Monday, June 14, 2010

"He was such a good boy!!" Charlie, 1998-2010

13 years ago, we had a dog named Maggie. We had her 16 years, in 4 different houses and 3 different areas of MN. Towards the end of her life, we met a great veterinarian named Dr. Kivisto, (more on her later). As tough as it was to put Maggie down, after a few months we started our search for a new puppy. Diane had looked at lots of different dog books, and we were pretty set on getting a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, or "Wheatie." We found a reputable breeder that was having pups soon. She told us we could come and see the pups when they were 4 weeks old. We could then pick one out. The time came, and off we went. But, just before we left, Karen, the breeder, called us. She said, "I just want to tell you to be careful when you come in. Wheatens have a characteristic trait of jumping up on you when they greet you. Don't be alarmed, that's just how they are." Sure enough, Maggie, the mother of the pups, jumped up on me when we came in their house. Not a problem! Some of the pups were already spoken for. The puppies were all wearing different colored ribbons to identify them. I sat down on the floor, and this one with a green ribbon came running towards me, faster then the others. I looked at Diane and said that this has to be the one, after all, he came running for me! The little guy with the green ribbon would become Charlie. Several months after we had Charlie home with us, Diane was reading another dog book, and there was a section on picking out puppies. It said to "never pick out the pup that runs up to you first, because they will be the most active and have the highest energy." Well, they were right about that energy part!
Charlie is being held by Karen, sitting on the couch on the left. Maggie, Charlie's mom, is next to her. 

Wheatens change color as they age, especially during puppy hood. They start out very dark and get lighter as they age. Charlie's black mask disappeared completely after a couple years! 

We wanted to be sure Charlie was trained, and took him to two levels of obedience classes. The instructor kept dried liver treats in his pocket. It didn't take Charlie long to know right where to go when we got to class every week. He would jump right up on the instructors leg to the pocket where the treats were! Those of you that have been to our house knew that he loved to jump up on you when you first came in. The men learned to cover their privates like they were soccer players! The picture above is graduation day. Those of you with sharp eyes will notice the Fat Tire hat I'm wearing.
Charlie learned to sit, lay down, heel, and stay. He would sit or lay down for at least 5 seconds or so, on a good day! What he learned (or we did), was that for a treat he would be very patient. Our instructor taught everyone to use the term "release." I could tell Charlie to either sit or lay down, and put a treat on the floor in front of him. He wouldn't move for the treat until we said the word "release", then he'd scarf it down. He also learned to play fetch this way.

Wheatens are known for their little quirks. One of Charlie's was to pull a cushion off the couch, then grab one of his plush balls. He would move and manipulate the pillow so it was just right. Then, grab the ball and sit like he is in the picture. He would move his mouth up and down while holding the ball in his teeth. This seemed to us to be what he needed to do to mellow out. Hence, we called it "nukking', after a baby's pacifier nuk
Charlie liked his plush toys, especially for fetch. What that dog wouldn't do for one little piece of dog food! When he wanted to play fetch, he would grab a ball and come and ram you in the leg with it. Kinda like, don't you get the hint yet?

One of Charlie's favorite sleeping spots was between the wall and a dresser. He would occasionally sleep in an unconventional position, as this picture shows.
Me and my boy on the couch.

This picture shows why Wheatens are called soft coated. He had the most luxurious fur coat. So soft you couldn't believe it. Unfortunately, he developed a skin disease called panniculitis. He had raw, open sores along his back. This was where Dr. Kivisto became more then just his vet. She researched the condition and finally had us go to the U of MN vet school for treatment. He was given steroids which helped, but never cured the breakouts. His gorgeous fur coat was never the same. The areas where the fur fell out came back, but they were different colored. It was during all these visits to doctors that we learned something about Charlie. He could be a handful at home at times, but, whenever he was in a clinic or hospital he behaved perfectly! Everyone remarked how well behaved he was, and he walked so well on a lead. He was an absolute chick magnet. I couldn't believe how the coeds at the U would stop and pet him! He loved it! The skin breakouts continued off and on for a few years. We finally visited a holistic doctor at the U. Her name was Dr. Choi. She was a Korean woman about 4'10" tall. Her whole approach was different. She looked at him and his sores and said; "He's too hot inside! We need to cool him down!" She prescribed these little round herbal pills with names we could never hope to pronounce. They worked! It was unbelievable. He would go on these pills once a year or so. He never had a breakout again.

