Happy Hellos to Hard Goodbyes

It’s been five months since our dog, Charlie, passed away at the ripe old age of 13.  After 12 years with us there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss that big noggin’ of his, or his trot down the hallway to bed every night.  Before sharing more about the end, let’s start at the beginning.

Kyle and I had just moved to the Baltimore area, and we decided to expand our family by looking for a buddy for our current dog, Nola.  After visiting multiple shelters in our area, we ended up at Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter  (BARCS).  A lovely gentleman brought us around to each kennel sharing the breed of each dog and we decided to try a female pit bull to take out for a walk.  We had brought Nola as well and as soon as they made eye contact we knew it wasn’t the right fit.  We tried another dog… no go.  Maybe a second dog wasn’t in our fate!  I remembered seeing a dog with a fabulous coat and big head sleeping in the back of his kennel when we had walked thru the first time.  In one last ditch effort I asked to see him and if it didn’t work out we would move on from our search.  He was brought out as Kyle proceeded to let out this great chuckle that will be the depths of my brain forever and a day.  His name was Shadow, he got along fabulously with Nola, and BOOM!….papers signed and he was ours…our Charlie Bean.

There were many highs as well as lows with this boy of ours.  We should have known the adventure to come watching him scale an eight foot privacy fence minutes after bringing him home and yet he continually surprised us.  He used to do this shocking (what we called) high pitched bitch bark whenever he would see our cat or a passing motorcycle.  From there he and our cat, Chloe, became the best of cuddle buddies and we took solace in believing Charlie was just concerned for the motorists’ safety. He could never be off leash outside because he would not come back and would just follow his nose… there were numerous times this escape artist could only be caught because he was peeing and shitting at the same time from pure excitement and adrenaline.

He was incredible with our kids, and I only wish he had more time with our Wells before passing away.  He was poked, piled with pillows, given capes, and never complained about taking the backseat once our family continued to grow.  My favorite spot to kiss him was right between the eyes, and never grew tired of his grinch like feet.  Other favorite moments included him gazing out our front window with the most curious look, watching he and Ruby taking afternoon naps together, and witnessing him quietly fall in love with each baby we brought home.

A month or two before our fourth baby was due, we noticed he was struggling going to the bathroom and a vet visit was scheduled in the hurry of my nesting craze.  Turns out our Charlie Bean had an extremely large tumor right inside his anus that wrapped inside around his tail.  Of course there were things that could be done…. but when we found out it included painful surgeries with breaking bones in order to get to certain areas of the tumor… we knew that wasn’t the right decision for our family.  Left untreated the veterinarian shared it could be months or years….we got a year.

Dealing with your own grief is one thing, but having kids and their own grief turns all emotions on high.  We decided to come at it as a united front… to share with our kids from the beginning Charlie’s medical issues, his limited time with us and how we should make every moment count. They were incredible about it.  Towards the end, when things started to really decline Kyle and I had the impossible talk about what to do next.  Neither of us wanted to make the call… and ultimately it came from a text I sent to Kyle, where he promptly scheduled the appointment.  Telling our girls was one of the hardest moments of our lives.  There were a lot of tears, turmoil, heartache, and let’s not forget one of them asking if we could finally get a cat now.  That night we took pictures and ran with him in our backyard…Did he know?  Was he ok with it? I’ll never know.

We didn’t want to frighten the girls about going to sleep so we refrained from using that terminology (put to sleep) and placed hopeful understanding by sharing “Charlie is sick and in pain…. so they are going to give him medicine so he isn’t in pain anymore, he passes away, and he will not come back with us.” They still talk about him, and explain it to friends and strangers what happened to him just like we had…so I think we did ok in that department.

I met Kyle after work for Charlie’s final appointment, feeling terrified of what was to come, and thankful my mom was with our kids.  Kyle and I could say our goodbyes just like we had said our first hellos… just the three of us.  Even while writing this, I can feel that part of my broken heart, that missing piece, my Charlie Bean.  We had him cremated (another hard topic to explain to your children) and buried him under a new weeping willow we planted in our backyard in his honor.  I love that tree… and it’s thriving, moving beautifully just like Charlie’s coat in that summer ending breeze. The goodbyes sure are hard… but it’s living in a changing world without them is the hardest. I think of him daily and even with the calming presence our new addition, Libby, I still miss him. He will always hold a piece of my heart, and we will forever miss our Charlie Bean.