The Passing Of A Friend

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

I lost a columnist at the newspaper shortly after the first of the year. Many readers of this column will remember there were times that Charley, my yellow Labrador Retriever “took over” penning a few columns. And he was the subject of more than a few writings.
He came to the newspaper in 2006 after being rescued as a 3-year old.
His manners sometimes left a lot to be desired and he would test my patience in attempting to teach him basic obedience. But when he was on a leash, he was a gentleman content to walk beside me. Given the freedom to roam the wilderness retreat was another thing entirely.
He was a paradox. As a retriever, he loved plunging into the lake or running hell-bent-for-leather in the creek gobbling up mouthfuls of water. But he absolutely avoided going outside into the rain. He would tolerate a bath but before he would be entirely dry he would sneak off to wade in the muddy, mucky shallows of the lake.
He was always a healthy eater, whether it be dog food, people food, or the various parts and offals found in the wilderness. And deer and turkey poop are to be included in his epicurean enjoyment. And as a result of his wilderness diet, he was flatulent…VERY flatulent.
When I would go out to pick blackberries in the summer, Charley would go with me and end up eating all of the low hanging fruit he could find. I believe he ate more than I could ever pick. And he would sneak into the garden to grab a ripe tomato before I could pick it.
I began nicknaming him “Pre-Rinse” because he enjoyed licking the dinner plate or ice cream bowl when I was finished. The sound of metal fork or spoon scraping the last morsels on the plate or bowl would bring him to my side and copious drooling began. The only way to turn off the waterworks would be to let him lick the bowl.
Very early on we bonded and he became my dog but suffered from separation anxiety if I put him in any doggie daycare on business trips. He would bark and drool and carry on until I returned. But I could leave him along all day in the house or office with nary a peep of concern.
He began to slow down a couple of years ago due to arthritic hips. For the past year, I would have to help him into the back of my mini-SUV. But he was always ready to go…anywhere and everywhere. He was my frequent traveling companion when I traveled to Kentucky to complete some inspection work.
At our family Christmas this year Charley was not himself. And everyone noticed. I took him into his vet and after tests, found out his red blood count was low and his white cell count was high meaning he was anemic somewhere and had an infection.
After hearing a list of what all could be done I held up my hand that wasn’t being used to pet him. “He’s an old dog, like me,” I said. “Sometimes the cures are worse than the disease. What can we do to help make him comfortable for what time he may have left?”
The three pills prescribed did help to make him comfortable. He especially relished the Vienna Sausage which hid his pills.
But shortly after New Year’s he became more lethargic, his eyes stared blankly, he was worn out and, I believe, was telling me: it’s time.
He was too weak to get up so I picked up my former 110-pound puppy and carried him to the SUV for that final ride to the vet. I was surprised at how much he didn’t weigh.
In the office, as if to reassure everyone that it was his time to pass, he threw up which contained considerable blood.
Dr. Kristin gave him a shot to sedate him and I reminded him of all of the good times, mischief, and aggravations he provided me.
He gave me a final sigh as if to let me know he had a good time with me and that everything was going to be fine.
The Saturday I allowed compassion and mercy to let my friend move on to where there was no pain, it was raining heavily. I opted to have him cremated. And when the ground thaws, I intend to bury him next to the creek where he so enjoyed to play. And I will transplant a blackberry bush next to him so he can enjoy some summer snacks.
He was just five days shy of his 12th birthday…84 in people years.