Tribute to a Life Well Loved

Today has been an extremely sad day in the Morgan/Grant household. Our beloved boy Charlie gained his wings today, just three weeks shy of his 19th birthday. Most cavalier King Charles spaniels have much shorter lifespans, due to heart disease and neurologic problems that afflict so many of these wonderful dogs.

Charlie started life in Missouri as a puppy mill breeding male. When he became so arthritic he was no longer capable of being used for breeding he was tossed aside, like so many dogs raised in mills. Fortunately, instead of facing euthanasia at the age of eight, he was picked up by a rescue group in Illinois. A family vacationing in Illinois saw him on the internet and adopted him on the spot. 

The family already owned one cavalier and thought having two would be perfect. However, on their drive home to Pennsylvania they heard Charlie snoring. They also discovered he only had five teeth which were all rotten. They decided he wasn't perfect enough for their perfect family and wanted to send him back to rescue. (I'll refrain from giving my opinion on whether these people should ever own a dog.)

Hue and I were asked to drive to Pennsylvania to pick up Charlie and foster him in our home. We instantly fell in love. He was one of quite a few "foster-failures" who came to stay in our lives.

Charlie was a gorgeous ruby boy. He must have made beautiful puppies. Unfortunately, he suffered terribly from syringomyelia (SM) and luxating patellae, which I'm sure were passed on to his offspring. He had arthritis in his spine worse than any dog I had ever seen at age eight (perhaps he was older than what we were told?). But Charlie was a HAPPY boy. He LOVED his harem of girls: Abby, Shayna, and Pookie (two of them gone now too - Shayna is still hanging in there). He'd herd the girls around the house, play and run with them in the yard, and they'd all snuggle together in dog beds and the big dog bed that Hue and I were allowed to share with them.

Charlie picked his favorites and he wasn't afraid to let the other boys know the girls were his territory. He was a typical red-headed Fire personality (TCVM) - very vocal and boisterous.

Charlie lost his few remaining teeth within a year of living with us. It never stopped him from chewing the meat off raw meaty bones and eating a raw diet. He traveled the country with us in our motor home and became an international traveler when we took him to Canada. He loved to be front and center on Facebook on our Breakfast with Spaniels show, right beside Pookie. He and Hue did their share of live videos discussing things two old men might think about.

Almost three years ago Charlie's arthritis progressed to the point where he was unable to walk or stand for more than a minute or so. He had to lie down to eat his meals. We drove him to Massachusetts to our friends at Eddie's Wheels to get his personal four-wheeled walker which gave him new mobility. His favorite pass-time was chasing down our Cocker spaniel, Scout.

Charlie did not develop heart problems until he was sixteen. He responded well to his therapies over the years, including laser, acupuncture, herbs, and medications. He was always a willing participant in my plans to find new treatments for dogs with his medical issues.

The last few months have been tough for our little old man. He needed to go out multiple times every night and sometimes just had trouble getting comfortable. Every night Hue and I took turns sleeping downstairs with Charlie so we could tend to his needs. This morning he let us know he could no longer face the challenges. 

Deciding when to let your pet go is one of the toughest decisions you will ever face. At least it has been for us. I generally tell my clients, you'll know when it's time. And we did. But it still hurts.

So here's to a life well lived and a life well loved. To Charlie. The man in charge.