He was such a sucker for pictures after a haircut, or maybe we were.
A happy boy.

He could look so sad when no one would play with him. He would gather all his toys around him (and a kong, just in case we were to put cheese or peanut butter in it).

He had a grumpy side. We spent about a year remodeling the upstairs. He wasn't happy that he didn't have carpeting to lay down on. I finally bought him a rug. He also used to stare at us from the top of the stairs when we were leaving. We found out from the neighbors that he would howl after we left! But, whenever we came home he was at the top of those same stairs, wagging his tail, happy we were home again.

As easy going as Charlie was, there were a few things he didn't like. Baths, for example. Riding in cars was another thing that got him riled up. I knew he was really sick last week when I took him to the U of M vet school and he never whined once the whole trip.
A couple other things he didn't like were cats and rabbits. When he was young, our neighbors had a Rottweiler named Jasmine. You wouldn't think a 90 lb Rottweiler and and a 35 lb Wheaten could get along. But, they got along famously. They loved to play with each other and run around the yards together. Jasmine was very protective of Charlie. If Charlie was doing something he shouldn't outside and I hollered at him, Jasmine would bark at me! Anyway, our neighbors also had a cat that was kept indoors. Once, when Charlie was in their yard playing, the cat was sitting on a couch in front of a window at ground level. Charlie broke the window with his head trying to get at the cat.
And then there were rabbits. If one got in our fenced yard, Charlie was uncontrollable. The terrier in him took over and he ran after them like a bat out of hell. He officially was an ace. His total kills were 6 for his career. The first time he caught one we didn't know it and he ate most of it. He learned the hard way that killing rabbits is one thing, but eating them is not good for the digestive system! I only witnessed this once, I couldn't believe how fast he could snap their necks. I was at the rabbit a few seconds after Charlie snapped it's neck, it was as dead as a doornail.

Charlie's favorite kennel was the Rin Tin Inn in Elk River. This picture used to be on their website. That's Charlie on the right.

Diane and our little boy. He was always so happy!

And he could be a snuggler, too.

A little over a week ago, on a weekend, Charlie quit eating and drinking. Now, you have to know Charlie. When we had Maggie, we could put a big bowl of food out in the morning and she would eat when she felt like it. Not Charlie. We fed him 4 times per day, 1/2 cup food each time. Trust me, he could count to 4. Eating for him was a pleasurable experience, although it only lasted 45 seconds. We thought maybe he had eaten part of a dead bird or something, like he'd done before. But something seemed different. We got into the U of M vet school for an appointment. After initial tests and then an x-ray, the vet told me he had a mass in his chest, and for a dog his age it was most likely cancer. She asked if I wanted to do an ultra sound, the only way to really find out which organs were affected. It was expensive, and I had over an hour till the next opening. I called Diane and we decided we owed him that much. Well, they stopped the ultra sound part way through and didn't do biopsies as planned. He had cancer cells all over internally. This was on Monday. As I was walking him out, he was still walking proud, and all the people that saw him were smiling at him. I could barely walk. The drive home was a blur. After we got home, we called Dr. Kivisto. She had left to work in St. Cloud about 4 years ago, but, she had recently opened her own clinic 45 minutes North of us in Princeton. She was shocked by the news. We told her we wanted to put him down on Wednesday. She said she would be honored to be with us. Charlie didn't eat or drink Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. The last meal he had eaten was Sunday afternoon, and it took him an hour to eat it. Wednesday was so emotional for Diane and I, bringing him up there was just too much. It was so hard. We got to the clinic and the first thing Charlie does is start drinking water out of a dish in the waiting room. Then, we get in the exam room. The vet tech, out of habit, offers him a treat. He ate at least a dozen! We were told that adrenalin can do this to a dog. Well, he must have been charged. Dr. Kivisto came in, sat on the floor with him like she always did, and Charlie gave her kisses! She looked at us and told us she didn't think this was the day to put him down. She gave us some different dog food to try and all the treats that she had of the kind he had eaten. We got home, and he ate about 1/2 dish of the new food. He never ate again. The only water he would drink was out of a plant plate on the deck. He got weaker and weaker, and by Friday we knew we had to go through with it. Dr Kivisto was closed on Saturday, but she said she'd come in for us whenever we needed to. We got there Saturday afternoon. The four of us sat on the floor, talked about the past, looked at some of these same pictures I have in this blog. Finally, our good doctor said it was time. I held Charlie's head with one hand and petted him with the other. Diane petted his back. Then he was gone. We all stayed on the floor for another 1/2 hour, petting him the whole time, and talking about everything. We finally got up to leave, and looking at him on the blanket on the floor was hard. He was sleeping, and we wanted to wake him up and take him home. But we knew better. He was chasing rabbits. And there weren't any fences.

