My Friend Charlie

Last Sunday, at 3.30pm we lost Charlie. He was 11 ½ years old and had been suffering from an untreatable terminal cancer since mid December.

He was a classic traveller dog: a black whippet longdog, intelligent and eccentric mixed with a complete disregard for human instruction. Rescued by the police from Braintree at the age of 18 months and passed on to the local vet – me – he became my inseparable companion. Only when Angela and I started sharing our lives together was he banished from the foot of my bed. Sorry boy – but you grew to become as much Angela’s friend as mine.

Like all dogs, he lived for the moment. But that every moment seemed so intense. Sleeping by the fire was a privilege he guarded jealously, hopping up and and down until his bed was brought over, and toasting himself until gasping and literally hot to the touch. Going for a walk doesn’t capture the barking, sprinting, capering craziness that petered out into dogging our heels, liking nothing more than ears and backside being scratched. He could curl into a cat’s bed, or stretch the length of the sofa (usually at night after removing the various chairs, footstools, bean bags and exercise balls we pathetically tried to outsmart him with.)

And now he’s gone forever from this world – and it’s like a piece of me has been torn away. I’ll never see him again in my lifetime, and I was responsible for putting him to sleep. I can’t begin to describe the sense of loss.

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I wrote the above last Tuesday, and was too upset to continue. Since then I’ve started to remember all the joy that the bond between man and dog brought to our lives.

Mankind co-evolved with the dog. Their ability to hunt and protect helped us to go from hunter gatherer to an agrarian system, and on to modern civilisation- their wage is nothing more than something to eat and somewhere warm to sleep. The modern dog is a faithful companion, a loyal servant and a devoted follower. They ease our stress, keep us fit and provide easy companionship. We could learn a lot from the dog’s ability to live in the moment, and not to let life’s petty worries spoil the joy that is life.

So I’ll miss you, Charlie. You are irreplaceable. I’ll miss our walks, the times I confided my deepest fears and greatest hopes to you, the smooth fur of your head, and the coldness of your nose. I’ll miss laughing at your foibles and sharing a beer with you in the evening. I’ll miss you falling over when you were ecstatic to see us and the way you welcomed everyone into our house. Most of all, I’ll miss you – Charlie.