by Annie Castaneda
(Brownsville, TX USA)
Charlie waking me up in the morning
As I type this letter with tears falling on the keyboard, as I type this letter with my heart swelling with pain and grief; with memories stored away, I hope to find some solace and forgiveness and peace of mind.
The first time I saw you at the gas station it was cold and drizzling and there you were so malnourished that I was counting your ribs. I saw people come and go with food and thought to myself, "I'm not leaving you here." You let me approach you and I carried you to my car and took you home. You were so timid and afraid that you didn't want to eat, drink or come out of the closet. I bathed you and made sure you were clean.
The hope was to find you a loving family where you could have a warm place to live, play, be happy. I never knew that family would be mine. I took you to get neutered, shots... the whole nine yards. I stayed up with you when you came home because you were in pain and restless and neither of us got any sleep even though I had to work the next day. But it passed.
Charlie, as you grew comfortable with us, that's when you decided to show your true colors. I'm sorry, papa, but you were a total menace!! You ate my shoes and two of my bras! You jumped the backyard fence ALL the time and we had to go looking for you, or you would find your way back home.
You tore up the bag of food and I couldn't help but laugh because when I came home and saw the mess you ran up and jumped on me like everything was peachy! Yes, I cleaned it up and every other mess you did I cleaned that too. Although you were a complete terror I still loved you and spoiled you.
You were never allowed on my bed because of all the shedding so I told you, "Go to your bed!" And you did. But in the morning when I would wake you were there snoring away! I couldn't help but smile and let it slide...just like the other nights that came and went.
I took you to the dog park where you humped every dog in sight and I was so embarrassed but laughed anyways. You had fun and enjoyed the park and our walks.
My favorite memory of you was when we were all laying on my bed and you were in a deep sleep and started dreaming. You kicked and whimpered so hard that you fell off the bed and I laughed so hard till the tears came falling down. You shook it off and climbed back up and went back to sleep; sleeping closer to me, away from the edge.
I cried when the lawn mower man shredded your pumpkin squeaky toy because it was your favorite and you were very sad.
You had a personality all your own and you were so unique. I loved it! It was a challenge and Charlie... challenge accepted!
That fateful day we were planning to go for a walk but I had forgotten my phone in the house. You didn't want to wait; you wanted to walk! You got loose from your leash and ran to the curb where a car that ran a stop sign at 30mph took you and you flew towards the neighbor's house.
I snapped and ran to you and I knew you had probably broken a hip. I don't know where I got the strength to pick up all 50 lbs of you but I did and carried you into the house. I called every vet in town and finally one recommended me to a 24 vet clinic but an hour away in the next town. I didn't care. My mom and I rushed you to the hospital and I was with you in the back trying to be strong and tell you you were gonna be okay.
We got to the clinic and it was there where we received the bad news: your spinal cord was completely severed and your quality of life was grim. I didn't care if you were to be handicapped on wheels or I had to feed you myself, but the vet said that you would be in too much pain. The only thing to do was to end your suffering.
I bawled like a baby, strong in my will to keep you alive. Googling options: researching other alternatives but there was none. I didn't want to end your life, Charlie; you were only 1 year old. So young and energetic and full of life. I couldn't do that. I loved you so much, I couldn't let you go.
My mom made the decision for me, and like a coward I didn't want to be there. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be selfish for my sake but I couldn't do that to you either. I wanted you to see my face and my tears and hear my words before you closed your eyes.
I must have said "I'm sorry" 100 times that day and 10 times every day since then. I went home heartbroken and out of tears. Devastated. I blamed myself and still do. If we hadn't gone for a walk, if I hadn't forgotten my phone or just left it there, you would be with me. Causing havoc.
Every day I ask for your forgiveness. Every day I look at your name tag and paw print of your ashes and think of all the memories I had with you. Every day I wonder if you still love me and remember me. I still find myself calling your name sometimes, whenever your sisters do something wrong, or when they are outside and tears stream down my face.
Since your death, Charlie, we have adopted Stella from the shelter. I expected her to have your personality; your love for fun. But she is very timid and afraid. She is a work in progress. You will never be replaced, Charlie, no matter how many pets come and go in my life. You will always hold a special place in my heart.
I guess the purpose of this letter is to forgive myself for what I have done to you. Ease my conscience, ease my pain. I want you to forgive me for taking your life so soon, forgive me for the decision I had to make.
Let me know that you're okay and running wild and happy at the rainbow bridge. No more leashes or restrictions. Even though you were a complete tyrant, I loved you with all my heart and soul. I know, Charlie, that someday we will meet again. I hope it will be with your wagging tail and sloppy kisses.
Run free, papas. Run free.
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