open and a lot of cold air comes in.

Here he is on the fouton in front of his portrait by Margaret von Biesen. He’s playing with a ball I got in a fancy seaside hotel when I went to hang out with my old University roommate, Jane. It is a sort of beanbag with a leather skin, and he loves it. He is one lucky dog. I think of him as my step-dog.

{further adventures to come}

One of the things we do together is takes walks. I love my neighborhood. Its sort of a 40’s-ish place with trees and sidewalks and rolling hill streets. I even have a picket fence-sort of-the modern version thereof. I wanted to live next to my nephew, Valentine. In a modest way it is idyllic. I’m so glad I don’t live in Iraq.

So we’re walking and on the very next street is a house, a duplex that is exactly what I always wanted if I lived in a neighborhood like this.

Real estate is a big distraction in Los Angeles. Well, a lot of power resides there.
Anyway, I was renting an apartment in this area and this house came up for sale. It was just on the beginning of the upswing of RE in LA. Nevin urged me to buy it. I resisted. I wasn’t ready. Even tho it was exactly what I wanted and I could have done it. So when I was ready, it had already gone into escrow and I missed it by a hair. In those days it could be as little as a day or two. Now it is months. The upshot is that almost every time Canelo and I took a walk, we would pass this house, glowing in silent reproach, the House of Regret or maybe of Lost Opportunities. It was a hard Zen lesson to see it maybe a couple of times a week. Of course other things would be happening, so attention was often directed elsewhere.

One day when we were walking and had passed that house and were coming back on the other side, we came upon a man watering his front lawn, and a dog was running and dashing around. This would prove to be the incomparable Cha-Cha. Big sigh.

Photo: (Missing)

I’d like to show you a picture, but the amazing truth is that I never got a really good photo that captured her, so you’ll have to imagine this. But Canelo ran up and the most amazing dance went into play. Chacha, as we later found out was her name, was a sort of whippet, racing dog style with maybe a touch of beagle? The guy, older with dyed hair and an accent seemed to call her Shasha. She was the same caramel coloring as Canelo. But as she was lithe and lean, he was compact and powerhouse for a little dog. She was slightly bigger, longer legs, so she could roll him, which he loves to do, and he was so strong and fast he could ride and attack. They both raced in circles and the jumped together in the air over this long luxuriant green grass, barking, then circle back again. They were perfectly matched. It was sheer joy.
Then we heard barking, gradually becoming howling, all up and down the street, as upstairs and downstairs dogs were barking, echoing all up and down the street. Louder and louder. In stereo.
The guy said, “they’re jealous.”

The dogs played a while, then he said, “that’s enough fun,” and they went back in the yard and Canelo and I walked on.

Photo: (Missing)

I had the most extraordinary photo of the house across the street with two dogs in the upstairs window, one large, one small, looking out. I was going to call it “Jealousy”. It perfectly encapsulated that.
Unfortunately, that photo is lost. Unbelievable. I have taken maybe 10 truly great photographs in my life, and that was one of them. I was switching from film to digital at the time, and some photos got lost into the gap. It’s called “ikku” in Japanese, and in Zen is the pause between cause and effect, and there’s a lot of meditation on it and its meaning or nonmeaning. Nevertheless, there can be a lot of sadness when you lose something.

(And of course, that upstairs window was in the House of Regret). (see above)

This was Canelo and Chacha’s honeymoon period. It was an shimmering time. Some things are so etched in memory that they are as real as anything. Those early days when we could walk by and whistle at the gate and Chacha would come bounding up and I would swing the gate back and the two dogs would gambol, there is no other word for it. Back and forth between two lawns. The lawn next door was big and green grass and open, with semi-subterranean sprinklers, and one of them was broken. So the dogs would race around and then pause at the broken sprinkler where there was usually a small pool of water, and they would drink.

{This is what it looks like without water}

They had this special trick where when Canelo was drinking from the little pool, Chacha would race around and come up behind him and then leap over him, land in front of me, and then race around and jump over him again. She did this three times. Then he moved, I don’t know if he was in on the game or not, but I think, yes. She had an unbelievable spring in her step. It was jumping for joy.

I didn’t have my camera with me when this happened. I don’t always have it with me. Sometimes you just want to enjoy the moment. No filters. Too bad it never happened again. This was my second great photo. Also not here.

