Chief: Goodbye to a Legend

Every dog is special but there was something about Chief that brought on a legendary status that few, if any dogs can match. He travelled by log raft on the Yukon River, he would steal children’s toys and bring them home to show me, was electrocuted by a farm fence, was quarantined after nipping a woman raising money for cancer, he partied with the Bare Naked Ladies on Blind Line, had his head ripped open by barb wire and whenever he heard a party he would leave and come back in the morning after a night of being fed. All of this he accomplished with having only three legs!

It all began back on November 16th, 1998 when my Mom and I were driving in Burlington and we heard a radio report that there was an abnormal amount of dogs at the Toronto Humane Society on River Street that needed to be adopted. On a complete impulse, we drove to Toronto. There were hundreds of dogs at the shelter but there was something about Chief that drew me in. At the time Chief’s name was Naco and he was a very timid dog who was about a year old. We adopted him on the spot, a decision that would change my life forever. 

The most defining story took place about six months after we adopted him and would set the course for this legionary status. On my watch he had taken off, unable to find him I left home for Kilbride to see some friends, assuming he would return like he always did. Chief had wondered to the eastern edge of his territory at Lowville Park. The story goes that Chief was playing with a German Shepard when the dogs ran across the road and Chief was struck by a truck – the truck kept going. The owners of the Sheppard came to Chief’s rescue and drove him to Limestone Valley Hospital. 

The decision was simple, put Chief down or have the vet perform surgery to insert a titanium plate to fix his leg. We decided he deserved another shot and went for the surgery. But only days after the surgery, with a broken back leg that was held together with space age titanium, Chief ran away and literally broke the plate in two. Now out of pocket several thousand from the surgery my parents told me we would have to put Chief down. I suggested we have his back leg amputated and Dr. Wimmers agreed that he would probably do just fine. But none of us would ever imagine that he would carry on with three legs for another 15.5 years. 

Even into his early teens Chief could outrun and out swim any dog. He loved Lowville Park, and he loved swimming and chewing impressive logs until he cut them in half just like a beaver would. I always thought that his running would catch up to him because his black leg would take a beating to sustain his rambunctious lifestyle but he just kept going!

Chief was the glue that kept us all together. After my parent’s split when I was in university my Dad vowed he would never sell the house as long as Chief was alive, even though it didn’t make sense for him to keep the house all alone. I ended up moving back home after university and had an incredible handful of years with both my Dad and Chief as my roommates. This opportunity allowed me to chase my dream, and now 10 years later things are starting to come together. But had it not been for Chief, I probably would have gone into a different direction and my Dad would had likely sold the house and moved on. As the years went on Chief continued to be the glue that kept us together; be it my Mom coming over when I was away or Ryan, Doug or Cliff staying at the house to make sure someone was here to feed him and keep him company. Chief made this house a home. 

Incredibly it was just under two years ago when he was into his 15th year that I had to stop taking him on hikes on the Bruce Trail and for our daily circuit at Lowville Park. Slowly, his territory began to shrink from short walks on Blind Line to eventually just around the immediate house. The task of getting around became much more challenging but still Chief never lost his zest for life and was always ready to eat a bun if given the chance. 

I’ve done a decent amount of travel over the past decade but I am super thankful that I was able to work from home for the past 15 months, which allotted me more memories with my good buddy. I knew every day was a miracle and I knew Chief would let me know when it was time. It was about a month ago when I thought Chief had finally reached the end after two sluggish days only to see him bounce back as per usual. This was followed by four weeks of nice weather that made Chief’s last stretch a beautiful and graceful goodbye. We just took it day by day and enjoyed every moment together. 

But over the last few nights Chief seemed to be having an extra hard time getting around. Yesterday I had gone to Toronto knowing that Chief’s time with us was coming to a close. My Mom had come over to visit him during the day as she always did (without her Chief never would had made it this long) and when I called home to see how he was doing, she said he had not gotten up and had been sleeping all day. We talked and decided it was probably time to say goodbye to Chief. 

Of course when I got home at 4 pm he had just woken up and seemed his old self. I gave him a good belly rub and then he wanted to go outside. It was a beautiful day and he spent a good 45 minutes walking around marking and sniffing his territory. He was happy. Chief spent his last hour eating turkey, Mcdonald’s buns with butter (thanks Sgro) and drinking water. My Mom, Lyndsey and me kept petting and kissing him as he would reply back with a snort – a sign of his appreciation and comfort. 

Just after 6 pm on Friday, November 14th, 2 days shy of when we brought him home 16 years earlier, Chief left us in his 17th for a new adventure. Dr. Wimmers gave him a sedative as I comforted Chief as he slowly fell into a deep sleep on his bed in the kitchen where he loved to eat his dog cookies and sleep. We wrapped him up in the wool blanket he loved so much (the one that kept Cliff and I warm in the Yukon) along with some dog cookies and roses. While Lyndsey and my Mom rolled up the many carpets that we had put around the house that helped him move around, I went outside to the front lawn and dug him his resting place in a spot he would often sit and watch from. In the dark of the night we gently placed him down to rest, with his head facing to the east.

