Farewell Mrs. Katie

Farewell Mrs. Katie

Farewell Mrs. Katie

A Great Hiking Partner & Friend

March 22, 1999 – October 5, 2015

October 5, 2015

Wes Chapman

 

John Steinbeck had it right – there are few better fellow travelers in life than a standard poodle. Kate joined our family as a puppy in 1999, a replacement for Spike, the Portuguese water dog from Hell. We bought her for $500 at a pet shop in Scarsdale NY, earning her the appellation of “dime store poodle,” and over the course of her life she proved that worth is often inversely proportional to cost.

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Finishing up the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire

She was first and foremost a family pet – confidant of secrets and recipient of untold affection, but very much her own personality – loyal, a fierce defender of the family territory and dedicated adversary of the mailman. She, and her younger fellow traveler Baby (the Girls) started out life as pampered house pets, living in a tony suburb of New York City. For them it was a life of gluttony and boredom, punctuated by the daily chance to get a piece of a much hated visitor, the mailman.

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Mrs. Katie in her prime in the White Mountains

When we moved to Hanover NH in 2002, the entire family was utterly clueless as to the potential for fun in our new home, from a dog’s perspective. Our neighbor introduced us to the joys of off-lease dog walks in Pine Park, a nature preserve a short walk from our house. The results were astonishing. These dogs greeted every new visit like wild women. Endless energy, pointless dashes, running through the brook and even braving the waters of the Connecticut River were the sequence for each walk. The girls loved it, and it was a joy to watch.

My frosty fellow travelers

My frosty fellow travelers

A two coat day on Moosilauke

From Pine Park it was just a short conceptual hop to an assault on might Mt. Moosilauke, a 4,802 foot mountain about an hour away, and favored by Hanover locals. I had a hip replacement in 2003, and recovery was slow, but Moosilauke beckoned as a concept and proof of recovery, rehabilitation and redemption.

The first climb started out slow, and degenerated into a series of slow short pitches, separated by longs periods of rest and heavy breathing. Panting was the order of the day for all parties. We made it up and down, but just barely. Afterwards, two days of rest were necessary for all participants, and Martha was unsure that any of us would make it back to fighting form.

Saved from Rocky Branch

Rescuing Katie from the Rocky Branch stream

Somehow, that one hike changed everything. We did not stop, but went back to Moosilauke at least 20 more times that summer, finally doing two laps up and down the mountain in a day. What started out as a local obsession moved to include all 48 of the 4,000 foot mountains in the White Mountains, then the 67, 4,000 foot mountains in New England, and finally the 100 highest mountains in New England. All along the way we went as a team, rain or shine, in all four seasons. The only climbs that I left the Girls behind were skiing trips in the winter and a trip to Baxter State Park, where all of our canine friends are forcibly excluded – discrimination does still exist in America.

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Having a great day with the Girls & Kodiak

On Mt. Mansfield

On Mt. Mansfield in Vermont

 

Kate proved to be a tireless hiking companion, and a terrific athlete. For years I’d encounter hikers in some far flung corner of New England, and they would ask, “What kind of dogs are those”? I’d dutifully tell them the truth – only to be disparaged as a whacko – “Poodles can’t hike like this!” Finally, I switched tactics and told a bald face lie, “They’re Andorran Mt Poodles” I’d tell them, “paid 10 grand apiece and had ‘em flown over special.” I guess that folks just don’t want to believe what kind of poodle $500 buys in Scarsdale.

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On Mt. Washington – Labor Day Hike ‘05

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Resting her head on a convenient bar stool

By 2010 Kate had lost a couple of steps due to arthritic hips, and winter bushwhacks were out of the question. Over the next 5 years I learned a lot from Kate about how to adjust to declining physical capabilities. She stayed active and engaged on walks, but really focused on home, hearth and meal time. She was the constant companion and preferred bed-mate for the entire family – a great listener and a source of constant, if inarticulate, comfort. Not a bad formula for comfort in your golden years.

On Franconia Ridge

Mrs. Katie, in her prime, on Franconia Ridge

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A cool November day on Moosilauke

The last six months have been tough, Kate was sliding fast – losing control of much of what matters physically, but never her fundamental kindness, loyalty and devotion – these stuck with her through the very end. She became somehow smaller and softer, and seemed to settle into a new and uncomfortably subordinate role when we got a new puppy last Christmas. In the end, she went for a short walk, had a meal of hamburger and went on her way – she was ready.

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Tortured at Christmas

Up to Tucks

Headed up to Tuckerman Ravine

Much has been written about the special relationship between people and dogs, and doubtlessly much of that is true – but for me, it really depends on the dog. Kate was special, she was smart, athletic and a kind member of the family. We will miss her terribly on the hikes in the mountains that she loved, and around the house with the family. She was a great companion, always uncomplaining – a fellow traveler that really loved the team and the shared experience. In many ways, that is all that you can ask of any friend.

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Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

4 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    January 07, 2016

    You’re correct Wes, Steinbeck had it right. I enjoyed sharing your memories and experiences involving Kate and can totally empathize with how much of your family I know she was. Thanks for sharing. Best, Jay

    Reply

  2. Avatar
    March 19, 2016

    Beautifully written. My condolences on the loss of your good friend Kate.

    Reply

  3. Avatar
    March 20, 2016

    Wes , you are an incredibly beautiful writer. You hAve the gift of “pen to paper” I laughed( thinking of spike) but eventually had tears ( remembering Mrs. Katie ). What a lovely tribute, as losing our canine friends is losing a member of our family. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  4. Avatar
    March 22, 2016

    What a life well lived! I wish she could have had longer, but does not sound like she could have had better. We’ll give our Derby the Dalbrador extra milk bones tonight and toast your beautiful Andorran Mt. Poodle, Mrs. Katie.

    Reply

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