It may not matter. They had another trick I thought was extremely clever.

There is a tree with a ring of plants around it that sits in the front yard of Chacha’s house. They would chase each other around the circle, racing all out at top speed, then gradually the one behind would slow down, so the one in front got ahead by almost a whole circle then ended up behind, and thus they switched places.

I took many pictures of this, because they did it more than once, but I never got them both in the shot. They were moving too fast. Someone said I should have shot video, but I didn’t.

I did have a shot I liked of the tree trunk, some flowers, and a brownish blurr on the right. That would have been funny to show, but you’ll have to imagine it.

(It looks like this without dogs)

You have to understand, I was wildly anthromorphizing the whole time. It seemed to be love at first sight, or maybe the meeting of your match. I so wanted it to work, and still vastly enjoyed it at the time. There was such energy. We got to know Nicholas, the red haired man and his nephew, Humberto, and sometimes Chacha came over and visited in our yard, but she didn’t really like it, so mostly Canelo visited over there. A leafy-green kind of love. They sort of traded which one would set it in motion, then off they went.
When each dog did something special – I would wonder if this was how it was between the sexes?

Then a funny thing started to happen. I left town. Canelo stayed with Valentine and his family, the original home. I had a great time in San Francisco, but when I came home, Canelo was in a foul mood. It was only a few days, but he is spoiled. He cried the whole time until they opened his door to my house and he spent most of the rest of the time sleeping inside, and when I came home the place was rumpled.

The next day we went to see Chacha, but the tables turned.

{more to come}

* Chacha and I were happy to see each other. She jumped high in the air. But Canelo growled and finally bit her. She was dismayed. Stunned. The magic had gone. I tried to calm him, but no way. Maybe he was jealous that I was so happy to see her, maybe he was still pissed about being left home. anyway, it ushered in a new era. we went over a few times, but still the same. He was agressive or just ignored her. Now for the first time she let me pat her where formerly she was skittish. Next strategy was to wait a few days or weeks to see if it went back to the way it was. No. He was very punkish, and scared her. Finally she stood her ground and faced him down. After all, she was bigger than him, tho maybe he was stronger. The thing was that now she let me pet her whereas before she wouldn’t stay near me for more than a few seconds.

Finally there seemed to be a break. but no. Now Chacha wasn’t having any of Canelo. In fact, she was agressive and chased him in circles. Dizzing how many times the tables can turn. Humberto and Nicolas noticed it also. They said maybe she was in heat or just growing up – Canelo was about 2 or 3, but she was less than a year. Hormones? the ultimate excuse.

I waited again. Maybe there would be another turn of the wheel. Meanwhile Nicolas got a name tag for Chacha- a little heart with her name and phone number. He remembered that once before we met her she had run away for three days. finally things seemed to calm down. We went over there and they did chase each other around. But it didn’t have the same devil-may-care energy. Still it seemed like the road to recovery. After all, how long can the honeymoon last?

One afternoon we went by the gate and called her. No answer. Not so unusual – sometimes she was inside or out or whatever.

Photo: the gate

the next day again. Still no answer. we walked on. Down the block and then back, when we saw Nicolas coming towards us. He crossed the street and met us on the streetcorner. I said “where is Chacha?” He said, “she’s d…” I said, “you mean she’s at the gate?” “No,” he said, “she’s dead.” What I said, I couldn’t believe it.

She ran away and was run over. He had been looking for her for two days. Finally a woman called and told him to pick her up. the body, that is. I was reeling. “Look,” he said, and showed me a picture on his digital camera. the death portrait. There was Chacha, lying down, her four legs outstretched, like a northern Renaissance portrait of a dead still life, black background, stiff, like an animal tied to a carrying pole about to be taken where?

I said I was sorry, I couldn’t believe it. Shock. Somehow Nicholas left. the world went dark.


I sat down on the sidewalk. I sobbed.

photo: the sidewalk

Canelo knew something had gone wrong, he came over in sympathy. I thought it was a nightmare, how could reality change like that. Then I remembered seeing the photo on the digital camera. So i knew it really had happened. Life was diminished.

The photo was etched in my mind. Cha cha was laid out like a trussed-up deer. Except her legs were facing mostly down. But she was like a cross between a greyhound and a deer. Long elegant legs, against a black backgound, nature-morte. Tragic. but it convinced me that it did happen. Cha cha was dead, and now it would be a world without Chacha.