This is my favorite picture.
Both of these photos are a little deceiving, he wasn't that big, but he was furry! I think he was about a year old at the time. We used to play this game: I would bend over and put my left arm down, palm up. Then I would put my right arm out, so my arms were in a circle. I would say "come on buddy!" He would jump into my open arms and then I would close them around him and pick him up. We only did this for a couple years, he got too big, but it was a lot of fun. It was our first trick.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary School is the best. What I like about going there is that you always leave with an answer. You have a student see you initially, and the student goes to a professor with their findings and conclusions. The student and the professor come back together and go over everything with you. A couple days later, you get a letter in the mail documenting everything that was done. What I like the best, is the doctors always make personal comments at the end. It's a nice personal touch. A year ago, Charlie had a bunch of bumps under his skin. I again took him to the U for diagnosis. Turned out they were benign. Dr. Lisa was the specialist that did the diagnosis. When we received the follow up letter in the mail a couple days later, it was all very scientific and thorough, as usual. But, at the very end she wrote: "Thank you for bringing Charlie to the VMC. He was such a good boy!!"

Yes, he was a very good boy. Rest in peace buddy. Your mom and dad loved you very much.


  1. Great post Kenny! What a dog! I'm sure the house will feel empty for sometime to come.

  2. So, so, so very sorry, friends. Our hearts hurt for you both. Will be thinking of and praying for you. It hurts to lose our kids. Whether they walk on all fours or only two they are still our kids :-(. Love you guys, Kathy and Larry.

  3. Our dog-loving hearts go out to you and Diane, Kenny! Even though we never really knew Charlie, we certainly knew the love you had for Maggie and can imagine that Charlie was one lucky dog to be a member of your household! Hang on to the memories, stories and the love! Thinking of you guys lots! Love, Gail and Paul

  4. Dear Kenny and Diane,
    What a beautiful story you have written in his memory. Unfortunately I've been in that spot too many times with my puppies and I understand the heart ache. The house is TOO empty and another furry baby is certainly in order as soon as you feel you're ready. I remember Maggie and Charlie and they were both lucky to have lived in such a loving home. I miss you both. Love, Sue Farrell

  5. Sucks to loose a dog, they become such a part of you and your family and even more. If only they could live as long as us....

  6. My first (and only) dog was named Charlie and he lived to the ripe old age of 16.

    Reading your story brought back a lot of memories of my Charlie.

    May they rest in peace :-)

  7. To dog people, dogs are like our children.... Charlie had the best parents - he is in doggy heaven with his millions of lamby balls and Maggie. Our hearts are with you through this sad time - love ya!

  8. We will miss that lovable little licker with those big brown eyes.

  9. Sorry for your loss... beautiful post.

  10. Sorry for your loss, but I think Charlie was very fortunate to be a part of such a loving family. May he rest in peace...

  11. Kenny & Dianne...I have been thinking of you both since Saturday. Your blog was so wonderful--Charlie was truly the best! I am grateful I met him and got to be a part of his life. I will never forget the kisses and the "goofiness" that was Charlie. I planted the hosta in memory of Charlie at the clinic--thank you. I am so very sorry for your loss and will miss Charlie very much. Heather