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Deep breath. Ok… I can write this.

Dear Friends,

There’s just no easy way to start this post.

Charlie bug looking up at me

Earlier this month, we suddenly and unexpectedly had to say goodbye to Charlie. My darling, happy, sweet, lovable, endless bounding energy ball wrapped in a tongue-wagging grin and brown wiry fur is no longer sleeping at the foot of my bed. She was just shy of 10 years old.

As you might expect, K and I are both grieving her loss in waves. There are moments where life is relatively normal, and moments where I see reminders of her everywhere and feel overwhelmed with loss. Fair warning: I needed a cathartic photo dump. I understand if this post takes a second to load; please be patient (I’m working behind the scenes to get photos to load faster but it’s a process that is taking a little time to finish up).

Charlie with Kyle and Sarah

Fur in the hallway corners (she shed like no other dog I’ve ever known). Scratches from where she ran up the stairs. Dents in the couch where she (despite our objections) smushed the cushion out of shape because she didn’t seem to ever understand she wasn’t as small as Stella. Nose prints on the window.

Charlie looking out of the master bedroom window

The Day I Brought Charlie Home

Some of you guys may actually remember Charlie’s first post when I adopted her as a puppy. She was about 10 weeks old (they estimated) and given the name “Koala” at the humane society where I found her. She was scrawny, awkward, and had an infection from the other puppies. Her vet visits were covered by my adoption fees, and I couldn’t wait to bring her home.

Charlie at atlanta humane society

I was lonely after an ex-boyfriend and his dog moved out and didn’t want to come home to an empty house anymore. I suppose it was a subconscious thing from one of my favorite movies as a kid (All Dogs Go to Heaven), but I’d always wanted a dog named Charlie. When she crawled into my lap after filling out her paperwork, I called her “Charlie”… she looked into my eyes as if to ask “what?” And just like that, she was never Koala again.

That first night, she slept in bed with me and peed defiantly on my carpet the next morning (I soon learned to schedule around her little bladder).

Charlie in the grass playing and looking at camera

She started my family.

Sarah and Charlie in front of house closeup before house makeover

Life with Charlie Bug

“Bug” was her middle name; it just seemed to fit. I’d had family dogs before her, but she was the first one that was truly mine and belonged to no one else. I was her mom. Even now with a mini human added to our crew, I think of her as the first to turn just me into more.

Charlie loved to chew on paint sticks

For a long time, it was just the two of us. She was with me when I started and finished grad school. She was with me as I dated weirdos. I brought her with me whenever I could, took her to the dog park so she could run while I studied, and she was always the reason I had to get home. When her floppy ears began to stand up, one fell over the top of her head like a combover. She could truly awkward like no other.

Charlie peeking out of the new truck

She jumped to greet people like little dogs do — only she was 50 pounds of pure happiness. Bigger than she ever seemed to understand. I could never get her to stop her intense greetings with the people she loved; as soon as we’d make progress, she would get overly excited to see someone and we’d backtrack again. She could jump so high that she could touch the top of a door frame with ease. She would also try to squeeze into the weirdest places and then look at me like I somehow shrunk it when she wasn’t looking.

If she sat on your feet, she was choosing you, and you were now hers.

Charlie smiling

Her sploot and thick wagging tail would make her signature thwap thwap thwap sound on the walls/furniture, and her paws would make little clacking sounds on the hard floors as she wandered around the house.

charlie butt on new plus sign rug

She hated fireworks, baths, and going to the vet, so I eventually learned to keep an anti-anxiety prescription around. She was the first dog I ever had that could catch food mid-air if you tossed her a scrap (we learned that together one grad school night while I was eating crackers). One of her favorite special treats was half of a fortune cookie.

Our Family Expanded

K and Stella joined an existing family of her and me. And Charlie loved them both. It took a little time for Stella and Charlie to warm to each other after living for 5 years alone, but they learned to depend on each other. Stella was the brains; Charlie was the muscle. Where Stella wanted to be a true hunter in the backyard, Charlie preferred to eviscerate stuffed animals instead of the real ones. And chew on paint sticks.

