I have a 13 1/2 year old Bichon Frise named Charlie the Bear. He is something else.
In many ways, he is a complete and total pain in the ass.
You see, Charlie truly does not realize he is a dog. I am convinced that he is a little angry man trapped inside a fluffy white dog's body. I also am convinced that I must have saved his life in a prior life, and he is completely and fully committed to me and only me.
It is exhausting.
In many ways, Charlie has already saved my life.
I met Charlie at a pet shop in Henderson 13+ years ago. I was shopping with my then fiance. Charlie was cute and fluffy and as we walked by the pet store (yes, I realize this is the worst place to buy a pet, but hang on....) I thought "Oh, let's get the little puppy out." We did. He was one feisty little guy. Mr. Fiance said "Do you want to get him? For your birthday?" to which I said "No, we have a small apartment. Maybe once we get married, have a house, we'll get a second dog (he had a great dog, Rocky). Plus he's very expensive." Mr. Fiance asked "Are you sure?" He could tell that I loved the little guy. So I said "I'll tell you what, if he throws himself against the glass like there's no tomorrow, then we'll get him."
Well, guess what? He threw himself against the glass like he was trying to escape a fire. The woman next to us had overheard me and said "You HAVE to get that dog."
So we did. Mr. Fiance bought him for me.
Or so I thought.
What Mr. Fiance really did was write a bad check, then forge a check out of my account to cover his bad check... and well let's just say it wasn't the last check that he did this with over the next few months.
I found all this out 6 weeks before we were supposed to get married.
Without making this about him, I found out a whole bunch of other stuff that would make your head spin, too. In the end, I ended up with 2 really great dogs and got rid of the bad dog.
So I owe Charlie for that. It was a mighty close call.
But, we're even. Two weeks after we bought Charlie (clearly a puppy mill dog from Missouri, which I now know about), they shut down the pet store. The conditions were horrible. Most of the dogs went to the pound and were later euthanized.
See, I told you the pet store thing ended up being a good thing.
But back to Charlie.
I am not the type of person who treats animals like people. I think dogs like being dogs. My awesome dog Rocky (North American Standard Mix-- yes, that means mutt) that passed last year was a dog. Dixie, our new dog (rescue pet), is a dog.
He talks. Seriously. You can ask him a question and he responds. To quote my dad, he has me trained very well. If he barks and you ask him something, and it's not what he meant, he makes this funny noise which sounds like he's calling you a moron. If you get it right, he goes crazy but with a "It took you long enough" attitude.
He would prefer to eat at the table with us. He looks offended by dog food. He would prefer to sleep in my bed, with Shane in the dog bed.
In fact, when Shane and I started dating, Charlie would piss in his shoes.
Shane has hated Charlie for a long time. To watch a 6'5" man argue with a 15 pound dog is hilarious.
Sadly, two years ago, Charlie had an accident.
Try not to laugh.
The evil cat that lives behind us would "attack" my dogs when they were pooping- right at the moment of the pinch-- the moment when you're most vulnerable. Rocky & Charlie had even taken to pooping in a V position, butts together, to stand watch. I could not make this up. I swear. When I first saw it, the dogs in their V formation, the cat flying off the wall, the dogs literally being scared sh*tless, I couldn't breathe i was laughing so hard. Shane almost choked when I told him. In defense of my dogs, I told him the next time he was taking a dump, I was going to pop my head into the can and scream and see how funny HE thought it was.
But it really was funny to watch.
Funny until one day, 2 years ago, while I was making cookies with the kids, I heard a thud.
Charlie had run head first into the glass slider and was partially paralyzed. His feeling came back with 10 minutes, but over the next six months, he started to deteriorate. He developed a limp and his bowels would become impacted. In February of 2010, he nearly died. In fact, the vet was pretty upfront that there was very little they could do. He couldn't even walk.
At 2 am, Charlie decided, as I lie next to him on the floor crying, that no, he was not ready. That little dog struggled to stand and walked about 5 feet. He collapsed. He got back up. He was not done.
All night, I stayed up with him helping him walk, getting the gas that was threatening to kill him out. He knew.
When we went to the vet the next morning, which had been presumably to put him down, Charlie walked in. The vet was stunned. I was, too.
Our regular vet has taken a liking to Charlie and has worked with me over the past year to figure out different options. I asked her if I was being one of those crazy dog owners who wouldn't let her pet go-- she assured me I wasn't. When Rocky was diagnosed with cancer, I decided to not make him endure those last few weeks. She said when she saw Charlie, she saw a dog with a lot of spunk and life left.
Today, he went to the dog park. I usually limit it to once every 2 weeks. For a dog that can barely walk, he holds his head up, wags his tail and hangs with the big dogs-- literally. His protector at the dog park is a Rottweiler named Joe. Everyone at the dog park loves Charlie. When I don't bring him, they ask worried, where he is.
He is passed out right now, at my feet, of course, hopefully with happy thoughts of the dog park.
I hope that as I age, I do it with as much fight as Charlie. The dog never quits. He may look like an old, fluffy, little white dog to you, but he's not. In his mind, he's a Great Dane protecting his family.
I would say that his time may be coming to an end, but honestly, I don't know. He could go tomorrow, he could last another 5 years. He's been around 18 months longer than anyone thought. He certainly seems committed to sticking around to annoy Shane for as long as possible.