Sunday, February 21, 2010
We lost Charley this weekend. Mike found him collapsed in the snow on Friday night, and the vet said he most likely suffered a heart attack. We had to let him go Saturday morning, and the house feels very empty without him. He was a part of our lives for so long, and we lost him just days before his twelfth birthday.
Charley came to me in October of 1998 when I was in graduate school at the Art Institute in Chicago. He was just 7 months old -- awkward, big-nosed, and gangly. I lived on the top level of a two-flat in Chicago, and my landlords, Art and Barbara, lived on the bottom. They were breeders and rescuers of Rhodesian Ridgebacks. At any given time they had between six and nineteen dogs, depending upon whether it was puppy season. We often left our back doors open and their dogs and my Great Dane, Claire, would come and go as they pleased. One late evening when I returned home from school, I noticed a rather odd looking Ridgeback in my apartment. Thinking that Art and Barbara had accidentally locked a pup out of their flat, I attempted to return him. I believe the response I got was, “Nope, not our dog. Must be yours.” And Charley was with me ever since.
Charley was abused by his former family, so there were a lot of preexisting conditions and issues that needed attention. He always accepted that I was his new caretaker, but he growled and barked at Mike for 3 months when he first moved in, and for years he would do the same to anyone else who stepped foot in our apartment. He seemed to dislike and mistrust everyone he came into contact with, but at the same time you just couldn't help loving him, and everyone did. I remember our friend Chris once whispering to me, "Don't tell the Danes, but Charley's my favorite."
Somewhere along the way, Dan and Chris gave Charley his own slogan: “I’m not gonna bite ya, but I don’t like ya.” So true.
Charley was extraordinarily strong, and could jump 6 feet into the air from a sitting position. I guess that trait came in handy when hunting the grand lions of Chicago. His neck was massive, hence his mafia name, “Charley the Neck.”
When we would walk Charley around Chicago without the Great Danes, we unfailingly got comments such as “Good Lord, that is a big dog!” And Mike and I would turn and look around for the big dog. Since we had the Danes, we always thought Charley was more of a lap dog. But at 90 muscular pounds, I guess he wasn’t really all that small.
His later years were marked with mountain activities. When we moved to Colorado we took him hiking, walking, doggie sledding down the driveway – he loved it all. Once when our friends Kevin and Kelly were visiting, we took Charley on a fairly long hike. At the destination waterfalls, he played with another young dog, and unfortunately stepped on some small pieces of glass. We didn’t realize this until we were on our way back down the trail and he just stopped. Literally dug his heels in and wouldn’t budge. We tried pulling him. We put Kevin’s socks on his paws, which lasted all of 10 seconds. We tried fashioning a stretcher out of those same socks and large branches. None of those solutions worked, so Mike and I ran to the trailhead, got into our car and drove home to get the Jeep, which we proceeded to illegally drive onto National Forest property for a few miles (surely the statue of limitations on that crime has expired – fingers crossed) and picked up Charley, Kevin and Kelly. My heart still races a little bit at the thought. We may still be rotting in a federal prison had we been caught.
Charley had a special fondness for my mom and my brother, Matt. Matt thinks it’s because Charley knew we are siblings. Just last week Charley got up on the couch and put his head in Matt’s lap, which he never does with anyone else. He would sleep in bed with my mom when she visited – they were perfect bedfellows – neither moved an inch during the night. As he got older, he seemed to love everybody in his own way.
We’ll miss Charley’s quiet, unassuming nature. When he loved you, it really made you feel special. We have holes in our hearts, but I just know he’s chasing the lions now.
Posted by emily at 3:46 PM