SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) – In 1964, a white German Shepherd scratched the doors of a house at 701 East 11th St. in Scottsbluff.
Three years earlier, seven of the eleven members of the Martinez family were staying at a hotel in Sacramento, California as they tried to plan their next steps west after leaving Scottsbluff. They took their white German Shepherd named Chinook with them.
While Chinook was a family dog, a Martinez brother, Antonio, had the deepest connection with him. He spent three of his teenage years looking after, playing with, and raising the dog, often with his brother Rick.
“He liked Chinook too. And it was, he and I played with Chinook the whole time. So there were always three of us, ”he told the Star Herald. “But for me it was a personal thing with Chinook. He was my dog by heart. He was also a family dog by heart, for everyone else too. But for me I accepted that with myself, he was my friend and he was – he was Chinook, the white German Shepherd. And the one dog that I (will) love until the day I die. “
Therefore, Antonio was devastated when Chinook deviated from his walk with Antonio’s sister in Sacramento that fateful night.
“We advertise, we call the media, we checked back and forth,” he said. “Nothing from the dog. Nobody heard anything. Nobody knew anything. “
After a long search, the Martinez family finally felt that they had to accept that Chinook was gone for good. The seven family members eventually stayed in Sacramento with a glimmer of hope in the back of their minds that one day they would get a call from someone saying they had found a white German shepherd.
Of course, they expected the call from someone in or around Sacramento – not someone over 1,400 miles away.
Three years later, Scottsbluff’s Calvin Freouf called Ben Martinez, one of the family members who stayed behind but lived in a different house in Scottsbluff. Freouf was a neighbor of the Martinez family before they left the house, and it was he who spotted the white German Shepherd dog sniffing around Martinez’s old house in March 1964.
Ben went over immediately. When he got there he shouted “Chinook!” and the dog came leaping to him. He responded to his name and several orders from Ben. He even seemed to recognize Ben’s son, Ben Jr., who was only two years old when Chinook left Scottsbluff for Sacramento.
Somehow, Chinook managed to wander half the country through desert, mountains, and more to get home.
When the rest of the Martinez family, who had been on the first California trip, received the news that Chinook was back, they couldn’t believe it. Antonio, who had since moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the military and now worked for a brokerage firm, jumped on the next flight to see his long-lost pup.
“To this day we wonder what really brought him back with all those miles. (It) could have been the family members – some were missing, only seven of us were there. And maybe he missed mom, maybe he wanted to make himself more comfortable, ”he said almost 60 years later. “But through mountains and rivers and wild animals, no food, no water and people who pick it up and don’t know whether it would live or die. I don’t know how he did it. “
Antonio told the Star Herald that as soon as he saw his dog, he hugged him as if he would never let go of him. But at some point he would have to. Chinook’s trip told Antonio that he belonged in Scottsbluff, so Chinook spent the rest of his days with Ben’s family.
Chinook’s journey received national and international media attention, including numerous magazines and newspapers, a publication of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” and a 2013 book entitled “Vierbeinige Wunder” by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger.
Eight years later, the day after Christmas, Ben Jr. found Chinook dead by a pond near her home. He was in poor health and had recently migrated from home, likely dying, the family thought.
For Antonio, Chinook couldn’t leave the world without doing something to preserve his legacy. In 1982, with the help of the Panhandle Humane Society, friends and the community, he erected a memorial in honor of the dog at the Panhandle Humane Society. The memorial was donated by a dog-loving Milwaukee memorial owner who knew about Antonio to a friend.
“He says, ‘I’ll do it for you. I have a 1,800 pound granite stone or whatever … in the warehouse that had a bug and it should go to someone because I can erase all of these prints and put new letters and any type of epitaph you would like. ‘”Remembered Antonio. “‘Tell Tony to give me what he wants there.'”
After Antonio sent him the words for the memorial, he sent it to Scottsbluff.
“His generosity was so amazing that he offered to deliver it from Milwaukee to Scottsbluff, whether it came by train, plane, or truck, but he made it,” said Antonio. “He says, ‘I’m going to do this for you because I love dogs and I love this story.'”
The memorial still stands today on the southeast corner of the Panhandle Humane Society on S. Beltline Highway West 126.
Antonio recently visited the memorial for this special dog with his son Ricardo.
Antonio said he had other dogs since Chinook, most of whom were also white German Shepherds, but none of them came close to the same bond he had with his childhood best friend.
That’s why Antonio wants the legend of Chinook to live on. As the memorial reads, “Chinook’s three-year journey gives added meaning to the concept of man’s best friend.”
When asked if he ever had a similar connection with another dog as he did with Chinook, Antonio said, “Never.”
“I felt closest to what I felt in my heart,” he said. “… He was loving. He was that dog you just wanted to hug all the time because you thought he was a protector. All of these things are with you.
“I just loved him.”