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RIP Charlie the Dog, 1995-2013.

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Aug. 10th, 2013 | 12:14 pm

On Thursday, two days ago, we put Charlie, our long time companion and beloved canine family member, to sleep. He was almost 18 years old.

We'd been talking about it for more than a year, but true to family form, he was too stubborn to give up. Despite severe arthritis, blindness, near-deafness, incontinence, bad teeth and a lack of bowel control, he kept going. He slowly wandered the house, settled on his favorite rug, wagged his tail and begged for treats. He would have bad days, strings of bad days, and Mom, Dad and I would convene, thinking it was finally time for him to go...and then the next day he'd be up and about as if he hadn't looked half dead the day before. Never was it clear that he really didn't want to hang around anymore.

Until the past couple weeks. He took a sudden downturn, no longer eating breakfast and sometimes even supper. For a dog that loved to eat, that was quite a shock! We realized walking all the way to his food dish just hurt too much. His teeth had also become unusable, and we had to give him nothing but soft food. Finally, a few days ago, he could barely stand. His back legs had long been badly arthritic, but now one of his front legs was so gnarled with arthritis that it was visibly twisted and he had trouble keeping weight on it. His mouth was in obvious pain, and he simply no longer wanted to move. We all discussed at the breakfast table that we should finally put him to sleep. My parents said 'after the party' (my brother and sister-in-law are visiting and we're having a party for them Sunday.) After breakfast, as my parents cleaned the dishes, I marched up and said no, we should put Charlie down tomorrow. I put my foot down like I rarely have before.

Because I just couldn't take watching him suffer anymore. There was no twinkle left in my poor dog's eye. I had to hand feed him. He would whine and howl for hours at night. He winced in pain at our touch. Charlie had always been a tough cookie, stubborn and eager and curious and joyous, but there was no question in my mind that he was finally done. The joys of his life were no longer worth the pains it took to acquire them. And I wasn't going to watch him lie around suffering, especially as the house filled with people trying to celebrate.

We went to Mystic Aquarium that day. Yes, it was an odd activity following a decision to put down one's beloved pet, but we had planned it ahead of time with my brother and sister-in-law, who are visiting from California. (This is our first time meeting my brother's wife, and we hadn't seen him in over a year.) I managed to enjoy myself with the whales and Spongebob movie and penguins, and took solace in the fact that Charlie would probably prefer some rest anyway.

Afterwards my sister visited, and we all sat with Charlie in the kitchen to say goodbye. Charlie lay on his side like a stone, his impotent back legs crossed, barely able to move and hardly interacting with us. When everyone went to bed, I fed him a hot dog roll, with great difficulty. Then I propped him into a sitting position so he could drink some water. I tried to make him comfortable, but no matter what position I put him in, he looked like he was in pain, his head drooping, his tail still. Upset, I finally left him half-sitting so he could reach his water and went to bed.

I insisted on taking him to the vet with Dad the next morning. I'd made up my mind long ago that I was going to see Charlie through to the end. After all the walks, all the late nights at my side, and because of the frustrated days when I didn't treat him as well as I should have, I was determined to see his life to a comfortable, loving close. I picked him up and held him in the short car ride to the vet. His little front paws clung to my arm and he rested his tired head on my shoulder. He had never done that in his life...just more evidence of how far gone he was.

Dad told me what to expect. In times like those, my father knows how to shine. I'm sure he would have loved to hold Charlie as well, but I think he knew how important it was to me. The vet brought over a chair and lay Charlie on my lap after the sedative was administered.

Slowly, I felt all the tension in his little body release as he sunk into my arms. I cooed to him that he had had a wonderful, long journey, and it was time to move on to the next one. A few tears escaped my eyes, but I also felt a tremendous sense of relief that my little buddy was no longer feeling pain. He looked more peaceful and at ease than...well, I couldn't remember since when. Soon he fell asleep and the tongue rolled out of his mouth. Still, I held it together.

The vet and my father lifted Charlie back onto the table and they administered the final shot. It was shockingly quick to me. He merely went from seeming dead to being dead. I pet Charlie's head and my father pet his side as the life left him, and finally the vet said she could find no more heartbeat. I thought to myself - 'It's finally over.' I'd been waiting for him to die for so long as he slowly deteriorated, and now there was no waiting and no going back. My father burst into tears and excused himself. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I held it together long enough to give Charlie one last hug goodbye. I held his limp body to register with myself that it was only a corpse now. His eyes and mouth opened, and I knew there was no Charlie left in that body.

