Chopper: Our New One-Eyed Mutt


(Featured on the WordPress “Freshly Pressed” page)

About seven years ago my in-laws moved into a small apartment and began purging unnecessary items from their lives. Besides getting rid of needless junk, they sorted sentimental keepsakes from the past and then divided them up between their sons.

At the time we weren’t too happy about it. It seemed morbid, and what’s worse, we were suddenly stuck with boxes of mementos from my husband’s childhood, and had nowhere to store them either.

But after my in-laws’ deaths this past summer, we realized how wrong we were. It turned out that what his parents had done was not just practical, it was incredibly thoughtful as well. Because of their sorting and purging, my husband and his brother had little left to deal with, and for that we were all very grateful.

Unfortunately, even with their planning, his parents left behind two items that we didn’t know what to do with. Nobody wanted them, yet nobody wanted to part with them either.

I am now the proud owner of both.

The first is an unusual painting of a man walking to an outhouse in a pounding rainstorm – a painting that was prominently displayed at my husband’s childhood home and in all others that his parents lived in since. The second is Chopper, my in-laws’ 150-year-old deaf, arthritic, one-eyed, trembling, foul-smelling mutt. (Oh, and he bites too.)

When my in-laws first moved down to Southern California to be near their grandchildren they struggled with loneliness. They had left their life and circle of friends back home in Northern California, and, besides occasional babysitting, had little to do. I was worried about them so when I read somewhere that pets were good therapy for the elderly, I suggested that they get a dog.

It took some convincing, but ultimately they agreed. I began an internet search for the perfect second-hand dog. Eventually I found an adorable Jack Russell Terrier (just like the one on Frasier) that was available for adoption at the local Humane Society.

I called my in-laws and had them rush to the pound before someone else could snap him up. Only a few hours later they arrived at our house to introduce us to their new dog.

But when we opened the door there was no adorable Jack Russell terrier. Instead, there stood an old, quivering wiry-haired mutt. This dog looked like a German Shepherd had mated with a hedgehog and the hedgehog won.

“What’s this? Where’s the adorable Jack Russell Terrier that I found?” I demanded.

My in-laws explained that they chose this little dog, oddly named “Chopper” because the humane society worker said he was a better match for them. Also, he was free with their “Seniors for Seniors” program.

I could not hide my disappointment. This dog was a shoo-in to win an ugliest dog contest, and what’s worse he smelled like a dirty old fish tank.

But my in-laws loved him, as did my kids. In fact, my children thought I was a horrible person for not seeing his appeal.

My in-laws catered to that dog like he was a newborn baby. They bought him a cozy new bed and a car seat and let him rule their house. They gave him a steady diet of table scraps even though their vet reprimanded them for his weight gain. Over the years they spent thousands of their limited dollars on his ever-increasing medical problems, including an expensive surgery to remove his cancerous eye.

My husband and his brother often joked that their parents treated Chopper like the child they never had. They simply adored that little mutt.

But after my father-in-law passed away from a brief illness in July, and my mother-in-law died from a stroke two weeks later, Chopper was left alone. My brother-in-law stepped up to take care of him for the short term, but then found an apartment that conveniently did not accept pets. Chopper was orphaned once again.

We tried to find him a home. I posted a picture of him on Facebook, but I think my description was a little too accurate and likely scared off any takers.

Friends suggested that it might be best to put him down. After all, they said, he’d lived a long full life. But my husband and I couldn’t do it. We didn’t think that he was in pain and it seemed wrong to put him down just because having him would be inconvenient. Also, my kids were still getting over the loss of their grandparents. Chopper is the last connection they have to them.

Perhaps that’s why we inherited that painting – the depressing one of the guy trying to get to the outhouse. Neither my husband nor his brother wanted to have it up in their homes, yet neither wanted to get rid of it either. It’s a connection to their parents that they’re just not ready to part with.

But when I look at that painting I wonder what my mother-in-law saw could have possibly seen in it. She had such a positive outlook on life, and to me that depressing painting didn’t fit.

My husband suggested that maybe she liked the dreariness of it. Maybe when she was feeling low she could look at that bleak painting and say, “Well, life could be worse. I could be this guy having to walk outside in a pounding rainstorm just to use the toilet.”

Perhaps that’s what appealed to them about Chopper? As the years took their toll and their list of ailments grew, they could look at him with his even longer list of problems and figure he had to feel worse. “Here’s a dog in worse shape than us. We love him!”

