If you’ve done much exploring around the backroads and four-wheel-drive trails of Arizona in the last few years, odds are you’ll remember at some point noticing a silver Jeep Wrangler being led by a black lab mix with a white chest patch, either trotting along at a good pace on a dirt road or scrambling up a 4+ obstacle. This was Brian DeArmon’s Cherokee, who for a decade served as companion and canine overland ambassador extraordinaire. Cherokee got along with just about any human, any dog, and any thing—with the notable exception of scale RC models, which she despised and attempted to forcibly disassemble whenever one dared to buzz through a group camp.
She also had a fine-tuned sense of diplomacy. Most other dogs she would bound right up to, tail wagging. But at a camp six or seven years ago, when our border collie Rob was old, half-blind and deaf, and frightened of other dogs, we watched Cherokee gallop up to the margin of our site, then wait, tail wagging, until Rob noticed her. She then tiptoed in slowly, still wagging, until Rob was able to take full measure of her and relax. This, we realized, was a dog that grasped senility.
As she got older and grayer, Cherokee’s extra-vehicular excursions became fewer and shorter, and she got used to riding in the cab of Brian’s Dodge pickup, to be lowered to the ground where she could wander around camp with just as much joie de vivre but a bit more dignity.
There will be an empty space in those camps from now on. Cherokee RIP. And say hello to Rob for us.