For the Love of Charley

On August 1, 2017
Charley Johnson

Charley with her favorite toy.

Just after I had finished the final chapter of my book, in the wee hours of the morning on the 14th of January 2017, the angels came for Charley. Outside, it rained. Rivers of water lashed against the window and thunder echoed in my bedroom.

Two days before when I noticed she wouldn’t eat or drink and was clearly in distress, I rushed her to the vet. The diagnosis was terrible: A virus had lodged in the brain. I brought her home with medications, one for pain and another for the virus. I thought about all the times in the past when Charley had made heroic miraculous recoveries but I somehow knew this would not be one of them. What little fight she managed to summon was I think now, for my sake. I also think she hung on until she knew I was asleep. Then ever so quietly, Charley let herself slip away.

Then, silence. A silence so profound that I came to dread coming home to my apartment. At night, I would lie in bed and wait for sleep, as usual, my clothes fireman-style on a chair ready for morning when Charley stirred. No gentle snoring to lull me to sleep, no quiet sigh as she shifted position reminding me we were together.

For all those nights and many days that followed, I lived inside that dead empty silence. Visits from friends, music, movies on TV, nothing filled that silence, that awful void.  I still had to go over the edits on the book but I couldn’t find space anywhere in that emptiness to think.

My son invited me to Park City, Utah for the weekend and for a few days I was enveloped in the sound of my grandkids’ laughter. But when I got home I was hit with a noisy monster flu that blotted out everything else. I drowned my sorrow in Kleenex.

After ten days, when flu symptoms began to lift, I turned on my laptop. In my inbox was an email from an old friend with a photograph of her new puppy whom she described as adorable and clownish. In the picture, the puppy was chasing a ball half its size. I saved it on my desktop.

I got to work, clicking back to the photo now and then. It started me thinking that if it’s at all possible, maybe someday when I’m ready, when the pain and grieving finally give way longing, Charley will find me again in the body of a new puppy.

I’d know the eyes….

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