Last week we experienced our first true cold snap of the winter. Temperatures dropped down into the -30's (F and C both merge around that point). We were prepared in most ways, the dogs had lots of straw in their houses, snow was piled over the 'problem spot' in our garage water pipe to keep it from freezing, and all our extra heavy duty winter clothing was out of storage.
There was one thing I was unprepared for though. A couple days into the snap, Mark came back from feeding the Seniors and when I inquired about Gilligan, who has been having some trouble this year, he informed me he was fine, but Charlie couldn't stand up.
For those of you that don't know Charlie, let me back up a little - well, a lot - it was almost 14 years ago that Libby whelped out her, and our, first litter of pups. She had 6 girls and 1 boy - Charlie. From the moment that boy was born, he has owned my heart. We had first pick of that litter, Jackie and Chris Marshall, Libby's breeders had second. There was never any question or doubt who our pick would be - it was Charlie.
Charlie grew to be everything we hoped for in a working Siberian. Leggy, sound and capable - with a personality that could melt just about any heart. Even when he was knocking down my Mom's Christmas tree or gnawing on the antique bar of soap passed down from my Grandma, you couldn't stay mad at this happy boy for long.
When we took him in for a 'Temperament Test' the instructor offered to buy him. Charlie was never for sale.
When I took up obedience, Charlie passed his Companion Dog title quickly and easily. He trained up well for the next level, but in my excitement to make him into a 'real' obedience dog, I forgot that Charlie was in life for the fun of it and when I made it work, he decided to teach me a lesson that will never leave me. Despite performing each exercise in the ring correctly on numerous occasions, Charlie refused to string together a qualifying round. YEARS and thousands of dollars in entry fees later, Charlie was retired with not one leg of his CDX title. I never forget to include fun with work now!
Charlie was shown a few times in conformation and even picked up a few points. I was so proud to hang his 'Best of Winners' ribbon on his ex-pen at the show. When I turned my back he plucked the ribbon off the pen and scratched and torn it up. Charlie didn't need any judge to tell him his worth.
I loved this dog when he was too small to get to his feet. I watched him struggle to learn to walk, I watched him run with the enthusiasm of youth, I watched him run with the knowledge and power born of maturity, I watched him slow down when age began to dictate limits. Now I love him when he is almost too old to get to his feet.
Mark and I helped Charlie up and got him inside where it was warm. Stalling, we agreed that we would see how he was doing in the morning. Morning came and he was 'better'. He followed me outside and we went for a short walk, his halting steps mirroring mine - I walk, Charlie walks; I stop, Charlie stops. He still remembers his 'heeling position' and that is where he wants to walk.
It's Monday today. The temperatures have warmed and Charlie is now outside for the days, but inside for the nights. He barked and pawed at the kennel door for his dinner last night. That made me smile, but I know the days left are stolen ones.