Hopefully, I’ll grow to embrace our new dog Chopper somehow. I have to admit, it is hard to look at him with his one eye and his shaking arthritic legs and not think, “Life could be worse.” The fact that he’s still eager to chase a ball boggles the mind.

And I suspect that my in-laws are staring down at me now and having a hearty laugh at my expense. “So you wanted us to get a dog, did you?”

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78 Comments

Filed under aging, comedy, culture, death, Family, humor, life, musings, pets, Uncategorized

78 responses to “Chopper: Our New One-Eyed Mutt

  1. That was a wonderful story. I’ll give you $20 for the painting. The one-eyed hedgehog you can keep.

  2. Awe, he is so cute! Good blog to, very touching.. :D

  3. I work at an animal shelter, and dogs (and cats) like Chopper get overlooked, so I’m happy to hear that he found a second home with you. We never, ever, euthanize any adoptable animal, and some of the stories would break your heart. We have dogs and cats who have been in our shelter for months. So I applaud your in-laws, and you, for giving Chopper life.

  4. I’m really curious about something — what do you think the meaning is behind the painting? I mean, when you look at it, what do you think the artist was trying to communicate? I know it sounds like a stupid question, but it seems to be a theme. What are your thoughts?

  5. Hmm. Good question. I will have a think on it.

  6. Good for you for embracing your new found pet. :) He is definitely a unique looking dog!….I’ve never seen a one-eyed dog before, the closest I’ve ever come is a three-legged dog. Congrats on being FP!

  7. this story really made me tear up :(
    the idea of a poor animal not being wanted, just breaks my heart!
    im so happy that your in laws hearts had the capacity to love chopper, and that now you have stepped up to take over – it really is a heart warming story! thank you for sharing!

  8. Kudos for you for finding room in your house and heart for that old curmudgeon, Chopper. I suspect he will leave you with a gem or two of wisdom before he is gone from this earth. Those old “rescues” often do. Congrats on your Freshly Pressed recognition! Great post. ~ Kat

  9. Absolutely hilarious … and what a dog. We also encountered our “Choppers” recently in Santorini – he was the friendliest, ugliest animal around. But he did have both eyes … well, barely!
    Great post, and congrats on the FP. Keep ‘em coming!
    Terri Vance (here’s the link to our “Choppers”.)

    http://gallivance.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/favorite-images-from-2011/

  10. To me, that painting means, “Life goes on.” Whatever may be happening, no matter how lousy things are, there are some things that need to be done in life. Just a reminder that life and Nature aren’t mean, just indifferent. Which is a good thing.

  11. what a lovely story. My last dog lived to 17, and had many, many health problems. But I love the old dogs, they are so completely different from the young ones, but they are so loving, and grateful for everything we give them.

    Enjoy Chopper!

  12. I’m glad that you took Chopper in and are showing him the love that he deserves.

  13. Loved it! Nicely written. As for the painting, well, maybe one day your kids will have an interest. ( hey, it could happen! )
    The dog, well there’s a heartwarming story. I have a sneaky feeling that he has already carved a nice set of paw prints in your heart, regardless of his one eye and looks. He is truly one of a kind no matter how ancient he may be. How lucky is he that he has known so much love and affection in the time he got with your in laws and now you. Rescues make such great companions and bless you all for letting him live his life out with peace and love. So many things in life are temporary, but memories……

  14. Constance V. Walden

    This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing. Connie

  15. What a great post. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I inherited a mutt called Chipper in much the same situation (found sitting on my dead uncle’s chest) and have never been able to resist a doggy story since. I loved this.

  17. Daaaw. Good for you for taking him in. Adopted mutts are the best. I have one of my own, but she has both her eyes.

  18. Great story.Blessings to you and your Chopper!

  19. I hope you and Chopper have a nice Halloween today!

  20. Great story.
    Thanks for holding on to chopper.

  21. rebecca93dallman

    Aww, that is truly beautiful, Very sorry for your loss but at least you still have kept the animal they honestly treasured and they must be so proud of you to keep him even though its an inconvenience. My grandfather just passed away and I got left his medal and certificate from the war as well as some photos. I will treasure them forever. Chopper if a lucky mutt I must say

    In my opinion I think the painting means: My interpretation of it is that: No matter how bad it is outside and around you, if you want it that bad, you will get there.
    That is a really good view to have on life.

