Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Big Black Dog Named Chuck

Several years ago when my stepdaughter Shannon was living with Marilyn and me, she brought home a big black Rottweiler. She is a sucker for animals and according to Marilyn, was always bringing home a stray dog or cat, or bird with a broken wing when she was young.

The dog’s name was Chuckie. He was big and black with white and tan markings. He was around ten years old and had belonged to an old woman that was going to a nursing home. There was no one else to take the dog and if Shannon hadn’t come along the only other option was the pound. Shannon moved to other digs shortly after bringing Chuckie home. Even though she dropped by regularly to take care of him, much of the feeding fell upon Marilyn and me.

Chuckie was old but he was an imposing animal, weighing in at well over one hundred pounds. We have a large pen on the north side of our property and Chuckie took to it right away. I was a little afraid of him and we got off on the wrong foot. The first week that he was here, I went into his pen to fill his water bucket with the hose. It was after dark and I’d had a few toddies. After filling his bucket, I turned to leave the pen only to find my way blocked by the big dog, his teeth barred as he emitted a low-throated growl.

I thought that I was a goner but walked slowly toward him and said, “No Chuck, you sit,” as sternly as I could muster.

Chuck didn’t sit but he did stop growling and let me move past him without tearing my arm off. I learned the next day that Rottweilers are territorial, and that before the old woman adopted him, Chuckie had lived with a man that often beat him when he got drunk.

“He doesn’t like men,” Shannon told me the next day as she arranged his food bowl and water bucket closer to the fence so that I didn’t have to go into his pen.

“Thanks for telling me,” I said.

From that point, I was determined to make friends with the giant dog. Every morning when I went for my morning paper, I would stop by his pen and give him treats. Every day when I got home from work, I would take him treats. Soon, he would jump up on the fence and let me rub his ears

The first time it rained after he moved in with us, I looked out the window and saw him standing in his pen, getting soaked. Considering the time that I had spent in the rain, in the boonies of Vietnam, I decided that he needed shelter – the sooner the better. I had a six-foot length of wooden fence in the yard so I lifted it over the fence and made a quick and dirty lean-to. I covered the structure with black plastic sheeting to shield it from the rain. Within minutes, Chuckie got under the lean-to as if he had lived there all his life.

When Shannon visited, she would let him out of the pen and allow him to run around in the back yard. During these times, I improved Chuckie’s lean-to by adding cedar chips. Before winter arrived, I got him a big doghouse and he loved it.

Soon, I was comfortable enough with the big dog to let him out of his pen even when Shannon wasn’t there, and I was happy to learn that he was just a big overgrown puppy. When I sat by the pool, he would rest his large head on my knees and let me rub his ears. He also liked to swim in the pool.

Shannon often took him with her during the day. He loved riding in the back of her truck, hiking with her and swimming in the nearby lake. Chuckie had found a home but that is not the end of his story.


Chuck had lived with us a couple of years when we noticed that he had a tumor on his belly. We watched it for a while and could tell that it was growing. Shannon’s vet finally told her he needed to remove it. He did and Chuckie was in horrible pain for what seemed like hours. He wouldn’t lie down because of the pain in his belly, despite the efforts of Shannon and Marilyn to soothe him. Finally the pain killers kicked in and he fell into an exhausted sleep.

The operation worked, at least for a while. Chuckie was more energetic and responsive during this time and I have little doubt that it was the best days of his life. The tumor stayed gone for around two years before recurring. This time it was much worse, Chuckie had grown quite old for a Rottweiler and suffered from hip problems (a common genetic trait of Rottweilers).

Chuckie’s health soon began degenerating at a rapid pace and it was obvious that he was in constant pain. One day, Shannon took him for his last ride in the back of her truck to their favorite hiking trail by the lake. The old dog could barely walk but it enjoyed lying in the shallow water one last time. Finally, she took him to the vet, gave him one last ear scratch and had him put to sleep.

My big Lab Lucky is also getting old, now eleven. He lives in a large pen (quarter acre) on our property with Velvet and Patch. Marilyn and I were considering putting him in Chuckie’s old pen so we had it cleaned out last week and reseeded with grass. Yesterday, I strolled through the enclosure with my Pug Princess.

The pen is large – twenty by thirty feet, at least. Several large trees provide plenty of shade, although there is enough sun to lie beneath on a chilly day. One side faces the road and honeysuckle vines cover the chain link fence. What I found at the end of the pen was a very healthy clematis plant with eight purple blossoms growing amid the honeysuckle. The essence of their beauty reminded me what a wonderful dog that Chuckie was and what a pleasure he was.

The big black dog was an abused castoff, neglected most of his life. He was intelligent, had a wonderful personality and had probably dreamed doggie dreams of having a real friend someday. I am so thankful for Shannon and her soft streak. Because of her, he got his wish.

Even though Chuck and I got off to a rocky start, I came to love that big black scary-looking dog, and I miss him now.

Louisiana Mystery Writer

1 comment:

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