A Girl and Her Dog

Sometimes I tell Mike the only reason I feel like fate had us move to California was to find our sweet dogs.  When we moved to Santa Barbara, way back in 2008, we had just gotten married and graduated from college.  Dogs had, for the most part, been in my life and I knew that I would want to get a dog with Mike.  We first found sweet Bear in a shelter and adopted him in September 2008.  Although I love Bear to the moon and back, I really wanted to get another dog…another companion for me and one for Bear.  Mike was actually away on a business trip when I found Charlie on craigslist…yes, craigslist.  His family had a whopping total of 8 dogs and were “getting rid” of the bigger dogs.  They posted a quick ad for 2 labrador retrievers and another big dog and said if the dogs weren’t taken away soon they would be dropped off at the pound.

I immediately called this family, not even thinking of asking Mike “um, hey, would you want to get another dog?”

One of the labs, a female, was already spoken for, but the male was still available.  I hustled up to where they lived, about an hour from where we were.  On the phone, I was told this dog was roughly 65 pounds.  Having experienced a lie before about a dogs weight, I was prepared for a 75-80 pound dog.

When I walked up to their door, I could just barely see inside a front window…and oh boy, the dog I could see bounding around, actually hear him running around was much much much bigger than a 65 pound dog.  They invited me in and right away I knew I had to adopt Charlie.  Not like there was any doubt in my mind, but oh, this dog loved.  And he loved hard and well.  Standing in the doorway, I guessed he was about 95 pounds but I really didn’t care.  I took him home and a few days later we had our first Thanksgiving with Charlie.  He and Bear had about 2 or 3 “run-ins” at feeding time while Bear established who was the boss, but after that, they got along.  Charlie was only 3 years old when we adopted him and we soon found out he weighed in at a crazy 105 pounds.  We didn’t care…even when he stretched out and took up most of the space on the bed or the couch or even when camping in a tent.  He was the best bed warmer, the best dog to go on a run with, the best dog to cuddle with, the best dog to get a kiss from, the best dog fetcher, the best squirrel chaser, the best dog to go to the beach with, the best dog to camp with…

On the last day of July, I took Charlie to our vet because he started limping the day before.  Knowing he must be in pain, I didn’t want to let it drag on so I took the first appointment I could get.  In hind sight, I realize now that the vet knew right away what was going on, and for the most part, I am a very observant person.  But that day, I was completely oblivious and certainly not thinking the worst.  So when she came back into the room, after running some tests with tears in her eyes, I was surprised.  Still, somehow, not understanding that something was wrong.  We found out Charlie had an osteosarcoma in his leg, which is bone cancer.  It’s a super aggressive cancer and dogs will usually mask all symptoms except for the occasional limping, as the pain is intermittent in the beginning.

Stupidly, I was still thinking Charlie could survive this, so when the vet told me there is no cure I was beyond upset realizing that this was it with Charlie.  Over the next 7 weeks, which ended up being much longer than we thought we would have with Charlie, we just spent time with him in his favorite ways…cuddling on the couch, sitting outside in the sun, laying on the deck.  When the weekend of September 15th rolled around, we knew it was time, so we scheduled his “Final Kindness” appointment for that Monday.  Dog owners will understand this, but it’s so weird how they know.  They know when it’s time and they are so graceful about it.

I sort of feel like I have a hole in my heart.  I’m so happy we have Bear at his ripe old age of 11 1/2, oh, but we miss Charlie so.  Even though we didn’t have him for quite 3 years, I still think he’s going to be standing at the door when I come home, or laying on my feet when I wake up because they’re so numb, or that when I drop something on the floor he’ll come running or when we’re cooking, but he’s not there with his drool hanging to the floor.

Dogs…they really are just the best.  There’s a reason why they’re called “Man’s Best Friend.”

In Mendocino with Bear and Charlie (before it was all said and done we figured out that Charlie had been to 27 states with us along with Vancouver and Montreal, Canada.  Bear is an old hat at the traveling game and has been to 44 states (plus Canada trips).  Bear and Charlie=best road trippin’ dogs a girl could ever ask for.

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I could always find Charlie lounging on something…a bed (human bed) whether it was our bed or a guest bed, the couch, or one of his many dog beds or even clean/dirty laundry.  He had been known a time or two to pull clean sheets and towels out of a laundry basket and cuddle into as tiny a ball as he possibly could on the laundry.  It was one of those things that I just never got mad about because it was so cute.  Charlie was also a big fan of pulling your pillows with his teeth wherever he needed it.  Often times I woke up in the morning and rolled over to say “Good Morning” to Mike when really it was Charlie laying next to me with his head on Mike’s pillow…oh that dog!

Laying on the guest bed.  Putting things on the bed to keep him off didn’t dissuade Charlie…he would just move things to get where he needed to go.

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The day I found out he had cancer….

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