Charlie and Stella napping on the grass together

My dad had a special scratch on Charlie’s butt that made her shed, even after a full brushing and bath. But once K joined the family, it was clear: K was her dad, and they shared a special bond. He, in turn, adored her. She was no longer just my dog, but ours. He loved her, defended her, snuggled her, carried her.

Charlie looking up at Kyle

Her quirkiness only became more obvious with another dog to compare to. She had a peculiar patience with Stella when they played since their sizes always seemed to be at such extremes (Stella could only jump about halfway up Charlie’s body, so she would often start swatting at Charlie to play when she was on the bed and Charlie was standing next to it so that they could be eye to eye). Charlie would basically let Stella attack her massive head while she stood, mouth opening and closing, until Stella got tired of play.

Charlie also never understood to roll over to her back to get belly rubs. She would stand over us as we sat on the couch or bed to bring her middle over our hands until we reached up for a scratch.

Charlie cant find room on old sofa

As she got older, I watched as one of her eyelashes turn white and then grew flecks of gray in her muzzle. But she never lost her puppy energy.

Charlie's white eyelash

When I was single, she loved to run at the park, but never play fetch. After we became a family of 4, we would take her up to K’s parents’ property where she could run through fields and the woods to her heart’s content.

Charlie staring at cows

She seemed to have two basic speeds: #dogblur and Lazy Sunday.

dogblur

When she was ready for bed, she would walk halfway up the stairs and stare at us to get off the couch and come to bed. And once there, she would stay in bed as long as we wanted to sleep in.

Charlie and Stella lounging on the king bed with two duvets

In later years, she became very dramatic about getting bumped (perhaps because there were now 4 of us sharing). If she got so much as the tiniest foot nudge, she’d grumble, jump off the bed, and climb back on in a huff. When I was pregnant, she would steal my spot whenever I got up to the bathroom; she seemed to love my special pregnancy pillow and we all knew it would belong to her after the baby was born.

dog adopting the pregnancy pillow

Meeting Ellis

I feel particularly sad about Ellis and Charlie, as I of course expected to be writing a different pupdate post to recap their first encounter and how she and Stella adjusted to having a new family member.

When I found out K and I were having a baby, I daydreamed about how Charlie might adapt to yet another family expansion. I pictured her as the protective type, stretching out on the floor in Ellis’s nursery during his naps and checking on him when he cried. I pictured her learning to love mealtimes in his high chair as he dropped food and the way he might giggle at the gentle way she would take treats.

We brought Ellis home from the NICU at night, and the pups met him as we walked in the door. Charlie stared for the longest time at the little sleeping thing in the carrier, sniffing and occasionally glancing at us for a reaction. She seemed to understand that this bald puppy was somehow part of the pack now.

bringing baby home from hospital to meet dogs

Over the last few months, she had a lot of patience with me. I’ve been tired and distracted with all things baby, but she never stopped wanting to be by my side, even when Ellis cried and she could’ve slept in the other room for more peace. I felt a lot of new mom guilt for not being able to shower her with as much affection, but K put in extra effort to make sure she felt loved and would remind me to love on her when Ellis was asleep (something I am very grateful he did now).

Charlie enjoying a snuggle with Kyle

Saying Goodbye

One night as I was doing the usual routine with the baby, K called my attention from downstairs that Charlie seemed to have hurt herself in the yard. One minute she was running around like her usual self, and the next, she seemed to be favoring one of her back legs. She had hurt her paws before by splitting a toenail, so that was the very first thing that popped in my head. No biggie, I thought, we’ll mend it like before and take her to the vet in the morning.

