Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy 12th birthday Charlee

My girl Charlee is my best freind.She and I go  together like comfortable shoes. Not the slipper kind mind you, Charlee is more like the kind of shoe you wear on adventure hikes.

In my line of work, I hear a lot of sad stories of loss. People get new puppies and share with me tales of their dogs. Often times, my clients bring me to tears. There was even the time that I was in the home of a brand spanking new puppy, and I was corralled into watching the tribute video of their dead dog.  I can't even think of it and not cry. What a labor of love that was.

My Dad has a scrapbook he put together when my childhood Golden Ginger died. I can't even look at the cover. I did the same for my dog Dina.

The thing that I have come away with after seeing and hearing first hand so much loss is that yes we love the dogs, of course.

                                                          Our dogs are markers of time.
Dina took me through my late 20's into marriage and the birth of my first two kids. We moved three times, and she was my rock when my oldest son was born with a complex heart defect and nearly died. Dina was my constant and best friend, as I nursed Max to health for his first rocky years. Dina kept me sane and led me to the path of professorial dog training. To her, I am forever grateful.

When Charlee came along I was in a give back mode. I told the rescue " I can handle anything you have as long as the dog will leave my old sick dog alone, and can be OK with kids." I had no idea what I was getting into. I have never met a more reactive dog than young Charlee. Hindsight being 20/20, East Boston was the worst place that Charlee could have grown up. There was dogs everywhere. We had no yard and she was flooded by dogs constantly. Charlee was in well over her comfort level all the time. The things I learned from Charlee, came along way before the current reactive dog books did.

The knowledge I learned from Charlee about training and managing a reactive dog was priceless.

Charlee embarrassed me , and humbled me in public a little more often than I care to admit. With Charlee, I learned many lessons, most importantly the lesson of time, and when to back off. I learned that it was OK to help my  dog live her  life the best I  could, and not one that I had mapped out in my head. With Charlee
I learned to ask myself the question "who are doing this for, you or the dog?" With Charlee, once I backed off from expectations and listened to what my dog was telling me, everything changed for the better. A hard, but very important lesson it is.  Many people  never learn it.

We don't know Charlee's actual birthday, but August seemed likely. One of the reasons she landed at my house was that my last two dogs had August 19th birthdays. Dog people often (or always!) give random things meanings and look for "signs." Charlee came to us with "signs" that may or may not have held any water at all. We don't care, never have, never will. Charlee is my comfortable adventure shoe, maybe more my dog than any dog I have ever had. She and I have that special some thing --- that invisible thread that ties us together. I have no idea how it is possible that my wild child turned twelve years old. Time sure seems to move faster as we age.

Charlee and I have traveled a long rocky road. Charlee saw me through the birth of my last kid, a move to Maine, a failing marriage and divorce -- the rearing of my three kids. We all wonder how much time Charlee has left. Her tumor toe has not gotten any worse and her energy level and certainly her appetite (bad dog who steals things bad!) are excellent. If you didn't know she was 12 and didn't see her hair loss and poor coat, you would suspect she was about 6 years old. I have no regrets about not amputating her toes and if she continues to thrive, I will revisit the possibility before winter.

My kids and I have given Charlee a great summer (sans foster dogs which she could have totally done without) , and each and every time I see her joy at the beach or in the woods, I know I made the right choice.

Dogs after all do live in the moment, and her moments strung together have been wonderful.

Happy birthday best friend, and old adventure shoe dog. Thanks for the journey.

Top photo credit Jared Charney


KathyF said...

What a sweet tribute. It's our pets who get us through whatever life throws at us, and it sounds like you got extra special dogs to get you through some especially hard times. Give her a big hug and a walk on the beach from me!

Jenny Ruth Yasi said...

Beautiful photographs too! One nice thing about Charlee is that she is really distinctive. It would be hard to confuse her for someone else. The other day I saw a girl walking a bichon who looked a lot like, scratch that, EXACTLY like Dandylion. I remarked and explained and asked to pet the dog, who acted NOTHING like Dandylion and I burst into big embarrassing snotty loud tears! Love and loss go together in so many ways. Can't have one without the other. We get beat up by it, but in good ways. I guess we're just supposed to go for it.
ps I dug a hole for Lassie two or three years before she died. We kept expecting, "this will be her last winter," and so we were prepared, but she'd rally and get better, then have some sort of episode, and then rally. She died when she was 17 years old! But she'd been threatening to die for years!!! It's great that you are enjoying special times with Charlee. We can only live and love in the present.

MelF said...

Well, this tribute brought me to tears. How beautiful a tribute it is Nancy. Wow. I loved the pictures, especially the last one, but what I loved most was hearing Charlee's story and the progress you have made over time. I may be wrong, but sometimes I think the dogs who touch us most end up teaching US something. Charlee is an amazing and beautiful dog. Timeless.

gooddogz said...

Thanks. Yasi, One of the reasons I got Charlee was that she didn't look like any dog I knew. I don't know how people keep getting the same type of dog. I had a next door neighbor who kept black Shepherds and named them all Dukie. WTH? I know just what you mean about seeing a Bichon that looked like your dog byt wasn't. I made a Beeline to see a BC that was at the ARL last month that looked a lot like Dina, and when I got here, I cried, but you know what, the dog was nothing like her. Nope.