  22. Nicely written.
    Chooper reminds me of a friend’s dog I used to know. The dog had one eye. My friend swore the dog was psychic like some one-eyed gypsy so she named it “Jedi”. He was a cool dog just as Chooper seems to be.
    As for the painting: I can feel its energy. Its humbling and bucolic. It also just a snapshot of a particular time back in the day when bathrooms were built on the outside of the house. I guess u could consider it gloomy, but its just one state of reality. That or it means buy an umbrella?

    thanks for sharing

  23. In my opinion, he is kind of cute if you look at in in the right angle. I had a similar experience with pets when my parents adopted a plain brown barn kitten whose definition of play was closer to shredding when there were dozens of beautiful cats in the local shelter. They named her “Precious”, even though I thought she was anything but. Now I realize how foolish I was, because of the four of us, Precious likes me best!

  24. I laughed out loud at the hedgehog description and for a moment thought Chopper’s photo was introducing some sort of Halloween themed post. Bravo for re-homing the poor old decrepit fellow, you must feel like you are leaping around like a young gazelle in comparison :)

    • Hah! What’s funny is watching him trying to chase our cat. We were worried at first, but then realized that even when he ran he was too slow to catch him. The cat has taken to taunting him now.

      • He’s kind of a Mad Eye Moody of the dog world isn’t he? surely you can find a casting agency for ugly mutts, he is priceless in that respect. But you really missed a trick this week (no pun intended) you should have loaned him out for Halloween – that is one scary looking dog and with your descriptive prowess I do believe that I can almost faintly whiff him even from this far flung colony. Cheers for stopping by my blog, I’m not nearly as funny and witty as you and my dog is not a hideous freak show, so I’m worried that there wont be much to entertain you.

  25. I laughed. I cried. Thank you for sharing your touching story. Your in-laws most certainly are looking down at your family and laughing, just as you suspect!

  26. Thank you for not putting him down. That would be a horrible and wrong thing to do. He deserves to live. But then again, you already know that. I hope you grow to love him as your in laws had.

  27. love your story.. maybe in time after he’s really settled in, you will really find the cuteness in him.. i think the painting is interesting..

  28. Love your story! I’m thankful Chopper is being so well cared for — loved by a family who opened their heart and their home to him at a time when a dark decision could have been made. He’s adorable. I applaud you. I’m crazy about cats, but I love all animals and have included an entry on my blog about my dogsledding experience.

  29. susanblume

    So glad you didn’t put him down. Dogs can bring so much joy. I can see his charm. Great story.

  30. I really enjoyed this story. Thank you for taking in this scruffy dog. He appreciates it more than you will ever know, and your children will always remember your kindness toward one of their last connections to their grandparents.

  31. I am glad you decided to keep Chopper no one else probably would have as the lady said they often are overlooked.I took in two dogs years ago who had been starved literally skin and bones no one wanted them they were not pretty dogs,but they both lived to very old ages and gave us many great years with them.You won’t regret taking Chopper!

  32. Awwww…. well all I can say is Chopper is very lucky to have you. Loved this story… Very deserving of being Freshly Pressed! Congrats!

  33. This is the best freshly pressed post i”ve read. Your post brightened my day and made me laugh. Chopper looks adorable :-)

  34. God bless you for saving a life of this creature! All the animals deserve to be happy, to love and to be loved! Wonderful and very touching story here!

  35. I have a one eyed black cat named Maggie I’ve had since she was a kitten. She was the epitome of a charity case. She had been attacked by a dog combined with negligent owners that gave her to me with her brother. We named him Qui-Roo.

    Maggie was a terrifying cat to look at when she was little. Her bad eye was swollen and was almost literally half the size of her head when we took her to the initial vet visit. She seemed to be in a great deal of pain too. She would put her head on the ground the way an ostrich would stick their head in a hole. Saddest thing you ever saw. Worse, they both had bad colds when I got them. Her good eye was closed with mucus so she was completely blind…

    She stopped eating and became reclusive. But I persisted with some tough love, force feeding her when I had to. Maggie has always been a diva, ill tempered and difficult but she’s my special needs cat. Her sass defines her and I wouldn’t trade her in for anything in the world.

    Here she is in her infinite smart-assery.

  36. stitchscience

    Lovely post and the one eyed hedgehog is endearing in his own way (close one eye and squint with the other..). Its a very good thing you are doing.

  37. Great story!! What an awesome companion, congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  38. Your description of Chopper made me laugh. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  39. The fact that he still chases after a ball shows his amazing spirit. I hope you both grow to love each other and that he stops biting :) BTW, that’s very nice of you. thanks for sharing your story.

