You know the relative–the one who travels from house to house for extended stays with the various family members who diligently take their turns caring for the one who cannot care for himself. Such is Charlie, a young boy with an old soul and bad knees.
He hails from D.C., but this winter, he called SoFla home–in my home. Give the kid credit, he picked one of the worst winters to call it quits up north and winter in the joint-relieving sunshine. He likely also wanted to see his mama again, but who knows? I think it was all about the warmth, and a little bit about chilling at The Hut and the promise of a glimpse of the Elbo Room.
Charlie’s short life has been a dark comedy of unnecessary errors. He was the third of three babes of a fourth litter, none of whom were quite right. His brother was born missing a limb. His sister is never mentioned. And Charlie? His brilliant blue eyes mean he’ll go blind in time, and he almost died several times in his first year from complications of gastro issues.
At age three, he is tall and lanky, but quite suddenly he became an expense RG Daughter could no longer handle.
“He’s family,” I told her when she despaired that she had no means to pay for his day care while she was at work. “Send him here for a few months. What’s one more?”
“Really?” she asked, relieved.
“Sure,” I said. “But, you know, just for a few months.” Because in reality, one more is, in fact, more than just one more.
“That would be so great,” she said. “And if he’s too much, RG Son will take him for a while.”
Yep, that would be the other relative.
Charlie’s impending visit begged the question: Do dogs remember their mothers after three years? And do mama dogs remember their pups after the years have gone by?
Yes and yes. Just not in the way anyone could have expected.
From the moment he walked into my house, until the second he lay down in his airline-travel-worthy crate to travel back up north, he remembered how much he loved his mama. He loved her so much, that every waking moment for six weeks, sun up to sun down, he nipped at her squashed snout and nibbled her clipped ears and chomped on her cheeks, always begging her to play “one more time,” even when her broad chest was heaving from the exertion of all the previous hours of day-long play.
But as all good mothers do, she did. And as all good sons should, he often allowed her to “win.”
“I found the perfect place to live,” RG Daughter said several months into Charlie’s visit. “Charlie can come home early!”
You mean yesterday?
Because as much as I loved him because RG Daughter did, Charlie exhausted me as much as he did his mama. I wake up at 5 a.m. for work six days out of seven. As I did, so did Charlie.
When I come home at 2 p.m., all I want to do is shower off the pancake and eggs benedict residue and have a slug fest on my sofa. So did Charlie, except no slug was he.
Nip, nip. Growl, growl. Nibble, nibble. On and on for hours and hours. On my lap, on my feet, anywhere and everywhere near me.
Funny, RG Son dropped out of the picture of willing relatives soon after Charlie arrived on my doorstep.
“I need to book a reservation for a dog to be shipped to D.C.,” I told the cheery Continental agent after RG Daughter’s most welcome call, because U.S. Air and American and their non-stop flights said no can do to a snub-nosed, blue-eyed devil traveling unaccompanied.
Growl, growl. Nip, nip.
“Is that the dog that will be traveling?” asked the sort-of-still-cheery agent when she heard the escalating animal sounds in the background.
Bark. Nip. Growl.
“No, no,” I laughed as I lied. “That’s his…um, mother.” Yeah, that’s it. Blame it on the mother. Mama takes it for the kid, that is, if she ever wants to sleep in peace again.
“Oh, well, fine,” the agent almost laughed. “But just so you are aware, we don’t take sedated animals.”
Of course not. I wouldn’t dream of it. So much for the prescription RG Daughter had sent.
On Charlie’s last day as a snowbird, he snoozed for five seconds in the sun next to his mother before he chomped down on her muzzle. He actually allowed me to pat his head at 5:40 a.m. before he took off to wake his mama from a sound sleep from under a blanket she hoped in vain would act as an iron curtain against him.
Bye bye Charlie. Into your crate. Here’s a treat.
He made his flight with only a minute to spare. Got to hand it to Continental, they have a layered protocol to handle the shipping of “precious cargo,” and they do it very well. Charlie arrived at DCA via Cleveland on time and in great shape.
“He’s so quiet!” RG Daughter exclaimed. “You must have really worked with him and trained him.” Uh huh.
And yet, a certain silence now pervades my house. A growl-less, nip-less peace and quiet that belies the energy and action that drove me and a certain other mama insane for weeks. Both mamas, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, almost miss the chaos.
Almost. Until I arrive home at 2 p.m. and wrap a favorite blanket around me and my old girls as we cuddle on the sofa and sigh as we smile in the peace. In the quiet.
“He hasn’t barked. He only sleeps in his dog bed,” said RG Daughter today. “Really, mom, he’s so calm and so much better since he was down there.”
Nip, nip. Growl, growl.
The Snowbird Devil
Mama Angel in the back. Rouletta (l), Charlie (r)