But K insisted it seemed more serious. It seemed to be her leg, and she was walking really stiffly with it. We felt all along her back, her legs, and couldn’t find an obvious injury, so we called up the emergency vet. They too thought it sounded like she may have sprained something, so we mentioned some pain meds we had and gave that to her, and they said to call them if things seemed to worsen. Charlie seemed to feel a little better after the pain meds kicked in, but each time she got up, she seemed to hit a wall and laid back down again. We called the vet again and they told us to bring her in.

We arranged for my parents to look after the baby and brought Charlie to the vet. K laid her on the floor with the seats folded up so she wouldn’t be shifted during the drive. I reached back to hold her paw and tell her it would be ok. We weren’t allowed in for safety reasons, so we waited in the car as they checked her over.

We figured we could be waiting for hours (also based on how many other cars were in the parking lot), so we went to the gas station to grab some coffee and prepare for a long night of sitting in a cold truck. We got a call sometime later with less than optimistic news: they heard some fluid around her heart, which could indicate a tumor. They would need to drain it to relieve the pain she was experiencing, and could then also do lab work on the fluid to help determine a possible cause. Once they drained it, though, she could be back to her old self until it built up again (which could be as little as just a few hours or a number of weeks). It wasn’t a great prognosis, but it was something that would allow us to bring her home and possibly say goodbye. We agreed to the procedure and waited for the next call to tell us what kind of fluid they found to then run tests. The entire time, I faced blank denial. I told myself she was too young, that we at least had a little more time, etc. All the dogs I’d ever had died as old, slow dogs… never one that still had so much puppy in her.

Unfortunately, one of the staff came back to the car not long after they started the procedure to flag us to come into the building. I knew then that this was the end, but didn’t know how to prepare myself (they mentioned as we discussed the procedure earlier that cardiac arrest was a risk). We put on our masks and were escorted back, and I saw them working to revive her. I fell apart. So did Kyle. They were able to get her heart beating but told us that it was best to let her go. It wasn’t likely she would survive the rest of the procedure and became a question of quality of life. We chose to stop her suffering, told her she was a very good girl, and I simply sobbed. She died early on a Saturday morning. They gave us time with her and we left after making arrangements.

Her absence was so swift and shocking that we are still in disbelief. Grief truly comes in waves. It took me weeks to finally write this post (which I wrote for me more than anything — I wanted to write down all the little things to read someday). At times, I feel overwhelmingly guilty. She was my sidekick throughout it all, but there were days of not giving her the attention she deserved, especially recently. I know she had a full life and tons of love, and my being home with her because of my job was a true blessing. But it makes the hole she leaves behind all the more noticeable. There will never be another dog quite like her. I wish Ellis could have had the faintest memory of her.

baby and dog

Her ashes are now back home with us, waiting for us each night and letting us sleep in as late as we want once again. It’s definitely not the same without her joy and without her pestering to get extra scratches, but it’s something. I still want to write another pupdate of the pictures we took since the last post, but it will be bittersweet for sure.

We love you so much, my sweet Charlie Girl. Chaaales, Chuck, Goofball, Goof, Sweet Girl, Sweetie, Sir Charlies Miner, Brown Butt, Fuzz-Butt, Bug.

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56 Comments

  1. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what a nightmare it must have been to lose her so suddenly. Charlie looks like she was a very sweet girl. Our fur babies don’t live nearly long enough. Rest in peace, Charlie <3

  2. We unfortunately went through a very similar experience summer of 2019 with our dog Sawyer, just shy of 11 years. He was fine one day, not fine the next, but expected the vet visit would find something we could fix. Instead he didn’t come home with us and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Your post reminded me of this and now I’m crying all over again. The pain does lessen, but a good dog always remains in your heart and in your memories, and we still keep pictures of him around to remind us and our kids of how wonderful he was. Here’s to Charlie and Sawyer romping through doggie heaven together.

    1. I’m sitting here reading with tears in my eyes. My furbaby’s heart gave out in 2014, a replacement companion was hit by a car in 2016, and then my dad passed in 2018. I cried as hard for my Smokey leaving me in 2014 as I did when I sat next to my dad, taking his final breaths.
      Family is family but thank the lord, you were allowed to be Charlie’s mama. Fur babies truly are a blessing.

