The news came. We’d hoped it wouldn’t. Feared it would.
Charlie was gone.
You know how families often have two dogs, one regular and one travel-size? Charlie was my parents’ travel-size dog, a probable Schanauzer mixed with just about everything else, small and gray and full of love.
None of us were ready. I’m not sure we ever would have been.
It began a few days ago in a sand pile. While going after something else, Charlie managed to eat a lot of sand. As in the stuff that glass comes from, and about as kind to a canine’s insides.
Then came the vets. The surgeries. The cautiously optimistic messages passed among the family; he was looking a little stronger, recognizing folks. Maybe he’d pull through. So many of our animals had, including Twinkle, Feline of Majesty, who’d recovered from a mini-stroke at 13 and gone on for four more years as though nothing had happened.
And then … it didn’t go so well. A choice had to be made. One too familiar to too many pet owners.
A kindness. We all know that. But it doesn’t make it hurt less.
When a pet enters a life, you invest it with a piece of your heart. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for it to break when they leave. They’ve become friend and family, companion and partner, needing you and reflecting you at the same time.
It’s especially hard for my folks. They take in rescue dogs, the ones that have been abused and mistreated by others. With Mom and Dad, the animals get to see what love looks like, get to find a safe haven in a world that’s all too often given them nothing but cruelty.
Charlie was one, rescued from a puppy mill. Their full-size, Haley the beautiful, is another, a dog so timid that she made our own Duchess the Wonder Dog (also a frightened rescue pup) look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had known Haley for four years before she would take food from my hand; before that, she would orbit at a distance, often glimpsed, seldom encountered.
She and Charlie were quite a team, Charlie a little more bold, Haley a little more careful. Each inseperable from the other. Both devoted to my parents.
That devotion, as always, went two ways.
Mom and Dad are protectors. Nothing less. Often much more.
But even protectors can’t stop everything.
Oh, how you wish you could.
And when the time comes – whether by age or accident – all you can do is say goodbye and hold them in your heart, where the memories will neither die nor tarnish.
It never feels like enough. But it’s what we have.
That and a lot of love that may someday find another heart to hold.
Thanks for living in ours, Charlie. Now and always.