By Faye Klein
The term, "an old married couple" is mostly thrown around with a tinge of sarcasm to describe and dismiss the crusty edged veneer that seems to have grown between or around the target couple, but I'll wager that the vast majority of people in the world secretly would not mind being there someday.
After so much time together people, most pretense has ceased—one half stops laughing at the repetitious stale jokes, then stops excusing themselves for burping out loud and both give in to expanding waistlines. But under all that exterior stuff is almost always a deep, loyal and extremely conforting love that flows unspoken between the pair.
That's how it has been for Tootsie and Charlie, the matriarch and patriarch of dogs at Angel Ridge. The two larger-than-life co-habitants have shared a kennel since arriving together many years ago from a high-kill shelter in Ohio. Even the volunteers who have been walking dogs the longest at AR cannot remember a time when Charlie and Tootsie were not a fixture there.
Hoping that the two kennel mates would be adopted together has kept them together but without a real home. The tall order to take on more than 200 pounds of dogs in one adoption was a handicap for the buxom pair and so they lived their lives as AR residents watching many other dogs come and go.
Over the years, Charlie and Tootsie grew fat(ter)—and if not blissfully happy— unquestionably contented. They had each other. They were the very picture of an old married couple. Both unique in looks, she—an Ak-Chow or Chow-Kita—was still boisterous and happy to go for long sashaying walks and a stiff-legged run when she was accompanying a particularly nimble dog walker.
Charlie—the Lab-weiler or Rott-rador—was the couch spud, happy enough to get outside and waddle for 10 feet to a sunny patch where he would park his tank of a body and survey the world. He has to be bribed into getting off his big butt and lumbering further or just back to his dog bed. She would go for miles if given the chance.
They never had a spat over the food or treats and Tootsie never got in the way of Charlie and his ever-present, ever-necessary toys. Most of his walks are with toy in jowls.
Two weeks ago (early January), Tootsie was not herself. She wanted to get out and dutifully walked to the end of the driveway, but then crumpled in a white heap, laboring to get to her feet again. After many short steps and stops along the way, she made it back to the kennel. In just a week's time she noticeably lost weight. The hefty girl was visibly thinner from nose to tail. She was unable to keep her food and even water down.
She was old, sick and suffering. Placed on pain meds in the last few days to lessen the physical discomfort, Tootsie, diagnosed with liver and kidney failure, was put out of her misery.
The big girl—no doubt named for her stirking resemblance to Dustin Hoffman in drag—has left her big boy Charlie, behind.
Charlie did not eat for the last couple of days and the day before Tootsie saw the vet, when many of us volutneers knew that Tootsie was probably going to leave this world, Charlie was especially antsy. He was inordinatley sniffing Tootsie's back end, clearly knowing it was her weak link. He did not eat. Though he had a dogbed right next to her, he squeezed his hefty girth onto her bed where he panted, licked her, pressed against her and even stood over her at one point.
Charlie knew then, like the rest of us, that his one and only was going to be gone soon. And now that she is, Charlie is going to need a lot of comforting as we watch him carefully so as to not let him waste away or slip away from a broken heart.
Charlie and Tootsie ... an old married couple ... a simple yet inspired love story. We should all be so lucky in life.
Editor's Note: The author is a local resident and Canon-McMillan Patch reader.