  3. My heart truly breaks for you. I know how much Charlie meant to you. You are in my thoughts often.

  4. Since I am NOT a dog person, why am I now in tears? Your love for Charlie showed in every word of this post. She knew she was loved. Hope you find the peace of heart you deserve.

  5. I’m so sorry, it’s so hard. We lost our 3 yo mutt about a year and a half ago to a plural effusion. It was awful and I empathize with you. ??

  6. Oh my gosh, I am so so sorry. I’m in tears because your post hits very close to home. My buddy Diggory died similarly last month, too, on March 8. He was 10ish and healthy as a horse until March 7 when he had two seizures out of nowhere. He spent the night at the emergency vet, went under for an MRI the next morning, and went into cardiac arrest. They couldn’t bring him back. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

    Like you and Charlie, it was me and him for eight years. Well, plus my cats, but there’s nothing like a dog-human partnership. It’s heart-wrenching to not have him here. “Dog” is such a simple word with so much meaning. Let those tears flow and remember your friend. Sending you all love from PA.

  7. There’s just nothing like a pup. She sounds so much like my first dog who sadly had the same story for her last few days. The shock was unmentionable and her absence was deafening. Hug Ellis. Eat chocolate. Hang in there.

  8. The heartbreak of losing a pet is not easy. Charlie was such a sweet soul and I’m glad I was able to see her grow up on your blog/instagram. I’ve lost some unexpectedly and others with some notice…it doesn’t get easier to say goodbye. I mentioned this to you before, but the tears move from pure grief to something bittersweet at a certain point. I still have days that I sob about the three that made me a “mom”, but there are also days I smile as I think of all the good memories. Big hugs my friend.

    1. Thanks Anna. I’m only getting through a few comments at a time when I feel up to it, but it means so much that others can remember Charlie along with me. Hugs back.

  9. Oh my goodness, I wish I could reach through the screen and hug you. I’m sobbing reading this—the pain of losing a beloved pet (let alone the first that feels like your baby, YOUR dog, the one who transformed you from person to dog mom and protector) is like no other. My deepest condolences. Charlie was so lucky to have you, and it sounds like you made her 9 years incredibly lovely. My heart hurts for you, as it rejoices for Charlie, who is now running pain-free and eating magical peanut butter-flavored paint sticks in the next life. Sending you so much love. I know I am a stranger, but I so adore your crafts and updates that I couldn’t help but share a virtual hug with you.

    1. Thank you. I’ve only been able to read through a couple of comments at a time, so I’m coming back and responding to some of them today. I appreciate it so much! Hugs back.

  10. My heart breaks for you. I never had animals as a kid, NYC born and bred. No animals in the apt allowed. My son was about 13 when we caved and rescued a dog. We lost Zoe 3 years ago and I was sidelined by the grief. It does get better. We got Cosmo, 6 months after we lost Zoe. Best thing we ever did!! Ellis has Stella and you will get another. Circle of life. Peace and hugs!!

  11. Ugly crying reading this. My dog’s name was Sadie. One of her many nicknames was Bug. We have been though many of the same experiences as you had with Charlie – getting her because I hated come home to an empty house, studying for grad school, dog park study time, dating losers and in and on. I had to help her pass the second day of quarantine last year. March 18. I understand the waves, I miss her so much it still hurts. Hugs to you.

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss, and at such a difficult time it must have been for you. Hugs back.

    1. Sarah;
      No truer word was said when they called dogs man’s best friend. Charlie was a special dog. May the fond memories you have ease the pain of grief for your family at this difficult time.
      My friend’s yellow lab (Libby) has been her confidant, friend and light going through some dark storms of life, loving and wanting only to please her for 15 1/2 years. Soon she will be walking through that doggy rainbow in the sky.
      When one door closes another opens, Best wishes in the future with your growing family.
      Jack, Carol,
      Libby, Stella
      Willie G.

