Maybe it's his name. He's certainly not fat. But my sweet Fat Charlie is sad. This is the third time since we've moved to Paducah, that Fat Charlie has been terrorized in the autumn. I do not know what is up.
I am usually pretty darned in tune with my dogs. I'm able to see subtle nuances in their behavior, detect minor problems before they become major ones, know what makes the tick, what makes them happy.
But my dear Fat Charlie has me flummoxed.
He is the world's sweetest dog. He is Mama Pajama's best friend and litter brother. He is soft as a secret whispered between roommates, but brave as they come. I've mentioned before that I've never said the words "NO!" and "Fat Charlie" in the same sentence. He had a golden puppyhood, back on our farm, and a brilliant youth. He was my fastest ever whippet, and loved lure coursing and racing and hunting squirrels in our yard with a joy that verged on religious fervor.
Fat Charlie (top) and Mama Pajama - tired little three month old puppies
I wrote this about taking Fat Charlie down the 200 yard track to the starting box for a race. (Whippets race for fun, and championships, not for betting like their big cousins the greyhounds. They. Love. It.)
Taking Fat Charlie to the box is like having visible, tangible glee, right at the end of your lead. Pure, simple happiness. He leaps and bounds and wags. He rubs against me, he pokes me along, and he gooses me. He smiles, he grins, he even giggles a little. He hardly says a word. He doesn't have to, his entire being radiates pleasure.
He waits for his turn behind the box, with only a little "yip" ("0h!") escaping if he's one of the last ones to be loaded. Smooth as silk, in one quick fluid motion he's in the box, perched at the very front, not moving a muscle. His huge black eyes are bigger than ever. I run up the side of the track as fast as I can. I look back at him. He does me the courtesy of glancing at me, and then goes back to full attention on the Bunny. The door opens and he's out, as if fired from David's own slingshot. Now I'm the one
"Go, Charlie, Go!" I scream, over and over again. He flies by me with the rest of the dogs in the feature race. I only see him. "Go, Charlie, Go!" "Go, Charlie, Go!" "Go, Charlie, Go!" I meet him at the end, more winded than he is. He stays on the Bunny with the pack, grabbing it with his front legs, scrambling and scraping, tail wagging furiously. I get his lead on, or the friend who's catching him for me does. He glances back at the Bunny a couple of times, just in case it takes off again.
Then he tells me "Thank you" in the softest of whispers, which makes me shiver. His joy is mine, and I thank him for that.
His competitive running career ended way too soon with a freak injury at our 2000 Whippet National Specialty, which required two surgical repairs. He did get to run again at the CWA Nationals as a six year old; a story you, my long time dear readers, may remember.
Fat Charlie and Mama Pajama now
Something is scaring Fat Charlie. The first year this happened, also in the early autumn, he refused to come into our bedroom to sleep. And he was petrified. I let him sleep loose in the house, and he would come into his crate in our bedroom at around two in the morning. It just went away and life returned to normal, but my heart broke for him.
Then the next time it happened, I moved his crate next to my bed. It now doubles as my bedside table. Again it was early autumn, and again he spontaneously got over it after about six weeks. And again, my heart just tore. He would look so panicky at bedtime, and hide down in his crate in the dog room. I would leave out bedroom door and his crate door open, and give him his bedtime biscuit wherever he wanted it, and sit on the floor and hug him.
He's usually a cuddle pack boy, so going off by himself is odd.
Fat Charlie looking at the camera in a whippet pinwheel with (clockwise) his uncle, Giacomino, nephew, Sam I Am, and half brother, Luciano.
This year his autumn panic is in the morning. He's perfectly happy going to bed. But he won't come into the dog room (off the kitchen - the dog room is everydog's favorite place, where dog meals happen and biscuits and bones live). He won't come for breakfast, and he won't eat. Never in his eleven years do I recall Fat Charlie missing a meal; even the nights of his surgeries, he said, "what's for dinner?" He's happy to go for his walk, but about two blocks from home, he mulishly lowers his head and plants his feet. "Not going back there." He's a good soul, and when we plead he comes. But the whites of his eyes show. And he pants.
By about eleven in the morning, he's back to himself. Pretty much. Instead of lying on his spot on the couch in the TV room, (right through the doorway to where I sit at the sewing machines or the computer), he is now lying on the floor next to my chair. (Unlike the photograph, I have since put a cushy dog bed there for him.) He doesn't want to eat dinner in the dog room, either, so I'm going to try feeding him in the kitchen tonight.
I am beyond baffled by this. I have wondered about a long list of possible causes, including but not limited to:
- our house is haunted
- neighbors use some sort of antidog ultrasound device (nope)
- raccoons in the chimneys (gone)
- I beat the bed with the pillows to freshen it and Charlie thought it was a bad bed (I don't do that any more)
- he was worried when Mama Pajama was sick (I pray she's doing great - seems to be)
- tornadoes/weather pattern (panic is independent of weather)
So I'm sticking with the haunted house theory, and the ghosts must only visit in the early autumn.
If you have a few seconds, could you send this kind, sweet, generous soul some, "You're ok" thoughts? I'm not asking for comments, just thoughts in your heads.
Hug your hounds