"I'd cut love out of my heart if I ever didn’t get him back...He’s what gives me life. Love in my life. My happiness...When I don’t have him there will always be something wrong”
Steven sits at an intersection in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle with Chewie curled up and sleeping soundly on his lap. Six years ago, Steven rescued Chewie in Venice Beach, CA when he was just a one year old pup. It didn't take long for Steven to realize that Chewie was completely blind, a fact that has made their story together all the more important. Steven tells me how much he's noticed Chewie's ability to utilize his other senses, especially sound and smells - "He understands human language," he notes. Steven refers to Chewie as his "cataract-ic acrobatic blind dog", calling out the jumps and flips and all manner of performance acts that Chewie will do in the name of a treat. "The first time I heard his puppy barks in his sleep I cried," Steven recalls.
Steven and Chewie have been on the road together since they first met, train hopping to 42 states. At the moment, Steven is in the final stages of having had his jaw wired shut after he was hit by someone. Having been in Seattle for five months already at this point, the plan is to move down the coast after the wires come off his jaw. Fortunately, Steven was able to find a friend to watch Chewie during his reconstructive surgery.
At age 13, Steven went to juvie for 3.5 years - "I was born disappointed in a lot of people", he tells me. Drinking made his aggression worse, and he stopped almost four years ago. Before Chewie came into his life, Steven described himself as short-nerved, anxious, and easily tempted, but that started to change through their relationship. Having Chewie alongside him during the detox process was incredibly helpful for him. These days, Steven says he'd never do anything that might land him in jail because it would mean losing Chewie: "I have to consider consequences now for both of us. How will my behavior affect my dog?"
For food, Steven wants to prioritize Chewie's nutrition and will only offer him organic dog food, which he'll either buy from the store or receive as a donation from friends or strangers. From time to time Chewie will even fly his own sign for food and Steven mentions that Chewie has a great "spange face" ("spange" is slang for "spare changing") for these occasions. Vet care has been harder for them to come by with so much time spent on the road, but Chewie is registered and has had his vaccinations. "A shared clinic would be very helpful because then we could be together," he tells me.
Before I go, Steven tells me that "acknowledgement, love, food, recognition, and warmth" are Chewie's favorite things, "just like a human," he adds.