  12. This moved me to tears as I read it. You were blessed to have Charlie in your life and I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

  13. I’m so sorry for your loss, we too, had to say good bye to our Sadie, almost 11 years old, in January 7. I’m still sad and miss her every day. Just got a new puppy last week and Sadie would have loved her! It has helped take away some of our loss as we know we have lots more love to share. Cherish your memories and you will open your hearts to another, when you are ready. Hugs to you and your family.

    1. I’m so sorry about your loss with Sadie. I know the time will come when we’re ready for another, but I think it’s going to take me a while to come around. Every day the idea gets a little easier, but we still miss Charlie a ton of course. Thank you <3

  14. I’m really sorry…
    Have a special room in your heart for her and remember it with love and respect. ❤️

  15. So very sorry for your loss, but glad you had the joy of knowing Charlie and sharing such sweet memories.

  16. Sarah,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve enjoyed reading your stories and updates about Charlie over the years, and it is clear that she was a special dog and well loved. I hope the good memories you have of her will help ease the pain of loss, at least with time.

  17. Oh nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I remember when you first brought her home!!! OMG… this post made me cry too :( I’m so sad to read this. You will always cherish your memories but her loss will always be felt. She was a special girl. Ellis has a new guardian angel now (thinking of your grandma, too). All my hugs!!!

  18. Oh, Sarah, I wish I could say something witty or amusing to make you laugh and ease your pain, but I’m rotten at doing things like that. Instead I’ll just say that your story left me with tears streaming and snot dripping (sorry about the gross image, but truth).
    I am truly sorry for your loss. Treasure those memories and beautiful/ funny pictures, share them with Ellis as he grows, and Charlie will stay alive forever in your heart.

    1. Thank you so much, Deb. I know it has been a minute since you left this for Charlie, but it has taken me a long time to get through them all. I’m usually in tears after about 3. But they mean a lot and I appreciate it so much! <3

  19. I’m SO happy that you were fortunate enough to have such a tremendous dog in your life. And I know your grief – since I was similarly blessed. It’s been 7 years now since my Sadie dog died, and it STILL brings me to tears when I open my front door and I don’t see the lovely muzzle that used to be my common greeting. I’d do anything to be able to see that again. So, grieve. Don’t be afraid to share your tears. You’ve lost one of the best friends you’ll ever have.

  20. I am so very sorry for your loss. Losing a pet so suddenly and unexpectedly is simply traumatic.

    Charlie was a wonderful dog and you were a wonderful dog mom to her.

  21. Charlie is a special family member no doubt. I am so sorry for your loss – it is one of the hardest things in the world to lose these sweet bundles of unconditional love. I lost my Buddy in Jan 2020, and still tear up at times for missing him. Be kind to yourselves and be sure to let yourselves grieve, it is a huge loss. I’m sure my Buddy welcomed Charlie at the rainbow bridge and is showing her the best places to lay in the sun (but knowing my Buddy, he’d be pointing out the best piles of horse and cow poop to roll in :-) )

  22. I am so sorry for your loss. It is so hard to lose a member of the family. I am sending good thoughts and virtual hugs to you and K to heal the hole in y’alls hearts. Your post is a wonderful tribute to Charlie and I am so glad you wrote it. I also loved the pictures. My dog is a Blue Heeler and is also a horrible shedder no matter what we do. She also lays on the floor, belly down all splayed out like Charlie. Thank you so much for sharing.

