I confess that this post is going to be very self-indulgent.
The most painful losses in my life, other than the loss of my youth, have been my parents, my brother, and two very close friends. Losing Charley ranks right up there.
ELBEE To those of you who think that’s inappropriate (I don’t) remember that Pack Leader shared the birth of her grandson and Gus passing his therapy dog test in the same sentence.
I don’t mean that losing him hurts the same way that it hurts to lose a person. Oh who am I kidding. Of course it does. He was like my shadow and my protector. He was a near constant presence in my everyday life. I think he considered himself my service dog but couldn’t figure out exactly what he was supposed to do for me.
Now that he’s been gone a few months, I realize just how much he orchestrated the rhythm of the the pack. I first noticed a change in the dynamics during our walks. When I used to take the three out together, Charley, by virtue of his size and personality, would get most of the attention. He could win people over in a matter of seconds. To compete, Elbee would either bark and be obnoxious or feign disinterest.
ELBEE Excuse me for expressing the two sides of my personality.
Without Charley by his side, Elbee appears larger and gets noticed a lot more. People constantly comment on how beautiful he is and are curious about his breed. Not surprisingly, he is thriving on the attention. At work he is so calm and focused, it’s like a different dog.
ELBEE Not sure if I should be flattered or offended.
As for Gus, when he walked between the other two, he sometimes got lost in all of the hair. People couldn’t even see him. Now he struts by my side wagging his tail and smiling like the cute little diva he’s become.
Not sure if it’s my imagination or my hopefulness, but at work he seems to be showing some of Charley’s intuition. At UCLA this week, Gus was completely focused on a man sitting alone on a bench across the lobby. When he pulled me over to him, the man told me that he was nervous and stressed because his wife was having her third cancer surgery. Petting Gus, he relaxed and smiled and said that it, “made his day.”
When I come home may be the time I miss Charley’s presence the most. Riley, our senior citizen Golden is usually asleep behind the door. Elbee and Gus will run to greet me but it’s not the frenzy that it used to be. They’re excited but a little more subdued. It dawned on me that as well behaved as Charley was, he was the enthusiastic leader of the welcome home committee. He was so relieved that I was back that he made most of the noise and spurred on the other two. One of the hardest things since Charley’s passing has been not to hear that huge bark.