Most all of us have had a special pet in our lives. Whether it was a dog or cat, or some exotic animal like a bird or fish. For Paula and me, it was Charlie Brown who left us for doggie heaven last Christmas.
During a late afternoon walk around the park at our subdivision yesterday, Paula and I started to reminisce about all the things Charlie would do on his daily park walk.
Let's get back to the beginning when Charlie adopted us. Yep, that was the way it happened. We first spotted what appeared to be an overgrown puppy wandering aimlessly through our neighborhood. Turns out he was being pursued by the local canine constabulary. When the Animal Control officer gave up his lackluster pursuit, Charlie laid down in the backyard of the house next door — exhausted and weak from lack of food. Paula spotted him and offered him a hot dog wiener (from a distance), which Charlie inhaled seemingly in one gulp. Paula followed up with more wieners ... each one was thrown closer to where she was standing. Finally, she was able to pet him on the head. Despite his fatigue, he pulled himself up long enough to shuffle into our garage and eventually our patio where he laid down for a long nap.
Thus began a unique 14-year relationship between Charlie, Paula and me.
I don't know if Charlie had been a "house dog" before that day, but it didn't take long for him to catch on to the rules of our humble abode. Come to think of it, there were few rules he was asked to obey: No peeing or pooping in the house and no chasing the two cats with whom he'd share the house. After all, they had been there a lot longer. It seemed that he got perfect grades in "household sanitation" and "household manners 101" for his whole life.
Having a fast-growing young dog in the house called for lots of exercise (i.e. walking). Something I wasn't accustomed to. At first we made morning trips to the Shakespeare Park across from St. James School on Vaughn Road. This was a huge expanse of asphalt walkways and wide open spaces, which were ideal for Charlie to explore. There was a pond occupied by tons of small fish and turtles. The borders of the property were lined with trees and knee-high grasses where an occasional rabbit could be spotted — a real treat for Charlie.
Very soon Charlie, Paula and I had developed a loving relationship that I find difficult to describe. It was obvious that he wanted one thing in life — to be with Paula and me as much as possible. For instance, when we would meet friends at a local restaurant for dinner, we would drop the tailgate on Paula's SUV and in Charlie would leap into the back, curl up and sleep for the time we were at the restaurant (Paula would always make sure we got a "doggy bag.") It was the same when we would visit our sons who were living several hundred miles away. All Charlie would ask for was an occasional bathroom break, a snack and a drink of water and he was good to go.
About halfway through his 14 years with us, Charlie switched to our neighborhood park for our morning walks. To watch him sniff his way around the wide concrete sidewalks let me know just how much he enjoyed that time. Borrowing a phrase from my friend John Raines of Auburn, Charlie made dozens of stops in his walk to "check the pee mail" left by his friends
I think Charlie had a brief life before he came to live with us. It probably was not the best relationship for him. For instance, he did not like white pickup trucks. Nor did he like anyone who smoked. The few times I ever saw Charlie noticeably angry was when he came in contact with either of those two. It got to the point that he would bark and tug at his leash when he came in contact with anyone in a white truck.
He had favorite dogs that he would see at the park. He was especially fond of a female Great Dane named Charlotte, who made Charlie — at 80-pounds — look small. I never figured out the connection between the two of them.
By the time Charlie was in the twilight of his days with us he had to use a large ottoman placed on the ground at the back of Paula's SUV for him to use to get in and out of the back of the truck. And finally, we had to pick him up and place him inside so he would not be left alone at home. That was an extremely difficult task and time for Paula and me.
So, with Charlie gone for almost nine months people ask if we're going to get another dog to replace him. I quickly reply to them that there will never be another Charlie Brown ... not now — or anytime.
Here's hoping you've had a Charlie Brown in your life ... so you will have a deeper understanding of today's conversation.