  23. I’m so sorry! This made me cry also. My dog, Juno, is probably about the same age, maybe a little older. I worry about the day we lose her. She will not be forgotten. You have many photos, stories and memories to keep her in your heart. She will play with all the other dogs and be waiting for you on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

  24. Sigghhh, there are really no words. Know that I’m thinking of you and I hope you find some peace in your sorrow.

    Anne Weber-Falk

  25. So very sad to hear this…Charlie was such a treasure that you found and loved to the enth degree!! So glad you had her in your life as long as you did…sending hugs for all of you…

  26. I’m so sorry you lost Charlie. Your account of Charlie’s life is really beautiful. When you mentioned how she ages (not wanting to share the bed at all and her eyelashes turning white) it made me think of our family dog. My husband and I got Batman when we were dating, he’s about 7 now and has been an “old man” in attitude (especially not sharing the bed- sometimes he’s a rock that won’t move but most of the time a gentle breeze is enough to get a grumble and huffy departure out of him) for about a year or two. Wishing you the best.

  27. I lost my Greta last summer after she fell and sprained her neck. The crate rest exacerbated her congestive heart failure, and I spent the next two months cuddling her as much as possible and wondering how I would live without her. I have followed you since before you got Charlie, and loved reading about your adventures with her. I’m on to my next rescue dog now, but Greta will always be in my heart, like Charlie will always be in yours. We never forget our first dog, the one that was all ours. Much love to you during this difficult time.

    1. It has taken me a while to get through all of the comments on this post, but thank you for leaving your comment! It means a lot. <3

  28. My heart goes out to you…losing a fur ball that is one of the wonderful links in a family is especially hard.

  29. I am sorry for your loss.
    Miss Charlie was a beautiful soul and you could see it in how you captured her images. I lost 2 dogs since 2014 with the first being my fur baby. I still miss Mr. Smokey but I am grateful he came into my life and was a wonderful blessing. Miss Charlie went over the ? bridge and is now free.

  30. I am so very sorry for your loss. I am sobbing as I write this because I know how you feel. I lost my precious Daisy last August and still miss her terribly. It was just her and I and now I am so lonely! Remember all the wonderful memories.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your loss with Daisy. I hope she and Charlie are playing together!

      1. Thank you so much for your kind reply. Only someone who has lost a much beloved member of the family can understand how devastating it is. My prayers are with you.

  31. This hit so close to home, I’m in tears. This was so beautifully written and a great memoir for Charlie. I’m thinking of you through this difficult time.

  32. I’m so very sorry for your loss. They are our family and we grieve their loss when they cross the Rainbow Bridge. Your post and tribute are so beautifully written ♥ Perhaps one day, when you are up to it, you can take this tribute and photos and write a book for Ellis, The Story of Charlie. Peace and comfort to you and K.

  33. I’m so sorry for your loss. I remember when Charlie joined you, and all the joy she brought. Those ears!! Oh my she was such a character.

    1. <3 <3 thank you, Whitney. I’ve held off on reading a lot of the comments on this post in particular because I wasn’t ready to go through them yet. But I’m getting there, and grieving them one by one. Thank you for remembering her and all the joy she brought us!

  34. I’m so sorry for you, it’s never easy to lose someone like a furbaby who depends on us so much and gives so much in return, especially when it’s unexpected. My oldest is a Lab/mix who turned 13 this year. I can tell her age is catching up, she’s gone from coal black to mostly gray, her walk is slower and play times are less. I think she’s a little deaf or maybe it’s dementia starting and she’s on thyroid and daily pain meds now. I’m making preparations for her end, I’m taking her ashes and my husband’s someplace they both will love because she was always more his dog than mine. But I will miss her even more then. Congratulations on your new little sweetie though, hug him tight when you miss her the most.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Ruth. I’ve been slow to look through the comments on this post in particular because of how much grieving we have been doing. It’s been very hard and we miss her so much. I wish in a way we knew what was coming so we could have spoiled her on her last days. But also thankful for the wonderful years we had with her. <3 I hope your precious pup enjoys her last years with you and you get tons of snuggles in!

  35. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Your furbaby to most of us is part of the family. Thank you for sharing!
    -Terry

  36. Hi, I am so so so sorry, I haven’t on the computer much and just started going through post and saw this and cannot begin to tell you how sad this made me feel and can only imagine what you have been going through, love and prayer for all of you