To this point in our marriage, we had been cat people, which suited a more transient and citified lifestyle. Now, we were in dog country. My mother-in-law had a lab that we were fond of; I was partial to the idea of a rescue; and my LSH wanted a female, preferably black. We started scouring petfinder.org for black female labs, but I came across a face that caught my eye: a male golden retriever/Brittany spaniel cross, somewhere between three and five years old.
My LSH was bemused. "Really? That dog? That has to be one of the ugliest dogs I've ever seen!"
Primo, then age 6, saw the picture differently. "That's it. That's our dog." We pointed out that we wouldn't know until we visited him at the rescue, but he was undeterred. "Nope! I know he's our dog."
When we went to the kennel and they let Charlie out to meet us, he ran right to our side and sat down as if he knew as well. The fosters were surprised; they claimed he hadn't had that reaction to anyone else. True or not, he came home with us. He marched right up to the front door as if he already lived in the place.
Primo reading to Charlie, 2003
Secondo & Charlie, 2004
As with all dogs, Charlie had his pros and cons. He was an inveterate garbage hound, and until his hips weakened, a committed counter surfer as well. He was a terrible leash puller, and broke Primo's finger before Primo learned that you never, ever, wrap a dog's leash around your hand. He did not tolerate strange dogs anywhere near the farm, much to the disappointment of people who wanted to bring their dogs to visit and run around.
Raiding the tomato sauce leftovers, 2006
But he was a good and loyal dog to our family. He never wandered off the farm. Once he was here, it was home. He did a regular patrol of the perimeter, every night, to make sure that no undesirables got the wrong idea. He was a great front door alarm, if perhaps a little too enthusiastic, but unfailingly kind to friends and family, especially kids, though he would steal food out of their hands if they were a little too inattentive.
At Terzo's high chair, 2004
For reasons unknown, he decided I was his person. Until he could no longer negotiate the stairs, he slept under or next to my side of the bed. He pined for me when I was gone, waiting near the front window until I returned. If I was out working in poor weather, he stayed out with me, at least in his younger days. Wherever I was in the house, he was close by. He hated when I cleaned as he had to keep moving around; he was much happier when I was sitting in one place working on some project or another.
Snoozing while I spun, 2005
We got Dusty a little over three years ago, because it seemed that Charlie was approaching the end of his days. He had lost interest in his food and other joys, but he rallied after Dusty arrived. His contempt for Dusty—though he was never outright mean to Dusty, Dusty kowtowed to Charlie as the alpha dog—revived his interest in food and toys, if for no other reason than to keep them away from Dusty. They eventually enjoyed a companionship of sorts, and relied on each other in subtle ways.
Dusty's arrival in 2008;
Charlie was NOT amused
This past year, though, Charlie had been more markedly slowing down. His back hips were getting weaker, and he had trouble getting up and down stairs. His breathing had become more labored due to incurable laryngeal paralysis, and he spent most of his time dozing the hours away. His eyesight and hearing were obviously dimmer. He still greeted his meals with great enthusiasm, however, and sounded the alarm every time Dusty alerted him to someone at the door. We knew his time was growing short, but he hadn't given us any definitive sign that it was up.
Christmas Day 2011;
still interested in what Santa left in his stocking
We departed for a long weekend this past Thursday evening. On Friday afternoon, I received a frantic call from our friend Val, who was graciously pet-sitting. Charlie had collapsed outside shortly after she let him out that afternoon. She was stunned, as he was his usual self that morning. She managed to get him into her truck and to our wonderful vet, but it was obvious to all: he was at the point of no return, and it was time to let him go.
I will always regret that I wasn't there with him, to tell him what a good dog he had been to us. Rest in peace, my devoted friend.