Sir Charles A. Winston Spaniel

Hi Mark,

I am a conservative listener from Hunterdon County, NJ, a red county in a blue state!

My story is like yours, of sadness over the loss of my dog. Sir Charles A. Winston Spaniel, or Charlie for short, was an English Cocker Spaniel. My fiancée Susan and I rescued him from a puppy store at the local mall in August 1994. We had time to spend in between lunch and the movie so I suggested we go visit the puppies. When we got to the store we saw Charlie, almost six-months old, sitting in his cage. He badly needed a hair cut. He had “Cherry Eye” on both his eyes, a condition where the tear duct pops out. He had them both tucked back in and sutured. His eyes were fine but he had scar tissue. He was marked down to $99. I asked what they were going to do with him and the young lady working there said, “Oh maybe one of us will take him home.” But I knew what his fate was. Scarred eyes on a purebred dog? Nobody wanted him.

I asked if I could see this very sad looking creature. So they let him out and Charlie immediately came to life. He began zooming around the pet store, running around like a crazy dog. But he wasn’t crazy. He was the sweetest, most lovable pup you could imagine. I was smitten. What a sweet dog. Before I knew it I was handing the shop owner my credit card. It was a Friday night and I would return the next day to take him home.

Charlie would become my best little buddy. Potty training him was a chore as he was so old already. He also tore into Susan’s wedding shore gifts which required some weeks of forgiveness but in time he settled down. Every day I would come home from work and we would take our walk around the block. He simply loved this as all dogs do.

Susan and I were married the next spring, May 1995. She moved in and after a few weeks Charlie would look at both of us as if to say, “So what’s this? She used to come and visit… now she’s here all the time…” But in time he grew to love his new mommy as she is a great cook and scraps would always fall to the floor for him.

In 1996 Zachary came along and then in 1998 Jessica. Jessie was a particular messy eater and Charlie loved to clean up after her. The years flew by. He LOVED bananas. It became a habit in the morning after I sliced a banana into my breakfast bowl, Charlie would always get the last slice. In fact the kids loved it when I would reach for a banana and then run around the house, with Charlie excitedly running behind me. He also loved carrots as they are crunchy.

I could write for another hour but I won’t go on. I am sure others have similar stories. Charlie unfortunately got old. We figured he would have a year or two left but really didn’t want to think about it. Last May we dropped him off to his favorite kennel for a long weekend to attend Susan’s niece Katie’s graduation at Virginia Tech. Charlie seemed to like the kennel, as the young women who ran it was so loving towards him. Jennifer seemed to love all the dogs in her care at the Kennel.

Visiting Virginia Tech was bittersweet in the wake of the shootings as we saw grieving parents accepting diploma’s on their children’s behalf. At Katie’s School of History ceremony, one such family described their daughter as loving their dog, as “the dog’s master.” After the ceremony we walked across the field to view the memorial that was set up in the parade field. It was tough but we were glad to be there to pray for these fine kids and their families as well as congratulate Katie.

Shortly after viewing the memorial, my cell phone rang. It was Jennifer from the kennel. “Mark, it’s Jen from the kennel… have you got a minute?” Sort of odd way to call I thought. She quickly got to the point: “Mark, Charlie died.” I suddenly felt my knees go weak. “What?” I said. Jenn went on to tell me that she eat his breakfast normally in the morning but about 11:00 he went out in to the run and must have laid down and died. She was crying but in control. It took everything I had to stay in control, 10 hours from home with my wife and kids with me. Charlie was 13.

I found a bench and sat and wept. My wife and children were there and we all sat on the bench and talk about what had happened. Through the rest of the day I stayed in touch with Jen to set up the arrangements as we cut our vacation short.

It was later that day that Susan and I both came to the same realization. And we firmly believe this: God needed Charlie to be with the young lady who we heard about at Katie’s graduation. I don’t recall her name and I would love to write to her parents, although I don’t know how they would react. But we firmly believe that Charlie is with this young lady in heaven, romping around and playing with her and being her companion. If Charlie had to go, if the Lord needed him, then that was an ok reason.

But God I miss him. He was such a sweet dog. It was him and me before I even got married. I pray the Lord that I did him justice as his master. We only wish I could have said good bye. I asked my parish priest about what I had heard as a child: Do dogs really not go to heaven? He says they must. He himself lost a dog a few years ago and he was devastated. He can’t believe that God could give us a companion with such love and not have that love meet up with us again in heaven. I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for being a great conservative and a friend on the ride home. I enjoy your wit and wisdom. And thanks for offering this forum.

May God bless you and your family.

Mark from NJ