for a dog named Charlie.

Write about a ceremony.

January 9 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

The day, I don’t recall. The season, I don’t clearly recall. Summertime, I think, possibly early autumn.

The weather, I don’t clearly recall. Not raining or cold.

The tree I recall. Large. Tall. Thick trunk. Ample foliage. Grandfatherly in the presence among the other trees, bushes and blooms.

Were there flowers near the tree? A flowerbed that my mother might have created in the short months that we, a family of four, had been living there? Actually a family of five when including Webster, our Belgian Tervuren. We were a family of six, until this happened.

He was a feisty one, Charlie was. Scottish terrier and miniature poodle mixed. He was spirited and he was smart. Too smart for his own good. Clever too. He was a handful and loved immediately from the moment my dad brought him home one day after work. Surprise! Not sure my mother even knew a puppy was on his way into our house in Southern California. For sure my sister and I didn’t.

Sitting around the dinner table, trying to come up with a name. I recall that. A name for this little creature of all black curls. Names were floated and rejected, including one from my sister. Curly-Q. We were young kids. What did we REALLY know about naming an animal properly?! Properly meaning listen and the animal tells YOU his/her name. Ditto babies.

“Charlie” I offered. That’s it. We all agreed, the adorable playful puppy of black curly-Qs is Charlie.

He outgrew his puppy ways, as dogs do, and settled into one of his most enduring qualities and endearing charms: clever scamp. He was safe and free to run about in our large yard and around the neighborhood hill on which we lived.

Of course he spent a good deal of time indoors too. Our family was not the sort to get a dog, only to submit it to a life of negligence to a chain or pen in the yard. Charlie learned his way around our yard and surrounding properties. And beyond. I fear to think how far and wide Charlie’s knowledge ranged! Or the number of offspring he sired. We heard once from the neighbors who caught Charlie digging under their fence to hook up with presumably their girly dog. They weren’t too pleased, as I recall.

Now and then he’d disappear for a couple days. Return to the kitchen door safely and all weary. Spent from his adventures. He’d appear like a wet noodle, sleep it off, then be good as new! He was a vital quick bouncer-back too!

Sometimes we wouldn’t let him out. He wanted out. You could tell by the way he eyed the den door. Longingly. He’d give you that look, full of cleverness and pathetic. “I’m so sad. I’m not feeling well.” His greatest trick was to limp. As if he had a burr in his paw. We’d look, dig, scrounge into his paw pads. Nothing.

Still, he’d keep up the “woe is me” act with a front paw raised up. It hurt ever so much to walk. Finally, eventually, someone would relent. Open the door. And OFF he’d shoot like a cannon out of a barrel!

Burr?! What burr, Charlie?!?

He was a hoot, a character, a scamp of considerable survival skills and smarts. Some people should be half so gifted or blessed to have half the intelligence that made that Charlie tick.

Charlie must’ve been around 10-12 when we moved to Northern California. It was not a good move for anyone, except my dad, who forced it for reasons of his own. We all went. My father, mother, me, sister, Charlie and Webster.

Our new house — which later became known as the evil house between me and my sister — was in a cul-de-sac about a quarter of a mile from a busy road.

I don’t recall all the specifics exactly. I believe it was my mother who got the phone call. A dog had been hit on that road near the house. Charlie always wore a collar and tags. Always.

The tree stands protecting, strong. The soil is rich. My father has shoveled a space. We as family of four have never been close. No one’s been close to anyone else in this family of conflict, pain, warfare and more, though if there’s a slowly emerging closeness, it’s between me and my sister now.

But on that day that I don’t recall, beside a tree that I recall and a space in the ground crafted by my father, we laid to rest a dog, our dog, named Charlie. Inside his big pale blue bedspread bed. We wept, not as a family but as individuals. I think it hit my sister the very very hardest. When my parents split a few years after and sold the house, neither my sister nor I ever felt any need to revisit. Except once, separately. She, above all else, to see the place where Charlie was laid. Beside the grandfatherly tree.

Charlie. The Scottish terrier-poodle mix with the tight black curls. Smartest scamp I’ve ever known. A survivor. But no match for a large hunk of moving machinery. My only comfort — very possibly a comfort not real but imagined as the only one my heart can muster up — is in the thought that Charlie died doing what he loved. Exploring the neighborhood. Making it his as he had ours in Southern California. On an adventure.

Truth told, it tears me up that he died alone. But he was not alone in a deeply mournful weeping ceremony beside his grandfatherly tree.


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