Fall had come early that year to rural Maine. The chipmunks and squirrels were racing up and down the stone walls hiding the acorns and other treasures in the little pockets there. Looking at Indian Pond in the valley was like looking over a patchwork of reds, oranges, browns all puffed up in one long quilt with the blue of the little pond at the very end.
I was nineteen years old and experiencing farm life in all its glory. That June marked the birth of my first child and three month old Debra was finally recovering from colic which had her father and I alternating on night duty for what seemed like forever.
The farm consisted of four bedrooms upstairs and seven rooms downstairs. I fairly rattled after living my first seventeen years in three rooms and an attic with five other people. I didn’t drive and hadn’t worked since Debra arrived.
If it had not been for Winnie Hanscom, who lived down the hill, I would have felt pretty much alone in the woods. She cranked the phone a couple times a day to see how I was doing and exchanged a few recipes with me. With winter coming on in my mind, I was beginning to wonder how we would heat this big old ( emphasis on old) house and how I would occupy myself through the winter. There would be the shoveling of snow..that was a certainty.
It was in this frame of mind one afternoon when my husband arrived home from work. As he drove up the hill and in sight by the big elm tree, it appeared he had someone with him. Oh, no, I thought. Have I cooked enough food for a guest? As he brought the car to a stop, I noticed the “guest” was the four foot variety with a long tongue hanging out and obviously enjoying the ride.
The husband jumped out, lunch box in hand, and the long haired guest jumped out and came running up on the porch. My God in heaven, the man had brought home a dog! Well, there was room for one, if it were friendly and it seemed to be.
” He’s been hanging around Raymond Seames’ place in Lockes Mills and he asked me today if we had room for him and wanted him and I said sure.” Well so much for the explanation of why we now owned a big collie dog.
“Where did he come from? Did Raymond know?”
“He has no idea. He figures someone came for the summer and left him behind on purpose or when they got ready to go, couldn’t find him and couldn’t wait any longer until he was found.”
I can’t remember who named him Champ, but that was how he was labeled a few hours after his arrival. He made himself at home, ignored the four barn cats who really were not barn cats and settled in for the long haul of winter.
Winter came with its usual zing and episodes of being stuck on Rowe Hill, scathing remarks about the incompentency of snow tires and the usual drivel that came with at least four or five months before the snow finally melted.
Debra continued to grow and Champ was with her constantly. She sat up on the floor now and Champ lay beside her; she crawled on his back and he lay there with his tongue hanging out looking for all the world like he enjoyed every minute.
Spring came with its pink appleblossoms and green grass and the plum tree on the hillside was in bloom. The warmth drew us outside and with Debra in the stroller, I tossed a ball and Champ would run and fetch. However, his favorite pasttime was carrying rocks in his mouth. He’d drop one, find another, carry it awhile, drop it. He eventually would go back to the first and carry that for awhile. I kept wondering why his jaw didn’t drop off.
Each night the cats went out and Champ lay on the front porch after the weather warmed. One morning, I opened the door and the cats filed in, tails high in the air and I waited for Champ. He was nowhere to be seen. Oh, well, I thought, he’s gone to get a rock or exploring.
Another hour passed and still no Champ. Apparently the warmth in the wind had lured him back on the road. We never saw him again. Over these many years, I can see him get up, stretch, put his face to the wind and start trotting down the hill, past the big elm tree on his way ….to somewhere.
Where he came from…we never knew. Why he was traveling around that part of Lockes Mills, Maine, we never knew. If someone deliberately had left him, how could they? If he were lost, why were there never any ads in the paper or inquiries?
Champ gave us the gift of a year out of his life. He was truly what my husband called a “tramp dog.” Where did he go? Was he searching for his family? Did he give someone else his gift of love for a while?
I have always wished and still do, to this day, that I knew the rest of his story.