29 September 2012

Goodbye Charlie

Charlie came to us as a rescue dog at the end of 1996. He was a tiny fur ball covered with old flea bites and he was quite stand-offish. We were told he had been found abandoned in a cardboard box in a parking lot somewhere in Tulsa, OK.
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He was quite scrawny when we adopted him.

I don't know what happened to him in his very early life to make him the way he was, but it can't have been good. He scared easily and that never changed, even after years with us, he often still cringed when somebody reached out to pet him. When scared, he became aggressive and had to wear a muzzle every time we went to the vet with him.
I wonder if he tastes good.

 We used to call him our "***hole meter" - he seemed to be able to weed out the bad guys. Or, maybe, he just didn't like anybody but family. But, on the way home from the ER vet last night, we went over the list of guys he growled at and came to realize that we didn't like those much ourselves.
Having been kind of distant when we first got him, he quickly became attached to me - obviously, I spent more time with him than anybody else, and he quickly became my shadow (or I became "his human") and followed me everywhere, including climbing into bed with me. L used to say he'd crawl into my socks if he could. He also fancied himself a lap dog and, once he was fully grown, that wasn't such a good thing.
Charlie loved toys and when he came to live with us, all the doggie toys became his, never mind that Maggie had been there before him. The toys were HIS. He would boldly march up to her and take things away and she came to have this resigned look on her face, "There goes that little butthead again."
Not such a captive audience.
I remember the first Christmas, we had bought toys for both dogs and, of course, wrapped them. Maggie tore into the wrapping of hers, but Charlie carefully picked up his packages and dropped them all in his little dog bed, he did that with all his toys. And not just his toys, some of my Christmas presents magically appeared under the mattress in his dog bed, a little worse for wear.
We never quite knew what breed he was, obviously, there was Shepherd in him, maybe Chow, but he was smaller than either of those two breeds, but he definitely had that herding instinct. Whenever Maggie became too aggressive, he'd insert himself between her and us and try to steer her away.
There were fights with Maggie, quite a few of them in the early years, and, in the very beginning, we could not leave them alone. In the beginning, it could have been jealousy, but later, the fights tended to be about food.
I know there are treats in there.
Both Charlie and Maggie could climb 6 ft. fences, but, unlike Maggie who was intent on escaping, he only jumped because we were on the other side and he wanted to be with us. Definitely a family dog, and a one-family dog at that.
He loved car rides. When things got too crazy at home, I'd pack him into my car and we'd go off exploring and he seemed to realize that it was a privilege that I took him along and would sit as still as a statue in the passenger seat. 
He had always been in ruddy good health until shortly after Maggie died when he developed old dog vestibular syndrome and stopped eating for a while and slimmed down considerably (for the first time in a long time he had a real waist). We hadn't quite realized until that time that he had been eating Maggie's food for quite a while.
Even though he mostly recovered from his illness and started eating again properly, he always leaned a bit to the left side, especially when going down stairs.
Earlier this year, he developed a spinal problem. The vet recommended just watching and waiting, any procedure could easily have shortened his life and we had another 6 months. It had gotten worse recently, but the warmer days seemed to do him good. Yesterday's vet visit really did him in, though, he couldn't get his hind legs under him and was clearly frustrated by his inability to get up.
I wasn't ready to let him go that afternoon, but realized, as the evening went on, that I hadn't done him any favors. 
He'll be with Maggie (and Henry) again now, hopefully, as a healthy version of himself and I hope he'll protect Henry from Maggie's wildness the way he used to do.

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