Chi-Town Chicken Bones


A year ago today, I was in Chicago. Lovely city.

Libby - Lake Michigan

Determined to swim Lake Michigan. July 7, 2011

With it only being day three of “THE TRIP”  however, we were still in shake down mode. I’m not talking about robbing someone nor being robbed, I’m talking about learning how to navigate things like pooping in public, (her, not me)  going to off leash parks and how to prevent her from choking to death on same damn old chicken bone. It would be a challenging, yet pivotal, two days.

I’d had one of those oh shit moments just a few days before we rolled out of St. Louis when my able assistant, Whitney, sent me the list of dog parks in every city in which I planned to travel. “This looks great!” I told her and thanked her profusely since I wasn’t paying anybody a dime to help me. I set down the phone and then panicked. “What if Libby doesn’t like off leash parks?”

She had never been to one. Darn, minor detail. I called up Wayne, who owns the Tree Court Dog Park in St. Louis he said bring her by for a test run. Wayne comes out to meet Libby and I, which is really like an entrance exam to see if they’ll socialize well with other dogs, a lot like getting your kid into a fancy pre-school. Libby was totally chill. She got to take the next step and it was a big one; to be allowed into the whole off-leash area, where there were probably ten dogs scattered across a huge, wooded park. She took off like a bullet!

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I had never seen her run so hard and so fast! It was exciting and emotional to see her romping with other dogs, with unbridled freedom, placing her golden Libby self, smack dab in the thick of things, dashing off to follow this one here, chase that one there, bounding after squirrels with no fear of being shocked into whimpering disappointment. It was actually quite thrilling.

Chicago was a whole ‘nother lake full of fish. Thank God, I decided to snap her lead back on, even though I just let her drag it along behind her, because when I opened the gate to the sandy dog beach alongside Lake Michigan, she took off for Canada!  I’m running along behind her, yelling, “Stop that dog! Stop that dog!”

Why? Because it was wide open. There was a rickety fence at both ends of the dog section of the beach, but there was a full 50 yards of open sand from where the last fence slat left off and the waves began and Libby was determined to thread that needle!

Bayshore Dog Beach - Chicago

“Stop that dog! Stop that dog!”
Bayshore Dog Beach, Chicago, July 2011

I caught up with her when a Great Dane caught her attention for a hot minute. I stomped on her leash and nabbed her wet, tongue wagging self. I had just stopped shuddering from the fear of losing her, when, as we were crossing through a public park to get to our car, she seized upon a drumstick in the grass. This is NOT splendor in the grass, it’s a damn nuisance! And so began, an 8,600 mile treacherous journey through the IEDs of chicken bones which litter our nation like landmines.


The Real Enemy Among Us
Winslow, AZ, August 13, 2011

My friend Pam in Chicago, probably knows how to avoid the pitfalls of prying open a dog’s locked jaw wrapped around a gnarly ol’ peice of chicken, because Pam is a professional dog walker now! I introduced to you Pam last summer.  She and her husband Bob are good friends from St. Louis who moved to Chicago after their birds had flown the coop. Their son Joe (who is BFF with my son Pat) had already moved there for culinary school and now Joe’s at a fabulous restaurant called L2O and Pam is enjoying a new leash on life. (Okay, sorry, just had to….)

Pam and her dog Charlotte

Pam with her steady client, Charlotte
Chicago, July 5, 2012

When last reported, Pam had just started radiation and chemo for breast cancer. It was such a bummer, because they had JUST moved to Chicago, had bought this super cool townhouse in Boy’s Town and they were diving, head first into life after kids with zero lawn care. That’s when Pam was diagnosed. But I’m happy to report, I just talked with her yesterday and she’s doing great, loving life, not sure how to handle what is now her curly hair after it grew back, and she’s walking dogs.

“I was working out in my little patch of green space,” Pam told me over the phone, where she’d answered it from her girlfriend’s pool in Indianapolis. They had been to a concert the night before, girls’ weekend, don’t ya know. “And this woman walks by with all these dogs and I said, ‘hey, if you’re ever in need of another walker, let me know.'”

Within days the lady called her back. Pam says she’s not surprised that her “boss” Catherine needs help. The North side of Chicago reportedly has the highest dog population in all of Illinois. (Don’t ask me how they come up with that little statistic, as if the dogs report in, right?) Now, this is funny that Pam’s a dog walker she and Bob only have cats, have had only cats for years. But, Pam, who hails from North Carolina said she was raised around dogs.

“So, now I get my dog fix,” she says. “I work about ten to twelve hours a week, it’s great exercise. I get around town, and you know, it’s funny, people will talk to you when you’ve got a dog.”

Yep. From coast-to-coast, they will.

Pop's Deli - Philadelphia

Mom at Pop’s Deli
Philadelphia, PA – July 12, 201

Golden Gate Raptor Observatory Members

Golden Gate Raptor Observatory Members
San Francisco, CA, August 22, 2011



About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. I’m chomping at the bit to get my hands on your book.

  2. Great story today. So glad your friend is doing well and even has a new career.

  3. Great story today and so glad your friend Pam is recovered and even has a new career.

  4. David Allen says:

    Good news about your friend Pam. Dog walking is one of the best things in the world. I love walking here in St. Louis, you see so much of the details of the city. I’m sure it’s the same for Pam in Chicago. Old cities have so much to offer up close, the architecture, peoples personal touches with their yards. With a dog as your companion, the world awaits. Go Pam!

    • Yes, there is certainly something to be said about getting out of the car and getting down to the pedestrian level — all the things you’re anesthetized to when you’re in a closed up car, like the aroma of dumpsters in urban alleys, internal temperature, 9,000 degrees. :)