July 12, 1997 - December 16, 2011
The Best Dog Ever
She came to me a wee little ball of black and white fur, the only dog I would ever raise from pup to old age. I didn’t know about the thousands of homeless older dogs just waiting for homes. I wanted a puppy, the local SPCA didn’t have any, and I’d never heard about rescue organizations. And so I answered an ad in a paper, went to the house, gave them $50, and the backyard breeder handed her over, no questions asked. They said her mom was a border collie and her dad a rough collie, and she was due for her shots.
She threw up in my lap on the way home.
She was the Best Dog Ever. She never chewed a shoe or destroyed a piece of furniture, she didn’t bark or whine or create havoc in the house. Her only bad habit, one I was never able to change, was her tendency to paw people’s knees with her very strong claws. She was just saying “Pat me, please pat me!”
We went through a lot together, Charley and I. She stayed by my side when I marked exams late into the night, and she rose at dawn when there were piglets or foster pups to be fed. She camped with me and travelled with me. She never much liked riding in the car, though a lakeside or seaside destination made the travel worthwhile. She loved to gaze at the water. She loved farm life almost as much as she loved beaches. Give her a beach or a pasture, and she was content.
She accepted well the steady stream of dogs who came and went in our house, though she never became ‘best buddies’ with any. She thought piglets were far more interesting and much easier to herd. However, she was always sensitive to my emotions, picking up on my stress, my sorrow, my joy, and so she grieved with me for the many dogs who passed on before her, and she celebrated with me when fosters found their forever homes.
She was an independent missy not unlike her mama, and preferred to retire to another part of the house away from the action. But in the past few weeks, I would wake in the night to find Charley standing in my bedroom doorway, leaning against the jamb. “Mom? Mom, I can’t sleep. Can you help me?” I would give her some meds, and lie down with her on her mat, and she would shove her nose gently against my cheek or under my chin - “Thanks mom" - as she drifted back to sleep. It was only recently that she allowed Sadie, who has lived with us for three years, to lie beside her and watch over her while she slept. We all knew she was getting weaker and would soon be leaving us.
Last night she told me it was time. And this morning, in our home, with my arms around her, she slipped quietly from sleep to death and took a chunk of my heart with her.
I have shared my home with her longer than with any other being, canine or human, except for my parents and my daughter. Fourteen and one half years. And I wish for fourteen and one half more.
Charley-girl, you were a good, good dog and a good, good friend, and I shall miss you and love you forever.
|Charley, age 3 months|
|Charley on the beach|
|Charley's signature smile|
A Thousand Tears
A thousand tears have washed my face
Since you left home today.
A thousand sobs have pierced my throat,
A thousand sorrows stay.
A thousand stories come to mind
Of all the things we’ve done.
A thousand walks, a thousand parks,
A thousand days of fun.
A thousand pieces is my heart,
So shattered by your leaving.
My friend of over fourteen years
Now gone, and I am grieving.
But for each tear that I have shed,
For all the sobs and sorrows,
A thousand memories remain
To comfort my tomorrows.
J. Ballard (c) 2011
Run free, my good, good dog.