My best friend is not the best communicator. He has issues. He can hear but he doesn’t listen. He’s often loud when it’s time to be quiet. He’s nosy. He’s fearless. When he wants something he pursues it with singleminded determination that I admire.

He’s my best friend and I tell him that every day. Sometimes I think he may be my only true friend but then a scientific report will come out claiming that the mutual love I see in his eyes is an illusion and that I’m being suckered. Even though this may be true I lean on him more than I should.

I met my best friend at Fatbelly Burgers in Carbondale a few years ago. He had his feet up at the table and was hanging out with another friend of mine. We hit it off right way. Little did I know that he would later be jailed overnight after being captured with his feet up on the table of Fatbelly as darkness fell on Carbondale. Like I said, he has a mind of his own and does what he wants.

While I was meeting my future best friend I opened my mouth and told my other friend that if he was ever ready to dump his friend I would be there to take over. A month later I got the call that the dog was all mine if I wanted him and when can I pay the fee and pick him up?

Someone smarter than me pointed out that cocker poodles tend to live a long time and that I was making a serious commitment by taking on a dog. My housing situation was rocky at best and a dog, even one as cute as the one I was about to adopt, can be a ball and chain. I did what most people would do in these circumstances: I went for it.

First order of business was to adjust his name. His Colorado Animal Rescue form said his name was “Chip.” Well Chip had already been in two shelters and was headed back to CARE when I stepped in so I changed his name from the unlucky Chip to the much happier, hipper and luckier, “Chooch.”

The late Jim Calaway, my dear friend and one of the founders of CARE loved Chooch at first sight and gave him too many treats every time we’d visit. Turned him into a beggar. Spoiler alert!

One of the reasons Chooch was rejected by his host family was because Chooch relentlessly pursued their two cats. Now that I’ve had him for a few years I can affirm that his cat obsession is one of his personality flaws. He recently went after a big Fraser tomcat named “Hank”and they ended up rolling on the floor like a tumbleweed in a windstorm. They had to be pried apart. Chooch was unscathed but could have easily lost an eye or two in the encounter. I would have been the first to bet against him.

Come to think of it Chooch will scamper after almost any animal. From a mouse to a moose, a beaver to a bear, a duck to a deer, a cow to a crane, a skunk to a snake, he’s all in. The first day I brought him home he chased a goose across the grass and went flying off a four-foot embankment right into the Crystal River. He never catches anything and the goose was no exception. He found a skunk and pestered it till it sprayed him. Then he did it again a day later. Chooch lives in the moment.

I used to joke that Chooch had the “softest lips in town,” because he’d get at my lip balm and chew it open. He stopped doing that for some reason. He makes up for it with some pretty bad habits, which have earned him the nickname of “Mr. Rotten.”

I suppose his worst personality trait is his bark. He barks enthusiastically when he sees someone he likes. It only goes for about thirty seconds but not everyone appreciates his passion, even when it’s motivated by pure joy. He often does this with his outdoor voice even when he’s indoors. Listen to KFFR and you can sometimes catch him greeting a vistor. Mr. Rotten.

He doesn’t like being left alone. I leave him alone only when absolutely necessary and for the shortest possible time. I consider Mr. Rotten’s feelings pretty much any time I plan to do anything. If he can’t come along I’m less likely to do it. I try to find someone for him to hang out with even when I’m only going to be out for a few hours.

He’s kind of rotten but he’s what I’ve got. I think he loves me and I hope it’s true. He sure acts like it when I rub his soft belly on the bed. I put on the rubber booties and we cut loose in the Experimental Forest. Sometimes I have to use elevated tones to get him to come but that’s the way he is. I suspect that other dog rescuers also overlook the little flaws and see devotion and love looking back from the sweetest eyes.

Steve Skinner is a sucker for Chooch. Reach him at