Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Our Travels with Charlie Come to a Close
The first time I saw Charlie, I was standing on the steps of the Matheson Courthouse at 600 South in Salt Lake City. She was hanging her chocolate head out of the backseat of our Subaru. Brigham had picked her up from a pound in Spanish Fork earlier that day, promising me on the phone that he had found, after 6 weeks of dog-shopping, The Dog for us. He was right.
Charlie was a bit wilder after arriving home than she felt free to reveal during her walk at the pound with Brigham. The endearing, and trying, thing about Charlie was simply that she never wanted to be alone. She loved people so much. All she wanted in life was to chase balls and be with people.
During the first week--it may have even been the first full day of dog ownership--I returned home from work to find my house in such a state that I thought someone had broken in and committed acts of violence. This was just from the outside, too. The wood blinds were broken and I could see a tilted lampshade. Of course, it was just poor Charlie, nervous to be on her own with all the blinds drawn (so as not to loose heat out the 100 year old windows).
My life in Salt Lake revolved around Charlie in a very real way. We lived three blocks from the dog park. That is where I could be found every evening. In the six weeks btwn ending my clerkship and Andrew's birth, Charlie was my constant companion. We would start our day at Liberty Park, throwing the ball up that big hill by the water. August until October 17th. Even at the time, when I thought I had another decade left with that sweet dog, I thought it was such a beautiful picture: Charlie's shiny chocolatey self against the vibrant grass. I wish I had taken a photo.
After Andrew was born, Charlie took a backseat. It was hard, and she was jealous. But we never had to worry about her posing a threat to our kids. Andrew loved her and she allowed him to crawl all over her, pull her fur and tail and ears with total abandon. The first words that I knew my sons understood were "Charlie" and "doggie." The first thing both boys did in their babyhood was play with the dog from the side of our bed. All I had to do was say "doggie!" or "Charlie!" and my babies would stop fussing and start looking down at the ground, trying to find their beloved little animal.
Andrew's love for Charlie waned a bit when he got older and would occassionally get knocked down by our exuberant dog. No matter how old she got, she really still acted like a puppy. I think it led us to believe she was indescructable, both to injury and to time.
She was tough. Once, I witnessed another dog lunge at her and seem to bite her. She gave out a very distressed yelp, but then just trotted on back to our house. Brigham discovered, hours later, that she actually had an enormous hole in her side that required many stiches (and about $600) to close. He had been throwing the ball to her in the park and noticed that she would walk back to him. That was how she showed injury.
When we first moved back to Va, my dad and I would bring Charlie with us on every outing we took with Andrew. I think we went to the McLean library just about every day that fall. Charlie would chase the ball while Andrew tottered around on the playground equipment.
Everything we did, Charlie sort of fit herself into. My favorite thing to do is simply go on walks. My parents live on a dead-end street with a bike-trail, so walks with the boys and Charlie were just what we did, multiple times a day. When I would sit at the computer, Charlie lay underneath at my feet. The chairs around our dining room table even today are disturbed by the last time she scrambled out from her favorite resting place when she heard the word "walk." I am still stepping widely to get in and out of bed. That is where she slept, and it is where my senses still think she is. Where they know she in all rights should still be.
Last Friday, I took her outside with Andrew and I so I could brush her and just let her hang out with us while Will slept. The kids next door were thrilled and had a great time playing catch with her. She kept at it for at least an hour before refusing to go on with it. This didn't seem too unusual; it was hot and even Charlie can get worn out eventually.
An hour later, inside, I discovered she had gotten sick in our basement while she lay next to the boys. The only alarm it raised was for the carpet. We didn't really start to think something was truly wrong and in need of medical attention until the next day. By then it was just too late. We still don't know if she ate poison or if she picked up a bacteria called Leptospirosa. I am trying to keep myself from wondering when it was, how it was, that she came into contact with something that was stronger than she was.
Charlie really was the best dog I have ever known. She loved us, was devoted to us. You couldn't even scold her for her minor infractions because it just hurt her feelings beyond the severity of the offense.
It has taken me a month to get back to my blog because it hurt my heart too much to finish this post about Charlie, and yet I didn't feel that I could write anything more until I wrote about her.
I still think about Charlie every day and miss her. I try to battle the feeling that her little life was wasted on us. She was such a happy and devoted dog. She infused some of that enthusiasm in our own lives, getting us out the door multiple times a day to go on walks.
The few times I have had the heart to make that familiar walk down Old Falls and the bike trail since her passing, I have realized how much she added to those little jaunts. Somehow, it just isn't as satisfying when there isn't that big happy brown dog running up ahead to get her ball and then lying in the grass, waiting for us to catch up. I like to think that, though it may be a long wait, that is exactly what she is doing now.