Every journey has a beginning and an end but what happens in the middle is up to us. Chief had an incredible middle and his tanatsiticity for life inspired me to follow my heart with the mantra of “what would Chief do?” Chief always lived every day to the fullest, and never let his problems from yesterday stop him from getting on with today. He was my best friend and he will sorely be missed by me and all those who knew him. He had one hell of a life and his spirit will inspire me for the rest of my days.   

Love you Chief.

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Talking at the London Museum, Oct 30.

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If you’re in the London area I will be giving a talk for the Nature Conservancy of Canada at the London Museum on October 30th. Tickets are $25 and includes drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Buy tickets online and learn more here

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America’s Great Undiscovered Wilderness

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A worthy read by my river friend John Ruskey of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Here is an excerpt from the article. Read the whole peace here. And if you’re in the market for a guided trip on the Mississipi read up about John here and Mike Clark who is based in St.Louis here.

The origins of these waters are found upstream in America’s Heartland, St. Louis, where the Upper Mississippi confluences with the Missouri to form the Middle Mississippi. The Middle Miss separates the Pawnee Hills from the Ozarks and then meets the green waters of the Ohio at the southern tip of Illinois to form the Lower Miss. You can trace the curvy blue line of the Lower Miss southward, deep into the gut of America, the Deep South, down to the Gulf Coast. The valley of the Lower Miss was once an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, then a glacial floodplain, and later a thriving jungle of 22 million acres. Even though it’s been settled for more than 100 years, its forests cut, its back channels plugged and main channel vigorously maintained, the river still rules the landscape with unimaginable power, annually rising and falling fifty vertical feet with fluctuations of millions of cubic feet per second, preparing the stage for an unlikely setting in wilderness travel.

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update & vids

The future of 7 Days in Hell is uncertain but I do plan on getting back outside in due time. For now I thought I share a video sample from the last 10 years of expeditions and inspirations.

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Update – 7 Days and More

Thanks for tuning into 7 Days In Hell.  The response has been very encouraging, both from friends and total strangers.  I really hope we can land a series, and we should know more about that in early 2014.  In case you missed it, for the premiere I did a live interview on The Morning Show on Global and an radio interview out in Edmonton on News 630 AM.  I have no clue how long these links will be online but check them out now if you like.

I also wanted to give an update on Mohammed, the young man with the broken arm who returned our camera. That was almost a year ago, and while we did raise $1,400 to help him, my two contacts in India have gone MIA on me.  It’s a long story, and very frustrating, but I can assure you that I will find Mohammed and I will get his arm fixed, eventually.

Speaking of India, I wrote a short article for the Huffington Post about 5 lessons the River Ganges taught me.

Happy holidays,

Brett

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7 Days In Hell – Airs tomorrow @ 10PM/EST on HISTORY

It’s been a busy week leading up to the premiere of  7 Days.

Tomorrow I will be on The Morning Show on Global at 9:10 AM/EST to talk about  7 Day In Hell on History on live national television.

The show has received some solid press in 35 media outlets across Canada including key trade, print, and online outlets like the Canadian Press, National Post, KW Record and TV Guide Canada.  We even made Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Dec. 15.  And we received our first public scorning by the Winnipeg Free Press which comes with the territory (bad press is better than no press!).

Please do spread the word, enjoy the show and have a great Holiday Season.

Best,

Brett

Air dates (eastern standard time):  Tuesday, Dec 17th @ 10 PM — Wednesday, Dec 18th @ 4 PM — Wednesday, Dec 18th @ 6 PM — Saturday, Dec 21st @ 12 PM — Saturday, Dec 21st @ 7 PM — Sunday, Dec 22nd @ 3 AM

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7 Days In Hell – Premiering on History, Dec 17th @ 10

Greetings,

Clear your calendars for Tuesday, December 17th at 10 PM for the premier of 7 Days In Hell.

For this pilot to be turned into a television series (meaning Cliff and myself would be sent all over the world to be starved and worn down as we live-out historic scenarios for your viewing pleasure), we need thousands and thousands of people like you to tune into History on Dec 17th. Please feel free to share this blog post so we can live-out our hellish dream of pain and suffering the old fashion way.

A special thanks to the folks at History (Shaw Media), Proper Television and all of the talented freelancers who have contributed blood, sweat and tears throughout this creative process – that includes you too, Cliff.

