Dog rides bike, moped, motorcycle; owner mourns lost pet

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Dog rides bike, moped, motorcycle; owner mourns lost pet

Postby Micronaut » Sun Jan 23, 2005 5:21 pm

He started his life on the road when he was just a wee fellow, buckled safely in the child seat on the back of his mom’s bicycle.

When mom graduated to a moped, so did he. Then came the full-blown motorcycle.

So like any smart biker, he got a helmet, slipped on shades, and donned a jean jacket and custom-tailored chaps.

From then on, anytime mom fired up the bike, he was dressed and ready to hop on.

Chan wasn’t your typical biker. Indeed, at a foot tall, 10 pounds at best and with four stubby legs, Chan couldn’t even straddle the seat.

So he rode in front of mom, safe and comfortable in his sturdy “tank bag,” his head sticking out to enjoy the awesome sights, smells and that special breeze that Mother Nature reserves just for bikers.

To the chance observer, Chan was quite a sight. A little Shih Tzu with as much biker spirit as his two-legged, 200-pound riding buddies, Chan was the classic biker mini-me.

To Sue Smith-Rogers, who Chan owned (any pet person knows people don’t own pets, pets own them), Chan stood out because he was a loyal companion, a soul mate who loved her unconditionally since she rescued him from a pet store window 13 years ago.

“Was” is the toughest word I A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday, Chan got a checkup and his booster shots. By early Sunday morning, his labored breathing caught Smith-Rogers’ attention, and by daylight she was fumbling with the phone.

She was trying to call a cab, too upset to drive Chan to the vet. She got there pretty quick, but Chan was slipping away in her arms. Efforts to revive him failed.

At 13, Chan wasn’t a young dog, but his quick demise still caught Smith-Rogers by surprise.

“He always had a heart murmur, but it never seemed much of a problem,” she said this week, still coming to terms with how her tiny, downtown apartment could suddenly seem so huge, so cold.

Smith-Rogers speaks of Chan through obvious pain, the kind that comes through in tears from such a loss. But there’s another hurt, it seems, that makes her pace a lot, sit, squirm, stretch, grimace, and get up again.

It’s the cancer. A year after finishing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, it’s back. It started as a sore throat that never got better. Then came an earache and finally a diagnosis - laryngeal cancer.

A month ago, she had surgery. As she recuperated, friend and former co-worker Jamie Wood snuck Chan into the hospital in a shoulder bag.

“He was great, he knew to be still and quiet . . . she really brightened when she saw him,” Wood said from her home in Belfast, Maine.

“That little dog got to go everywhere. That’s what he loved to do, to go with mom. Four-star restaurants, the movies . . . they were inseparable,” Wood said. “It’s so sad . . . here she is in all that pain and she’s just lost her best friend.”

Sue Smith-Rogers of Nashua observes as her Shih Tzu Chan receives a John Kerry campaign sticker from a campaign staff worker while watching the Milford Labor Day parade in September 2003. Order this photo
The surgery was rough. Smith-Rogers pulls away her collar to show the evidence. The scar goes from ear to ear.

They couldn’t get it all, she says.

“There’s still cancer inside me. There’ll be more tests, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she says.

Maybe she got sick in the first place because her regular 80-hour work weeks took their toll on her fragile, lean frame.

“But I had to work,” is all she says.

Sadly, while her 25-year-plus career helping developmentally disabled people does enrich, it doesn’t pay. And the rent keeps going up.

At her dual full-time jobs, at the Nashua Center for the Multiply Handicapped and The PLUS Co., Smith-Rogers supervises residential group homes where disabled clients live. She “cut back” to 60 hours when she first got sick. Now, she’s only able to handle the PLUS Co. job.

She’s grateful to her employers.

“I don’t know where I’d be today without them,” she says.

Chan always went to work with her. Clients who are into animals loved him, she says. She knows of a few who are particularly broken up over his death.

An emphatic “meow” suddenly rings out from below.

“That’s Suzuki . . . he’s alone now,” Smith-Rogers says.

He’s a Siamese cat. He doesn’t ride, but a Persian she once had did. “Katie” died in 1999.

“I always had cats. Dogs always went the other way when they saw me,” Smith-Rogers reminisces. “But then I met Chan. He bought me . . . he was supposed to be a new pair of jeans.

“I’d never even had a dog . . . I didn’t know what they like, what they do. So I brought him home and put Lassie on TV.”

She manages a smile. Turns out, Chan got hooked on Bonanza instead.

“I think it was the horses running that he liked,” she says.

The ceilings are high in Smith-Rogers apartment, and it’s a good thing. Chan had been photographed so often, most of the wall space is covered with his likeness - large, studio formals (his pre-biker days), candids from friends, the huge collection of newspaper clippings.

There’s Chan dressed as a devil for a Halloween bike parade one year. There he is in all red, white and blue at Laconia’s famed Motorcycle Weekend. There he is helping mom eat a plate of chili at some benefit ride somewhere.

Benefit rides and fund-raisers were priorities for Smith-Rogers and Chan, especially the ones for animals. She points to a framed cover of a Massachusetts newspaper insert called “Methuen Life.”

“This was from an SPCA benefit ride in 2003,” she says. “Chan was a big hit.”

The newest Chan collage is the saddest one.

Hanging at center is a copy of “The Rainbow Bridge,” flanked by Chan’s miniature helmet and his jean jacket with all his pins. Sympathy cards and photos crowd a small table around a tallish, circular container painted with images of dogs and puppies playing.

On the top is scripted “Chan.”

Smith-Rogers turns away.

“He’s the reason I woke up in the morning,” she says, pausing and turning pensive.

“Chan knew I wasn’t well . . . maybe (his passing) was to tell me I have to start taking care of myself now,” she says quietly.

“But the first thing I thought was, this is his way of telling me that it’s OK to die.”
Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Saturdays in The Telegraph. He can be
Wayne from Maine
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