Three weeks ago we said our final goodbyes to our dog Charlotte. It’s finally starting to sink in that she’s gone and I’ll never be able to bear hug her again. It’s been a tough loss for our family, but I wanted to share her story because it’s the least I can do to honor her.
I got a call from Jeremy in September of 2010 announcing that he’d found a dog. My response was some combination of this-must-be-a-joke and if-it’s-true-you-better-be-dropping-it-off-at-someone-else’s-house.
As a little backstory (and confession), we had no business adding another fur baby to our crew. We already had 2 dogs and a cat squeezed together with two humans in a one-bedroom apartment where the ceiling leaked when it rained and we didn’t have central heating and air.
If I haven’t painted a clear enough picture for you: we considered having enough money to ride our bikes on a date for frozen yogurt at the end of the week a victory.
We were poor.
We were both still in college and experiencing the life lesson of budgeting now that we had actual bills to pay.
My hands are getting clammy just thinking about this time in our lives. Honestly, we didn’t know how stressed we were. We were just functioning day-to-day.
At the time I was working at a veterinary clinic near our college campus. Jeremy drove his always-near-broken-down truck straight to the clinic since I was working when he found her.
He skipped proudly inside with the ugliest dog I’d ever seen trailing alongside.
I would sugar coat this, but…she had NO fur on her hind quarters.
From what would’ve been her waist down was completely bare. The tough, wrinkly, exposed skin made her look like an armadillo. Her skinny, fur-less tail looked like it belonged on a giant rat.
Bless. Her. Heart.
And OMG JEREMY JUST PICKED UP A DOG WE ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO BE STUCK WITH (because the market for unintentionally hairless older dogs is quite slim).
I remember my coworker looking at me, wide-eyed, and saying “You know she’s going to be heartworm positive.”
Spoiler alert: She was.
In good faith, Jeremy had brought her to the clinic “just in case she has a microchip.” Ha. We scanned her. No beep. And no surprise – she was not microchipped.
Meaning: there was no one to call to ask if they’d like their lost dog back. And we weren’t entirely sure where to hang “FOUND DOG” signs (plus, if someone out there had claimed to be her owner, I don’t think I would have been willing to return her / allow them to attempt providing “care” for her again).
Jeremy found her in a dicey area of town near the grocery store he had just left. I’m sure you can infer from my previous statements, but grocery money was tight. And he admitted to throwing the smoked sausage he’d bought for us to the dog in an effort to win her over and entice her into his truck. I was not thrilled that our pasta that week was quite bland without it, but we survived.
Despite having only half a body of hair, the water running off her when he gave her a bath was BROWN. She was covered in dirt.
Her teats looked like she may have recently nursed puppies. And she was in heat.
Our vet estimated her to be five years old.
This poor girl was in bad shape but she never, ever let that dampen her spirits.
Needless to say, we took her home.
Upon arrival, she refused to climb the stairs because I’m not certain she understood what they were so Jeremy lovingly carried her 70-ish pound wrinkly, fairly hairless body up and down the stairs to our apartment several times a day until she learned how to climb them herself.
While we were in class or working, she spent her days in a room with our cat at the time which is a true testament to her personality (because that cat was certified crazy).
Through that first heat cycle, she happily wore doggy diapers (yes, those are a thing) and never once seemed bothered by what I can imagine to be a very bazaar thing when your previous life included sleeping in bushes.
We tried to find her a new home, but – as stated before – the market for old, hairless, currently in heat, possibly recently mothered a litter of pups, heartworm-positive, homely dogs is nonexistent (in case you’re wondering).
I remember trying to find her a new home and becoming bitter at how shallow we are as humans. If you’ve ever tried to re-home a pet, you know what I mean. If it’s not a cute puppy, you’re in for an uphill battle.
My best friend met her and immediately named her Charlotte. It fit her perfectly.