At least, I thought, I would have my photos. How wrong was it. It took a few weeks to recover, but then I was ready to look at my photos of Chacha and Canelo. I had maybe a hundred shots, but never got the perfect shot. One that captured in an instant what was so amazing about these two dogs. It was an effervence not be be bottled, or frozen in a photograph. So its only in the memory. and the re-telling of the moment. Because all the photos were lost. they were in a single digital file that I downloaded, then erased the camera, etc. And I swore I had the CD, but alas there was not. Some divine f-up. I looked high and low for that disc. That made it a double loss. I couldn’t believe. Northing.

I went by the house looking for Nicolas. I wanted to get a copy of that image. It was timeless. But he was never there. to this date I have now seen him, (080701). Humberto was home. He showed me his photo of Chacha which he had on his cell-phone. It was like a movie-star head shot. a gorgeous close-up. He said they had a CD, but Nicolas had taken it to Mexico and left it there. But his grandmother was coming to LA and would bring it back soon. He would let me know.

Time went by. I still had no image. I decided to just take a photo of Humberto’s cell phone with the picture of Chacha on it. Now He was never home. Time went by.

I really wanted that image Nicolas had. I wanted Margaret to paint Chacha’s portrait from this moment.

Photo someday: painting of Cha cha by Margaret von Biesen.

Just a few days ago I was out with Canelo and there seemed to be lights inside Chacha’s house. I called at the screened window and somebody seemed to answer. It was Humberto. He took a while but when he finally emerged, he had a few photos. None of the above mentioned poses, but still. Finally here she is:

Photo: Chacha.



Other voices:

Now when we go for a walk we pass between the House of Remorse and the House of Regret.

There was the interlude with Lula. She is a white terrier of some sort, kind of like a Jack Russell. She came round a few times in the post Chacha era.

Photo: Lula

She is a cool dog. Actually she lives in the House of Regret. Just across the street.
You’ll have to imagine her there. (or if you go back and look closely, she is in front of the H of R in the photo of it above)
Sometimes she would come around the corner and visit Rosalie, the large yellow dog who lives in a house in between us.
Once in the Chacha years (actually not more than one), we did encounter a dog that was perfectly matched to Canelo. Same size, great energy. Buy we never ran into this dog again, although she lived nearby. And Chacha, also would sometimes race around with Smokey, a golden setter type who lived on the corner. So alternative relationships existed. You couldn’t help wondering at the patterns, even if there were “only” dogs, and still they were loveable creatures. We ARE all neighbors. So don’t say how can you spend so much time thinking about dogs, when the world is in such a state? Going to the dogs, so to speak?

I do have a photo of them playing. Sad to think of Chacha

Anyway, life goes on. After Humberto gave me the photos, he walked down the patio and told me about Chacha’s mother, who was still in Texas where Chacha had been born. The mother was going to give birth to puppies, with the same father as Chacha and someone was going to bring a puppy back to LA for them.

I guess that’s as good an ending as you could hope for.
Of course, the story will continue.

Time went by.  Margaret did a painting of Chacha:


Later still:

Actually, they didn’t get a pup from the Chacha line, but a rescue puppy instead.  When Nicolas brought her home Humberto said he didn’t want another dog, but of course he-and we- all fell in love with her immediately.  Canelo included.

Here’s Miele:

Canelo was named for Cinnamon (Canela in Spanish, but a boy) and Meile for honey, I guess.

So, Cinnamon & Honey together at last.



I’ve been meaning to do this for almost a decade, but finally Nikolas came over with the two dogs: Meile and Piele.


Pilar is the real name of Pilie and she was a terrior. They got her shortly after the demise of Chacha, and she was like an aggressive Lesbian, barring her teeth to shoo away any competition for Miele. Looked almost the same, but more ferocious. Miele played to girl and had nothing more to do with Canelo.

Really, that was OK with him.

Now many years later, Piele is in bad shape. Lethargic where she was once spry, shaggy where she once bristled, and Meile has come to the fore. She’s calling to show now, Piele can barely manage the walk. I think Canelo sees them as old friends



Chacha was a magic moment.


But time moves on.


Written by hildegarden

May 4, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Posted in A Dog's Life, Romance

Tagged with

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