I adopted Mou-Mou, a collie/shepherd puppy at the PetsMart at Merchants Walk in early July 1994. AARF volunteer Mari had saved him from the Richmond pound, during a summer she devoted to saving dogs. He was tiny and tri-colored -- black, brown and white -- with a long white tail, and freckles on his nose. Mari told me he was very smart. I renamed him Charley, after Steinbeck’s traveling companion, and he grew up to be a beautiful dog, just 50 lbs, with a gentle and sensitive nature. His tail became a gorgeous plume, and he was very proud of it.
When I first got Charley, I lived alone, and worked out of my house. Charley was my loyal friend and a much needed companion. His daily walks to the St. Christopher’s field were joyful, and always leash-free. When I later married another dog lover, Charley enjoyed long weekend hikes and frequent camping trips, along with his daily walks. He seemed happy to have another person in his life.
After our daughter was born, we wanted to move, and one of the criteria for a new house was that it be near a place for Charley to run. We found that in a neighborhood near the University of Richmond, where Charley enjoyed daily walks around the lake, fraternizing with other dogs and chasing the ducks.
Charley was wonderful with our baby -- always attuned to where she was and what she wanted. He slept under her crib, and her first words were "Char-Char." He loved the new routines a baby added to our lives. When our daughter learned to walk, she would get his morning treat out of the pantry, and then watch through the window as he tossed the dog biscuit into the air and rolled on it in the grass.
He considered himself king of the neighborhood, prancing down the street like a Lipizzaner stallion, head held high. He had a dignity about him that was very unusual. He turned heads wherever we went, and people always asked what kind of dog he was, and commented on his beauty.
Charley was happy and appeared healthy until the day he died, on January 6, 2006. He collapsed and was diagnosed with hemangio sarcoma, an extremely aggressive cancer that begins in the spleen and has very few symptoms. Our vet operated in hopes of removing his spleen, but the cancer had spread to his liver. Our vet could not stop the bleeding from the tumor, and said he should be put to sleep. He said Charley had not suffered. Only in retrospect did we think that he had seemed a bit tired that last week.
We miss him so much. He was the heart and soul of our home. There's a huge hole where he was. And we're not the only people who miss him. We got so many cards, letters and phone calls from friends and neighbors who knew and loved him. He made a big impression on so many people. One of my neighbors said he had "an old soul," and he did. There was something about him that was really unusual and special. There will never be another dog like him.
I am so grateful to Mari and to AARF for saving him and giving him to me. He had a good and happy life with us, and in turn, he enriched our lives so much. Thank you.