He was just four weeks old when he came to us, one of a large litter of extra-large puppies that an exhausted mama pup simply stopped nursing. My daughter-in-law called me in tears to ask if we could take our designated puppy two weeks early. Of course I said yes. And so Charley came home to us. He never quite got over that first glitch — always needing to be near us and frequently “nursing” on his dog bed all throughout his life.
But he was all heart, our Charley. All heart.
He watched over the grandchildren as they played. He went so far as to kill our rooster when it ran after an unsuspecting child in our yard one Mother’s Day. He didn’t mean to kill it, but he wasn’t going to have it attack a child either.
One early morning Charley came to get me out of bed, and he wouldn’t stop fussing until I got up and followed him to the TV room, where my husband lay on the couch so deathly ill that I immediately drove him to the ER. Charley knew, and he knew just what to do.
He loved to play fetch, only slowing down this past winter when, unbeknownst to us, he started his final battle with the kidney disease — or perhaps it was cancer — that finally took him today. We will never know because we didn’t want a post-mortem done. That he became seriously ill was enough to know. That there was no hope was evident in the blood test.
Charley had large, expressive brown eyes. He loved to “boop” us with his big black nose. He tattled to me when Daddy didn’t provide him any of the delicious leftover steak that was being put away in the refrigerator. He vocalized whenever Tim and I embraced. He barked at every delivery driver that ever came to our door. He loved his friends, and everybody was his friend.
Two weeks ago he developed a mysterious abscess on his back paw. Out of nowhere his paw swelled up to twice its size within the space of about four hours. I was so freaked that we called the after hours vet on a Saturday night to have it seen to immediately. It took a few days of antibiotics and a surgical lancing and draining, but it healed. The cause was unknown, and after it healed, Charley seemed to be back to his old self. But then he became listless. Finally he wouldn’t eat. 48 hours of strong antibiotics yielded a brief rally, but then he sank down even further. The vet did a blood panel and found kidney failure.
During that one miracle day that he rallied, he ate scrambled eggs with gusto and got himself up on the couch for a while. As I was reading before bed, he came over to greet me with a ‘boop’ before settling down in his usual sleeping space on the floor immediately next to my side of the bed. I hoped we were on an upward trajectory.
But it was not to be. He was much, much worse the next day, and our options went down to just one. Euthanasia.
So tonight I’ve wandered around our little farm, seeing Charley in every vista and around every corner, hearing the jingle of his collar as if he were really walking with me. Of all the dogs I’ve had in my life, Charley will stay deep within me. I was his Mama, and that was that.
Such a good boy.