Air dates (eastern standard time):  Tuesday, Dec 17th @ 10 PM — Wednesday, Dec 18th @ 4 PM — Wednesday, Dec 18th @ 6 PM — Saturday, Dec 21st @ 12 PM — Saturday, Dec 21st @ 7 PM — Sunday, Dec 22nd @ 3 AM
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University of Waterloo – Alumni Interview – 7 Days In Hell

Brett Rogers: Find out how this Environment alumn is turning his love of the great outdoors into a career in TV

There are many obvious reasons why a Faculty of Environment alumn would not find themselves anywhere near Donald Trump’s personal jet. But that’s exactly where Geography and Environmental Management alumnus Brett Rogers was when he got the idea for an upcoming television show, taking him and a friend on a grueling historical journey through earth’s harshest environments.

Rogers is a budding star on Canadian television. You may not have heard of him yet but you soon will.  As a media entrepreneur, Rogers has a unique point of view distinctly rooted in his studies in Environment.

“I was working on a show called Mighty Planes as a camera assistant and we were working on an episode that was on Trump and his Boeing 757,” explains Rogers. “I was tired of being a camera assistant, I wanted my own show that I could produce and direct myself.  During the shoot this idea came into my head, which I coined, 7 Days in Hell. The premise is; my buddy and I are dropped into historic worse-case scenarios, totally unsupported and we have to film the whole thing ourselves while setting out to survive for a week.”

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE…  https://uwaterloo.ca/environment/stories/alumni/brett-rogers

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Annie’s Journey Continues!

Greetings!

Things are coming along very nicely with 7 Days In Hell. I will have more to share soon but in the meantime follow my twitter account  @brettonthewater for updates in the mean time.

It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago to the day we had just landed in St.Louis after enduring a month of rain and record breaking cold.  Halfway down the Mississippi River on a 4000 km expedition for the Gulf coast, our trusted boat Annie was just getting warmed up.  Now Annie is on a new adventure.  Here is a e-alert from my great Riverkeeper friends down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana…

Enjoy!

Annie’s Journey Continues!

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Paul and Michael Orr of LEAN/LMRK made the trip upriver last week to drop off Annie to John Ruskey and the Mighty Quawpaws. Quapaw Canoe Company offers wilderness expeditions on the Lower Mississippi River, its Back Waters, Bayous, Oxbows, and Flood Plain between the levees. In over 10 years of operation Quapaw Canoe Company has demonstrated the viability of safe canoeing on the Lower Mississippi River with countless expeditions involving churches, schools, boy scouts, girl scouts, families, couples and individuals. Quapaw has successfully guided over 10,000 people on the river. The Mighty Quapaws is an after-school apprenticeship program run by Quapaw Canoe Company for Clarksdale youth, teaching skills including swimming, canoe making, paddle construction, and river guiding.

Annie will be on loan for 2014 and help John and the Mighty Quawpaws connect even more people to the Mighty Mississippi River. If you’d like to book a trip in Annie under the capable hands of the Mighty Quawpaws please contact John at john@island63.com. Tours can be arranged by the day or the week. Float trips are available on any section between Cairo (Illinois) and the outlet of the river into the Gulf of Mexico. 10% of all trips booked in Annie will be donated to LEAN/LMRK.

The Story of Annie, the York boat:

In 2009, filmmaker, adventurer and friend of LEAN/LMRK, Brett Rogersset out to travel the length of the Mississippi River and make a documentary. He and close friend Kyle “Cliff” Quinn built a 32′ wooden York Boat in the style of the early Canadian fur trappers. Darlene and Jeff Anderson made the construction of the boat possible with a donation in honor of Annie, a young girl who lost a courageous battle with cancer.

After completion of Annie the York boat at Wolfe Island in Ontario, Annie traveled south to begin her journey down the Mississippi River. Brett and Cliff led a team of 5 adventurers for a 110 day, 2400 mile journey through the heart of North America in Annie the York Boat.

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The entire journey has been captured in a 10 chapter video series online here.

EAN / LMRK was proud to play a supporting role in Brett and Annie’s Old Man River expedition. Upon completion of the epic journey, Annie was donated to LEAN’s Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper(LMRK) program to continue to inspire and connect people to our precious waterways and fragile environment.

While in residence in Louisiana, Annie shared her story and made appearances at the local Madisonville Wooden Boat Show. She also continues to safely bring people out on the water and help reconnect them with the incredible natural environment we have here in Louisiana.

See LMRK’s Flickr gallery of Annie here.  See Brett’s gallery of pictures from the Old man River Project here.

                                       www.LEANWEB.org       www.LMRK.org

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Back from Hell

Greetings,

My feet are so badly beat up I can hardly walk thanks to a combination of blisters and calluses from hiking through the wilderness in leather-soled boots that where wet more often than they where dry. My fingers hardy work either.  I just carried a 80 lbs pack for a week and yet I can hardly find the strength to pick up my daypack with my laptop to write this update. It was a week in HELL.  It was hard as heck but I am so thankful for the experience, it was 7 days I will never forget. I look forward to sharing this story later this year.

Brett

The creative dream team after we reunited after day 7.  Doug, Cliff, myself and Andrew.

The creative dream team after we reunited after day 7. Doug, Cliff, myself and Andrew.

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