Charlie was 14 years old (we think)…he never would tell us his exact age — the doctor had to estimate by looking at his teeth. John rescued Charlie from the streets after he came to the kitchen door where John worked begging for scraps — for at least a month. Witnesses say they saw him sleeping in a drain pipe by the creek. Charlie came with a broken leg that had already started to mend itself and too many ticks to count. Doctor said it would be too painful to re-break the leg so Charlie would be lame for the rest of his life. We nursed him back to health and John worked with him to feel safe in public again. Charlie was scared of cars and didn’t like walking close to other people. Luckily we lived across from Bidwell Park, a five-mile long park in Chico that really resembles the woods and one can walk for a long time before encountering another human being. John quickly became Charlie’s favorite.
Charlie joined our family of cats and (at the time) two recently adopted 12-year-old Chihuahuas. He saw many cats and doggies come and go the seven years he lived with us. He always accepted them. He was especially *sweet* on Olive, our female Chihuahua. He would *light up* when she sat next to him — his tail wagging like mad.
Several days ago Charlie turned his nose up at night-time treats. He never did that before. Sure he had some stomach upsets over the years but visits to the doctor came back as normal. This time it was different. He didn’t want any food by the next day and he looked like he felt bad. We took him to the doctor and at first we all thought it was arthritis — maybe a pinched nerve in his spine — doctor took an x-ray and sent in blood work to the lab to be sure. Charlie spent the afternoon at the hospital for observation. He went home later that day. That evening we got the call that there was issues with his blood work and could we come back the following day? Meanwhile John cooked him chicken (that was a hard one for me since I’m vegan, but Charlie is not) Charlie’s needs had to come first. Charlie refused to eat and by morning he did not want to walk.
We took him back and Doctor told us his white cells were elevated — being a cancer patient, I know what that means. He took an x-ray of his chest and tested his urine. It came back positive for blood and the x-ray showed possible tumors in his lungs. Our hearts sank. Doctor was 99.9% sure Charlie had bladder cancer that spread to his lungs. He tried to insert a tiny tube up his urethra to rule out a stone but he couldn’t get it in.
After a lot of deliberating we all decided it was time to let Charlie go. My husband doesn’t like to show his emotions in public but this time his tears flowed. Looking back, I remember Charlie had stopped wagging his tail — he always wagged his tail, if even a little bit when he felt sick. This time was different. We stayed with him and watered his seeds of happiness as he crossed over. We let him go and I know in my heart that he went knowing that he was loved and will be forever…
I don’t mean for this post to be a downer — I am usually the upbeat — let’s look on the bright side one, but I am sad. I know Buddhism teaches that suffering comes from attachment but how can we not get attached to someone or something when we love them? Love means attachment in my opinion. Love means opening oneself up to be vulnerable. I know life and all things are impermanent — I see that almost weekly at the infusion center.
I miss Charlie so much. The other animals don’t know he is missing yet. I don’t know if they will. The older he got, the more he liked to be by himself. We bought him his own cushion and put it in the walk-in closet — he used it as his own bedroom. He came a long way from living in a drain pipe to having his own bedroom. We don’t know what his life was like the seven years before he came in to our lives, but judging by all his phobias, it might not have been fun. We do know that he loved everyday he spent with us. He showed us by his big smile when we petted him and that wagging tail.
Thanks for listening…
*** Update…. Charlie’s autopsy came back positive for cancer in his bladder and urethra. As hard at it was,we did the right thing.