Charlie was the best dog in the world. He is no more. This post is to help me to remember him.
|At the Quarry - one of Charlie's favourite walks|
In fact, Charlie had some issues, but he quickly learned what we thought was acceptable behaviour. He was also terrified of brooms and vacuum cleaners, but he also eventually came to cope with both of those.
|the colour of autumn beech leaves|
|David checks Charlie's paw|
|Out boating - August 2011|
|On the Thames, Easter 2011|
Charlie loved to be helpful - he could be given a piece of paper or card and told 'in the bin', and he'd happily take it from you, and trot over to place it in the waste bin. Only eight weeks ago, at Christmas, we put a waste bin in the living room and Charlie helpfully disposed of all of the wrappings for us. We were also getting him to deliver presents - "give this to Michael", "take it to Alan". My father was sitting with a £20 note in his hand, Charlie went and carefully took it from his hand, and delicately placed it in the bin.
|Charlie on the Severn Valley Railway - August 2011|
|David and Charlie at Lechlade - Easter 2011|
Sometimes he would surprise us. I brought him back from a very wet walk and he unexpectedly brought me a towel from his pile in the hall - he loved being dried (although that didn't extend to baths!) When his water bowl was empty he would carefully tip it up with a paw, pick it up with his mouth and bring it to you, placing it carefully in your hands.
|In Milton Keynes, with Michael October 2011 (photo Chris Norris)|
Alan spent huge amounts of time with him, walking him, visiting places that he would not have gone to without a dog to exercise - cafes, the local castle, woodland, an abandoned quarry. Every evening, when boating, we would go out for a walk, discovering new places that we would never have found without Charlie.
Charlie had so much potential, he learned so quickly, and he loved people so much. Then a few weeks ago he started to act strangely, hiding behind the sofa, growling if you approached him when he was seated under a desk. He was uncharacteristically defensive towards a friend's dog.
Earlier this week he made a completely unprovoked attack on Michael. I had been getting some food ready for him, but Charlie suddenly rushed at Michael and bit him on the arm. This was particularly hard as Michael had spent so many long hours training Charlie, and this was the dog that normally allowed you to take food from his mouth, or who would lie down if told to mid-meal.
We contacted the rescue centre, and the local trainer who had helped us with Charlie when he had first come to live with us. We had an appointment to see the trainer next Monday.
Then, two evenings ago, just after Michael had been patting him quietly, Charlie suddenly, without any warning, snarled and leaped up at Michael on the sofa, biting him and lacerating his nose. There was blood everywhere, Michael grabbed tissues as the family rushed around, getting dressings, finding car keys. We pressed dressings onto Michael's lacerated nose, and headed for A & E. I thought that Michael's nose was probably slashed from top to bottom, as I hadn't really seen the damage under the dressings for more than a moment or so. In fact, the wounds are messy, but have not gone through to the inside of his nose. He has had the wounds steri-stripped (they don't sew up dog bites, to allow any bacteria to come out), and is on anti-biotics.
The next morning we rang our vet, and asked to see the senior partner. He was wonderful, supportive and understanding, but explained that Charlie had developed 'rage syndrome', a very rare, but incurable, condition of red cocker spaniels. He told us that our wonderful dog could never be trusted again, that we would always be waiting for the next attack, and that Charlie would never be aware. He wouldn't know what he had done. No amount of training could make a difference, and he would be fine 99% of the time. The clincher for me was the explanation that a dog that is going to attack will almost always give a warning, a growl, a slightly snarling lip - Charlie wasn't doing that, he was just attacking, no warning. He told us we had a decision, but his strong advice was that Charlie could never have the same life again. It cannot be a choice in that situation, it doesn't matter how much you love your dog, you cannot risk the possibility that someone else might be harmed. The vet thanked us for making the right decision, we said goodbye to the best dog in the world, and left in floods of tears.
I thought, after the attack on Michael, that I would want everything of his removed from the house, every memory destroyed. But I don't - whatever happened, it wasn't Charlie's fault, he was ill, incurably ill. But I still love him, and I want to remember our lovely, clever, funny little dog. I was privileged to know him for nearly two years - he gave us so much in that time. We are devastated.
POSTSCRIPT (7th July 2012)
A new saga begins "Owning A Dog Again"