I wrote the below passage some time ago, and housed it on the “Meet the Mascot” area of this website. Because Chloe was so incredibly important to me, I simply cannot delete it, but at this point, I would like to focus on all the wonderful things that Chloe will always be to me instead of the time surrounding her disappearance. Chloe, you are my smile.
Chloe is the inspiration behind Chloe Pet Photography. And she will always, always be my best girl.
On February 9, 2015, my fifteen and a half year old best girl disappeared from the backyard. The fence door had blown open, and about an hour after putting her out, I had a sinking feeling: I hadn’t heard her bark, not once. Not her frantic barking as other dogs walked by, or her single high-pitched bark to let me know she was ready to come back inside. My fears were confirmed–she wasn’t in the back yard. My husband assured me he would find her, but I was worried. As the hours passed by, I became even more upset. Chloe, even though she did escape on occasion, had never ever ever been gone this long. Not in the 15 and a half years since we’d been a team. My husband drove around looking for her; I drove around looking for her. Nothing. I went to bed feeling lost. How could I possibly sleep, knowing that my compass, my shadow, my best girl was missing?
My family and friends helped me immensely in the days after Chloe’s disappearance. We scoured the area, hung flyers, contacted vets, filed reports with multiple Humane Societies. We reached out to strangers, used social media, searched internet sites. I drove around looking, learning more about the lay-out of my city than I had in the 7 years I’ve lived here. I hiked through off-limits flood-damaged trails, amazed at the fury of mother nature. I drove up into the mountains, getting my car stuck on a desolate road in the snow. I followed leads, and was amazed at the kindness and helpfulness of friends, family, and strangers. Thank you, thank you, thank you. But still no Chloe.
In some ways, I feel that I let her down. She wasn’t micro-chipped. (Did they even do that 15 years ago?) Her name tag had fallen off a couple weeks prior to her disappearance, and because I am adapting to life with two young boys, I hadn’t gotten around to getting a new one. (At least she had on a collar, but still.) If I had only checked the fence…and then I start to think about the worst-case scenarios: cars, coyotes, or searching frantically for me. I have to shut out those thoughts, and focus on the positives.
Chloe will always be my compass. I got her when I was in college, thanks to my friend Dana. Even though I haven’t seen her in years, Dana shaped my life more than most. I was about to choose a different dog, a cute brown and black little German Shepherd mix. Dana suggested the more outgoing black puppy, and I agreed. The SPCA said she was a lab-shepherd mix, but after learning puppy litters can have multiple fathers, she must have had some border collie in her too.
I remember waking my mom up the next morning, after picking out Chloe and before I could take her home yet (she needed to be spayed). I said, “Mom, I have something to tell you.” And her response? “Did you get a dog?” How did she know? Chloe was not to come inside the house, and the first time they were introduced, my mom jumped onto her car hood, escaping the little puppy ankle nips. Within a couple years, Chloe would sleep on my mom’s bed.
Chloe kept me out of trouble back in the college days. I mean, how much craziness can you get into when you have a little puppy depending on you to take her out at 5 in the morning? Favorite memories of Chloe the College Dog include her getting stung by a bee on a rainy night (who knew bees sting at night, in the rain)(they sure do if you stick your nose into their home) and me having to drive an hour and a half to take her to the nearest emergency vet. Chloe was allergic to them, and so pathetic, that my mom let her sleep inside that night. When I played frisbee golf around campus, sometimes little Chloe puppy would get so tired that she would sit down on top of my feet, preventing me from walking. Chloe would gleefully zoom across the fields just north of campus, chasing after nesting birds. And even though my college was right on the water, Chloe would refuse to go swimming.
After graduating college, we moved back to Annapolis. My entire existence focused on tiring out Chloe, and we would go on countless walks and runs around the neighborhood. Chloe also went to school herself during this time. It is too bad she was my first dog because she is very, very smart. The pet trainer often called on her to do the training drills, and Chloe would prance next to the trainer, head held high, completing the drills perfectly. The model student. And she was even smart enough to know that she didn’t have to behave so perfectly at home with just me.
While in Annapolis, Chloe learned to swim, thanks to a dog named Zeus. Chloe and I were pet sitting at Zeus’s waterfront home and he loved to play catch in the water. Chloe, who seemed to fear water, was not to be outdone. After a tentative first attempt to retrieve the ball, Chloe was converted into a full-blown water dog. By her second attempt, she could out-swim Zeus. Swimming would become her third favorite activity, right behind jumping through the snow and eating bacon.
During this time, Chloe would visit my grandparents on Long Island. One day my grandma had prepared an entire tray of meatballs, leaving them on the coffee table while she got up for a quick errand. When she got back, guess what? Yup, gone. Chloe. Another time, during a birthday party for my mom, Chloe emerged from the kitchen, her black face covered in white. “What?” she looked at us innocently as we yelled, “CHLOE!” Yes, birthday cake is tasty. Chloe also went on other trips, visiting Canada, Niagara Falls, Virginia, Vermont.
Perhaps the biggest trip of all was our move to Colorado. Buckled into the front seat, Chloe made the move to Boulder with me. Although she had always loved the snow, Colorado would cement this relationship. And we enjoyed other activities together as well. We summitted several 14ers, including Bierstadt, Grays and Torreys, Huron, Quandary, Belford, and the tallest peak in Colorado: Mt. Elbert. She helped me train for my first (and only) marathon. She would go tubing in Steamboat Springs, whitewater rafting along the Colorado.
We also met Rob. When we would go on adventures with him, Chloe would get to run off-leash. As we trekked up a mountain, she would run ahead, almost out of sight, waiting for us. Then we would get closer, and she would run ahead again, almost out of sight. On the way back, Rob would often zoom down on skis while I followed slowly on snowshoes. Chloe would ditch me for her faster companion, leaving me to fend for myself against hidden mountain lions. My little imp.
And we bought a truck, and she sat right behind me, surveying the Colorado landscape, my navigator. I would make up lyrics to songs playing on the radio…lyrics about my girl Chloe girl. I would sing them to her with the windows wide open, blowing our hair. We were the happiest.
Chloe moved into the first house I bought. She attended my bachelorette party (a hike up another 14er, Mt. Sherman). She walked down the aisle on my wedding day. She met my first son, and then my second. Along the way, I stopped celebrating my own birthday, and instead started celebrating hers (with bacon and burgers and friends). At one of these parties, several of her dog friends attended. We put party hats on the dogs, and Chloe didn’t want to take hers off. She knew it was all for her, and she wanted to show off.
After my first son was born and I was away in New York, I got a phone call from my husband. Chloe wasn’t doing well. I was devastated and feared the end was near, and I wasn’t going to be there for my girl. It turns out it was just vestibular disease, and that she would probably be okay for many months. She walked with a tilted head, and panted and paced incessantly, but she was still energetic and loved her walks. And then Connor came, and within two months, she was gone. Maybe she didn’t want another kid pulling on her fur, poking her belly. Maybe she wanted to leave us on her terms. I remember my fingertips brushing along her back for the what would be the last time as she walked down the stairs and into the backyard.
My snow dog. Water girl. Bacon lover. Cinnamon toast lover. Running partner. Dance partner. Navigator. Back up singer. St. Mary’s College of Maryland graduate. Hiker. No self control when it comes to dirty socks or dead fish. Fastest dog in the dog park. Endurance swimmer. Gemini. Softest ears in the universe that flop up and down as she walks. Paws smell like peanut butter. My best friend. Throughout the rest of my life, she will be there, just around the bend. I love you madly Chloe Girl.
©2022 SUSANNAH ALLEN
CHLOE PET PHOTOGRAPHY
Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado