Everyone loved Charlie. So, when the senior, one-eyed, toothless Chihuahua showed up at Abandoned Pet Rescue, dropped off by a concerned couple who found him wandering the streets, a collective sigh of sadness could be felt around the shelter. Who would leave an old guy like this, completely defenseless, alone on the street? Little did we all know, this was the beginning of a great story.
It was a Saturday; I know because stopping off at APR was one of many things to do on “chore day.” When I walked in, Charlie had just arrived. Longtime APR staffer, Karen, was holding him and I could see right away this guy was no spring chicken. His left eye was sewn shut; his right, glazed over in end stage cataracts. His tongue was exposed, in that telltale way when there’s no teeth to hold it in. My heart went out to him, so I did what I do…took pictures and shared.
Sherry, my friend from New York who’d moved down to Fort Lauderdale about a year after we did, popped into my head. A Chi lover and rescue warrior, if Sherry couldn’t take this boy, she might know someone who would. It turned out she was seeing a group of her dog-loving friends that night, so I sent her my pics to pass around. APR’s angel foster dad, Don, had just come by to take this baby home to his brood, to await the process of finding his owner or a new home.
Fast forward. I was awakened Sunday morning to a text from Sherry, one that made my heart skip a beat. One of her friends had found a posting on Pawboost, a national by neighborhood lost and found pet site, of a senior, one-eyed, blind Chihuahua who was lost. His name was Charlie and he looked just like our boy. I called the owner contact number, emailed too, and waited.
It seemed like forever, but it was only a couple of hours when my phone rang. At first it was hard to understand her, because she was so excited. Her name was Val and in her emotionally charged relief, her words came tumbling out. Did I have Charlie, was he alright, when could she come get him? I explained he was safe with Don, but I wanted to know how this little guy got lost. Sometimes, an animal’s owner isn’t the best place for them, you know?
Apparently, Charlie scratched a hole in the screen of his 3rd floor balcony and tumbled out. Luckily, he landed on mulch and bushes and then someone who worked on the property of this community found him. Val relayed that she’d been posting on Facebook about losing Charlie, asking for tips or sitings. One neighbor saw a dreadlocked man pick Charlie up, wrap him in a towel and ask what to do with him. He was advised to go to the leasing office. That was the last he was seen. Later that day, the couple from New York who brought Charlie into the shelter, found him in another town, 10 miles away.
Val went on to tell me Charlie was the family dog that became hers; she’d had him since she was 11 and was now 25. He had had brushes with danger before, being hit by a truck as a puppy, falling down the stairs and earlier the day he disappeared, falling into the pool, only to be saved by two young girls. She had been paralyzed with fear that Charlie was hurt from his fall, or worse.
I learned Charlie, in addition to being one-eyed and blind, was also deaf but, obviously, a tough little fighter with, like, 19 lives. I learned he turned 13 in May, and that Val and her boyfriend, Cooper, had made a big “bar mitzvah” party for him, a tradition in the Jewish religion to celebrate becoming a man. “We wanted to make it special for him,” Val explained. She sent me photos of her and Charlie together, him snuggling into her, napping together, her kissing him, taking him shopping. And, that party, complete with an entire family bellowing our Happy Birthday to Charlie, as he gobbled up some tasty doggy confection. And, that’s when it really sunk in how much everyone loved Charlie, especially his mom.
We agreed to meet at the shelter. It’s funny how a love of animals brings strangers together, fostering an intimacy that wouldn’t exist otherwise. When I walked into APR and saw Val, we hugged like old friends. She was so appreciative of our part in reuniting her with Charlie and I felt such joy in being able to be a part of it.
Waiting for Don to arrive was torture! Val was anxious to see her baby and I wanted to see Charlie’s and Val’s reactions to being reunited, especially after such a traumatic experience. None of us waiting in anticipation were disappointed. It was quite obvious just how much Charlie loved Val and Val loved Charlie.
Val told me Charlie cried from pent up emotion all the way home and through part of the day, finally settling down in the evening, just in time to nuzzle in bed with his mom. “It’s his absolute favorite thing to do,” Val shared. And, from the looks of it, we agree.
These kinds of happy endings are what you hope for, what makes it all worthwhile. So, the sadness felt for this lost senior boy, changed to smiles (and some tears) of happiness. Congratulations, Charlie. You’re home.