My father opted to have Charlie cremated. I know he did that for my sake. I've had many pets die, but none that have been a part of my life as long as Charlie. I've known him since I was 19...almost half my life! Most of my rabbits have had burials...I wanted him to at least be returned to the earth he loved and lived on. I've decided we'll sprinkle the ashes on one of the gardens he loved to pee on. It's only appropriate ;) Plus, we have a little copper terrier staked next to that garden.

As soon as I left the vet and crawled in the car with my father, I began to cry in earnest. And when I got home, I began to sob. And the past two days, I've mostly been a wreck. You never realize how much someone is a part of your life until you see the hole their disappearance leaves behind. The day he died, I mostly dissociated from myself and my surroundings. His food bowl was gone, his diapers, his food, his rug. I wandered the house at night realizing I didn't have to beware of stepping on him, or look for 'leavings', or check his bowl for water. I would hear noises and realize no, that couldn't be Charlie.

That's the kinda shit I have the hardest time with. The loss, the permanent change, the adjustment sends me for an emotional loop. I become very prone to depression and dissociation, and I'm fighting both right now. I try to be social, but my heart's not in it. I keep bursting into tears when Charlie's picture appears on the digital frame, or like just a few minutes ago, when a condolence card arrived from the animal hospital. I just want to nuzzle his little nose, give him a hug, rub his belly. I know from past experience that it'll take me a week to stop bursting into tears, and I will adjust and process and reset as time goes on. I just have to experience it.

But Charlie had a good life, and I rejoice in that. I remember when my Dad brought him into the living room on Xmas Eve, a scared little puppy. He sat in his puppy bed all Xmas, terrified. I remember how he used to beg for treats with Harry, our house rabbit at the time. (Harry was about as big as Charlie!) I remember as Charlie grew, we celebrated when he finally could hold his ears up. I remember taking him for walks through the neighborhood, where he pissed on everything imaginable and embarrassed me by pooping on neighbors' lawns as they watched. I remember when Girl the Poodle came to live with us, and Charlie had an absolute crush on her (which she in no way reciprocated, as she was too fine a lady for such a scruffy boy.) Her constant rejection didn't slow Charlie down a bit, who followed her everywhere he could and started eating like she did, one bit at a time brought to the kitchen table. I remember when Girl passed away from cancer, and Charlie lay sullen for a week, confused as to the loss of his one true love. I remember when Charlie would wander the yard...and into other yards. When he sat in the middle of Main Street as a car barreled towards him. (He was never the smartest of pups.) When I found him with an Alpo can stuck on his nose...curious indeed as we did not feed him Alpo! I remember him traipsing about in snow as high as he was in the winter, and eating onion grass in the summer. I remember how he growled at thunderstorms, and would chase thunder back and forth on his leash until it started to rain and we brought him in. The one blessing of his going deaf was that I got to enjoy my thunderstorms in peace and quiet! I remember how, in his early days, he could climb up stairs but never had the courage to climb back down. I remember his fondness for cookie dough and Christmas cookies, his incessant begging at holiday meals and how he would eat fortune cookies and leave the fortune behind. I remember how much he loved going to the lake. He knew by the towels and beach bags that it was lake time, and he'd circle and bark excitedly until we let him run to the car. He'd ride in the boat and the paddleboat, eventually was pushed to swim in the water, would commune with the other lake dogs, and finally roll around in the sand to dry off. And he always got a hot dog off the grill afterwards, or pizza crusts if we went out to eat. And I remember how he liked to lie down by my chair as I worked late at night.

So, rest well, little Charlie. You weren't the brightest, but you were friendly, loving, scruffy, eager, loyal, determined and full of zest. Maybe I'll see you again someday, and I'll always remember you. I love you, buddy.
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Comments {3}



from: lordlnyc
date: Aug. 11th, 2013 12:34 am (UTC)

I am so sorry sending you my thoughts and prayers :-(


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from: rikibeth
date: Aug. 11th, 2013 05:51 am (UTC)

May his memory be a blessing.

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from: polypolyglot
date: Aug. 30th, 2013 12:28 am (UTC)

I am very sorry for your loss. Please accept my sincere condolences.

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