We took her to a local pop-up shot clinic where I met a veterinarian who, ironically, previously worked at the clinic in which I was employed. We bonded over my scraggly stray dog.
He gave me some old-school tips-and-tricks like administering her heartworm medication every 3 weeks vs. monthly to speed up the “slow-kill” process we had started for her. Another remedy that sounded absurd (but I was crazy enough to try): he suggested dipping her in vinegar a few times a week for several months. This was supposed to help her skin and encourage her hair to regrow. We never expected her to be a show-dog but I had little to lose: vinegar is cheap and I had access to the tub at the clinic on my lunch break.
For weeks (maybe months?) I hauled her to work with me and delicately drenched her bare bottom with white vinegar using a big car washing sponge. She’d air-dry while I finished my shift, making the entire place smell like a French fry stand at the State Fair (my poor coworkers).
That was the fluffiest dog I’ve ever known. She filled our house with hairy dust bunnies causing me unfathomable hours of vacuuming over the years. She was like a big fluffy teddy bear.
So fluffy that we finally broke down one summer and had her shaved because if we were suffering as much as we were in the sweltering heat, she had to be miserable! Wrong. Shortly after her shave, we heard chattering and quickly realized it was her – she was shivering! (In the middle of summer!) We had to dig out her holiday sweater to wear until she got used to being without her heavy coat.
She was the sweetest, most well-mannered dog. I would love to take credit for her manners, but we cannot.
Somehow (after navigating potty-training with two adult dogs before her), Charlotte never had an accident in the house. Our veterinarian said some dogs are just “tidy” – clearly she was. And we loved that about her.
We got Charlotte spayed as soon as her heat cycle was over. We are big proponents of spaying and neutering – did you know that spaying your female dog before her first heat cycle can almost eliminate her risk of mammary tumors (which occur in more than a quarter of unspayed female dogs)?
Because we were living in the city limits at the time, we qualified for a free spay voucher for Charlotte (still offered to city & county residents! If you prefer to take your pet to your own vet, the voucher can still be used for a discount. Do your research if you aren’t sure about your area since they may offer a similar program). I woke up early on the morning of her scheduled spay and kept her from getting any bits of food or water before the surgery. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to do her surgery (I can’t remember the specific reason – I think it was related to her medication). My heart sank as I turned around and drove us both to the animal clinic for my shift that day. Then I cried.
I knew we couldn’t (at least not without sacrifice) afford paying for the surgery. I’m sworn to secrecy on how it was handled ( 😉 ) but I will say there are some darn good humans in the world, and Charlotte got spayed.
She recovered beautifully and went on to be the most humble and loving dog I have ever known.
She was the typical third child (she was our 3rd dog). We had already made our attempts at “training” our other two dogs when Charlotte came along. We were too exhausted to expend the same energy to train her. She didn’t care. She learned how to sit and shake by watching the other two dogs. She amazed and humbled us. We did not deserve her, but she wandered her way into our lives and we are all the better for it.
We thought she was lazy at first but, after witnessing a terrifying seizure, we discovered she had hypothyroidism which explained why she somehow looked overweight when Jeremy found her but was clearly not being taken care of.
Once she started the medication to treat her thyroid levels, she perked up. She suddenly had much more energy and would bounce around like a giant puppy. We used to joke that she was “aging backwards” – living her childhood now that she’s not raising puppies 😉
My heart aches recounting her story. I wish we had been able to give her so much more than we did. While we had far more years with her than we originally expected, I wish we had so many more.
I miss patting her fluffy head and tickling the loose skin on her neck. I miss her sweet eyes and tender kisses. I miss her following me anxiously around, panting until I reached down to remind her that I loved her. I miss her attempt to copy Twitch’s feed-me dance by bouncing on her front legs. I miss hearing Andy yell “Char, Char!” while helping me call her in when she went outside.
We miss her dearly.
She was, and will always be, the very best dog we’ve ever had the honor of having in our lives. ❤