That’s Charlie Rounder, aka Big Bub, Wonder Mutt, Bubs, Big Furry Head, Bubbariffic, Charlie Butt, Bubber, Fuzz Face, Bubbaroony, and ocassionally azz-weep-ay (spelled Asswipe). Despite his arthritic hip, he managed to haul himself into my chair and a half – not a regular chair – a chair and A HALF. I say that just to put into perspective his immense size.
Charlie, a month past his thirteenth birthday, suffered from a massive heart attack this evening and died. It occured at home, without warning, and I was at his side talking to him when he took his last breath. I find some small comfort in knowing that one of the last memories he had was of me smothering the top of his tremendous head with kisses less than a minute before he began gasping for air and staggering through the house.
Charlie was named as a result of his insatiable, good-natured curiosity. As a racing pup with his kennel mates, or later as my boy, he was always simply around. His well-meaning intentions were usually misconstrued during his (thankfully) few unsupervised neighborhood romps, when unsuspecting neighbors were greeted by his substantial snout, broad chest and overly muscular backside. Little did they know his teeth were worn from years of attempting to escape his racing kennel. In fact, he did chew his way out of a plastic dog crate mere weeks after his arrival; an event my adoption contact assured me was impossible. Being confined in a small space was the only neurosis Charlie ever displayed. After he launched himself through a screen door to evade closure in the mud room, I cleaned his wounds and surrendered.
He was extraordinarily beautiful. Red brindle, with markings like a tiger and a long, rolling stride to match. And his fur was thick and silky, almost cat-like, which thickened in the winter to such a degree that his neck became a mane. What occured each spring couldn’t be classified as shedding; it more closely resembled the cartoon animal whose every hair broke free simultaneously and fell to the floor. He simply molted. It is no exaggeration to say that other dogs could’ve been assembled from his discarded coat – running the sweeper on a daily basis was futile. I just had to wait it out.
This is a dog who loved everything about life – except for cats, he is a greyhound after all. He climbed into the bathtub on request and relished the scrubbing and warm water, eventually relaxing so much he’d slide into the bottom of the tub until you helped him out. He’d stand in the rain, lie in a plastic kiddie pool when it was hot, and simply stare at you with his soulful brown eyes when you humiliated him with hats, pants, headbands, makeshift necklaces or wrapped him in garland for Christmas. He’d even lower his head and come at me like a matador when I held out a towel and then playfully dried his soggy skull and face.
Many a morning I’d open my eyes to an oversized muzzle, and more often than I can recount, he’d claim the blankets that dripped off the bed, effectively tucking me in. He never failed to greet me at the door when I returned home, even when he aged and grew arthritic, and it was guaranteed that every day at 4:30pm he’d find me, shove his substantial head under my arm repeatedly and with such determination that I had no choice but cease my activity and tend to his dinner. His stomach was on such a schedule that daylight savings time ensured an hour early alert.
The truth is, Charlie’s disposition was such that it was impossible not to love him. Wearing a “Jingle My Bells” scarf around his neck (which my brother in law always thought was terribly ironic and cruel considering he was neutered), he’d accompany me to family holidays, and be welcomed warmly. In fact, I’d better have a damn good explanation for arriving without him!
Like all of us, he just got old; his once strong body tired and his heart, that overflowing and endless symbol of his affection and regard, finally stopped beating. I know – because I was there, just as I was every night when I curled up beside him, my hand feeling for its sturdy rhythmic throb before stroking his cheek and whispering “Good nite, Charlie of my heart”; before kissing him and going to sleep.
Nine years and I’m thankful for every day.
Good nite Charlie of my heart. I love you.