I was 18 years old, newly arrived in Hollywood to fulfill my dream of becoming a rock and roll star, and it was a beautiful southern California day. I lived in an 8 apartment building curiously located in the parking lot of the Kaleidoscope Rock and Roll Palace near Sunset and Vine. My upstairs neighbor, a fellow by the name of Bill Francisco, knocked on my door to tell me his latest plan.
"I'm on my way to the dog pound. I'm going to get myself a dog!"
"What kind of dog are you going to get, Bill?" I asked him.
"A big dog! Wanna' come? Maybe you could get one for yourself, too!"
I thought about it for a few moments, pictured myself with a dog. What kind of dog would I want? Why, a big dog, of course! Maybe a collie, or a sheepdog, or a shepherd. "Count me in!" I said, and closed the door behind me.
All the way to the dog pound, I imagined how my life would be different with a big dog to protect me, to pal around with, to impress the girls! By the time we arrived at the L.A. animal shelter, my heart was racing with excitement!
We walked down the hallways of cages, dogs whimpering and whining and yapping as we asked questions of the employee who guided us. "What kind of dog is that?" "How big will that one get?" Bill saw a full grown golden retriever, and his eyes simply lit up! "I want that one!" he practically shouted. The dog was huge, must have weighed a ton! I realized that taking two dogs back to our apartment building in Bill's little car was not going to be easy, and started thinking about getting a puppy instead.
Our guide walked us past a whole pile of puppies in the corner of a cage. They were so small, every one of them as black as tar, laying on top of each other in a squirming pile. Except one...a little white one, at the bottom of the pile, with a black little nose and black eyes sticking out from the black heap, his little black eyes and nose surrounded by longish white fur.
What kind of dog is that?" I asked. "It's um...half shepherd, half collie" the employee said knowledgeably. Gosh, I thought, that was just about perfect! That's when I resolved to get a puppy. I'd always heard that mutts were smarter than any breed anyway, so this little mixed breed would do nicely! "I want the little white one" I declared. "Good choice," he assured me. And then, in a matter of moments, we were paying for our purchased pets and heading for the car.
No sooner did we get to the car, when Bill kneeled down before his HUGE new pet, and said "Your name is 'Son'. And what I say goes! Come here Son!" Son looked at Bill, sat down in front of him, and panted a grin, his big slobbery tongue trying to get a hold of Bill's face, hand, anything that moved. My puppy laid quietly in my arms, eyes closed, barely moving. "What are you going to call your dog, Ricky?" he asked.
I looked at my little puppy, and it occurred to me that this was an important decision, and unlike the decision to actually GET a dog,, one that shouldn't be rushed. I didn't even know this little guy, as he had yet to reveal any of himself to me. "Not sure" I grunted noncommittally. We climbed back into the car, Son in back, the puppy in my lap, and headed home. My little fella kept his face buried under his paws the whole way.
I'll never forget the puppy's reaction to my apartment. Slinking in slow motion across the living room, he looked at nothing and kept his head down low. When he got to the kitchen, he crawled under the first appliance he found, the stove. I couldn't reach him under there, either, and he buried his face under his paws and stayed there. All day, I tried to coax him out. I offered food, water, stuff to play with, but all to no avail. Finally, I realized that he needed some time to acclimate, and I left him alone, though I called out to him from time to time with an invitation to join me. I could hear Son upstairs, running around Bill's apartment and having the time of his life. I was sure Bill was having fun too. Oh well, my fun with my new dog might have to wait a few days, but I knew it would be long before we were hanging around together like ole' pals.
When I woke up the next morning, I rubbed my eyes and looked around, only to find evidence of my puppy in every direction. Somehow, during the night, the pup had come out, discovered the toilet paper roll, and unravelled it completely. There was toilet paper everywhere. And the pup was hiding in plain sight, right in the middle of the living room, black little eyes and nose peeking out from a pile of white paper!
"C'mon, little guy. You need some food" I told him. Cradling him in my arms, I headed for a grocery store, about a block away. There, I bought him a bag of puppy chow and a pound of hamburger, brought it all home and set it on a plate. The pup went wild, eating every ounce of food I put on the plate. When he was done, he stretched, then sauntered into the kitchen, only to crawl back under the stove, out of reach. This was not working out! I could hear Bill, upstairs, shouting commands at his new pet, like "Good boy, Son!" and "Son, come over here!" and "Son, I told you to stay away from that!" Hmmm. Well, as they say, patience is a virtue. Sooner or later, I decided, me and this little long haired pup were going to be friends.
I discovered that shy as he was, he would never miss a meal. Whenever I set food down for him, he'd crawl out, stretch, eat, then crawl right back under the stove. But he must have been growing pretty fast, because after a few days, getting back under the stove was no longer easy. He started spending more time out and about, first in a corner, then by the easy chair in the living room, and finally, after about two weeks, he followed me wherever I went, indoors, outdoors, whatever. And though he came to bed after I did, I always woke to find him by the bed, little white paws covering all of his face except his eyes and nose.
The way he was growing, I expected him to be big, maybe not as big as Son, but big nonetheless. People told me you could tell how big a puppy would get by the size of its feet, and his feet were large, then extra large, and growing larger every day. And a collie/shepherd mix ought to be considerably large, sooner or later. But it soon became apparent that his feet and belly were the only parts of him that knew about his doggie destiny. If you didn't look at his feet, the rest of him was growing so slowly, it was hard to tell that he was growing much at all. And he still needed a name. I was reading a comic book one afternoon, when the puppy came into the living room and laid down in the middle of the floor. He looked up at me, and I felt those little black eyes boring into me, as I was reading the 'Stan's Soapbox' section in the comic. Stan made the comment "You might as well call him Chunky!" And that was that! I looked at him, and said "From this day on, you shall be called Chunky Dogg. Because you are a chunky dog indeed!" In fact, Chunky Dogg was NOT a collie/shepherd mix at all. He was a mutt, plain and simple. He never got very big, but he had the biggest heart of any dog in the world. He went with me everywhere, he demonstrated great intelligence and compassion for lesser creatures. He never chased cats, instead he tried to make friends with em.
Chunky Dogg lived to be 19 years old, almost 20. He spent the last several years of his life with my parents, keeping company with their huge white German Shepherd, Sheba. They were like Mutt and Jeff! Chunky provided me with such happiness, he was such a good friend, that I shall treasure the memory of him forever.