  40. Nikki Williams

    Chopper looks a lot like my Mutt – Mr Flinty :) Also a one eyed hound who eventually lost the use of his ‘good eye’ too and now happily bounces off the fridge, the telly and the walls on his way out to work with my other half in a morning. 13 years young, with back legs trembling if he stands too long – he is totally adorable and grumpy. Chopper looks to have a bit of cattle dog in him – a bit like Mr Flinty. If I wern’t in the UK I’d say maybe seperated at birth. Give a hug from the UK to chopper.

    • Someone else suggested cattle dog too. Maybe? It is funny to watch him walk – his whole weight shifts from side to side as he does. Makes you slow down like when you have a baby learning to walk!

  41. Good for you for keeping the dog… and, am I a freak for liking the painting?

  42. awww! I fell in love with Chopper the minute I saw his picture! I’m sure that the same will hold true for Chopper as it does for us. When he dies and goes to the other side he will be healthy and smell great! And when you get there you will be greeted by your in-laws and a two eyed,tail wagging hedgehog!

  43. Chopper is so cute! I’m glad that he can live with you now! :-) Please give him a big hug :-)

  44. sporadicblogger

    This is such a warm fuzzy story. And your dog looks adorable.

  45. This is wonderful. Made me cry. And I think you did the right thing, with both the painting and Chopper. He deserves a familiar and loving home. He took care of your in-laws for you, so it’s only right that you get to take care of him.

  46. I’m glad Chopper was able to get a second chance with your in-laws and now a third with you and your family. I have a feeling that over time he’ll win you over…

  47. I inherited a painting my parents had hanging in our living room everyday, for the first 18 years of my life. It was painted by a family friend and it was a painting of my father’s mother, Ida. She was a wonderful, loving woman, but the painting did not remind you of Christina’s World. It has been almost 10 years that I have had possession of the painting. It is in the back of my closet. I choose not to hang it, but I cannot throw it away, or give it away. My partner Michael told me to send it to my sister, and say, “You can have it for 10 years, then send it to our brother.” But, I haven’t done that either. I guess sometimes we hang on to things, and that’s okay. Chopper sounds very lucky, but so are you! Thanks for sharing your great story.

    Judy aka The Lioness

  48. Great story! Chopper is adorable!!

  49. You’re going to fall in love with that dog before you know it. Nice post!

  50. Hello, I thought that I had left a comment when I put a like on your story about Chopper but I must have hit the wrong button. I love this story! And thank you for following my blog, I’m following yours now as well.

  51. Hi there, I love this story! Thank you for following my blog, I’m following yours now. (I seem to be having trouble posting comments so if you’ve received the other two that I “thought” I’d posted it’s not my memory that’s at fault, it’s my techinical expertise!) Great post…

  52. Love this post. Funny and heart-warming. Definitely some good karma should be coming your way. My husband used to have a dog like Chopper when we met and I definitely developed a strong /love hate relationship for him (the dog, not my husband). We have great funny stories now all due to Congo.

  53. North to South to Mama

    Bless your hearts. I’m sure your in-laws are looking down and smiling. So many people would have taken the alternate route.

  54. Loved your story and your adorable dog. It breaks my hear whenever I hear of old dogs or cats being dumped at a shelter because no one wants them or their owners can no longer care for them. At least Chopper can live out his senior years with dignity and love. You are also showing your kids a great lesson, animals are not something to be put down or turned out because we no longer want to be troubled with increasing cost and care of them as they age.Thank you for caring for a grumpy old four legged man.
    Oh, if he can chew them try giving him raw carrots. Cut them up in small pieces, can work wonders for doggy breath. My six year old loves carrots, has always had them for treats and her breath is still okay, so far.

  55. Higher and Deeper Idea

    this is very inspiring.thank you very much for sharing this with us

  56. What a great blog post! Chopper appears to have been a blessing for your in-laws, and now for you as well. Thanks for writing such an honest, thoughtful, and heartfelt story (made my day).

  57. I have a blind-from-one-eye kitty cat called ally :D smartest kitty ever!

  58. I was so sorry to her of your parents in law passing away… My condolences! Ps: To me, that dog is adorable :)

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  61. I often write about the humble outhouse, I think in many ways it is gross to crap indoors. I bought a house once that belonged to an old man who croaked on the kitchen floor. My roomates ugly, nasty Pekinese did the same, rented it to a bank teller, a secret drinker, her liver burst and she to died on the kitchen floor. Pekinese, Pepi-La- Pew was a lot like your chopper..

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