Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fat Charlie the Archangel

Fat Charlie the Archangel slipped into the room
He said I have no opinion about this
And I have no opinion about that
Sad as a lonely little wrinkled balloon
He said well I don't claim to be happy about this, boys
And I don't seem to be happy about that

Paul Simon, Crazy Love, Vol 2
from the Graceland album

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
making noise!

"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.

Thank you.

Hug your hounds


  1. Poor Fat Charlie. We hope he is back to his old self soon.

  2. That's really odd Patience...I wish I had an answer for you. My first thought would be weather changes though but it could be anything.

    Lots of hugs on their way via cyberspace for Fat Charlie.

  3. I know just the cure...a night or two with his doting human who thinks he is the bestest hunkiest whippet on earth......(no NOT YOU!) there soon but not soon enough Charlie.....r

  4. oh my. that sounds so scarey for both of you. Do the winds come from different directions in the fall? Could he be smelling something that scares only him? Could it be the barometric pressure thing? It makes muzzer act funny sometimes. Does he hear the leaves crying because they are dying and don't want to fall.

    All those things are possible. You must think like a dog, and you are pretty good at that, so we have faith you will help him through this.

    kisses on your worried brow

  5. Hi there, I am sending many positive thought Charlie's way! I was wondering if you could share any thoughts on a new occurrence in my little pack. We have four small dogs, two pugs, a yorkie/doxie and a corgi/pom. The corgi is 9 years the other three are young, under two. Two males and two females. The yorkie and pug boy, the two males have started to fight. The yorkie seems to have a sudden dislike for the pug! The male pug is the most recent addition, he was a shelter rescue we fell in love with in late May. He is just the sweetest boy, like charlie, soft and huggable. He wants nothing more than my husband's lap. He snuggles next to hubby all night long. Over the last week, the yorkie has become visibly angered by the pug. He gets all tense and then throws himself on the pug, biting and growling. We don't know what is wrong, when this starts the girls jump in and start barking and snapping too. Hubby and I have both had our share of scratches and a few days ago, hubby was bit on the tummy! The intensity of the yorkie's anger is frightening, they are physically separated but still so angry. We just don't know what to do. I am actually starting to consider rehoming the yorkie! He is a sweet boy and really cute, a long yorkie. I have never given a pet up before and I have had many. I thought of asking you as you seem to have a way with lots of dogs and well, you really seem to live up to your name. Thank you so much for any advice you or any readers can share. I really love my pups and can't bear to see them hate each other so.

  6. I'm sorry that Fat Charlie is having issues.. Other than a ghost what about a cricket moving in for the fall or even a mouse?

    Just a thought...

    Luv & Nose Licks
    HJ & The Whippet Gang +1/2

  7. Dear Charlie, me thinks it is evil squirrelies! Hang in there! P-doggy

  8. What came to my mind when I read your description is something I read in a book by Temple Grandin. She was autistic and used her different way of viewing things to help understand why certain visual subtleties would frighten animals. So this made me think whether there are scary shadows or a different light, or something you can't see that frightens Fat Charlie and makes him hesitate.

    Almost always, when I walk Just Harry to a certain distance from our house, he stops, looks around, and trembles. I see nothing to frighten him. But he obviously does.

    With lots of love to Fat Charlie and to you,

    Jake and Just Harry

  9. Maybe old dogs, like old people, develop phobias and Fat Charlie has developed a sensitivity to the seasonal change. I'm glad you baby him during this; he's lucky to have his servant. Give him a hug for me.

  10. Hey Patience,
    What about nut trees in our neighborhood? Are there any? We have hickory & oak trees & right now the nuts fly out of the trees non-stop. They make lots of noise too. Other than that, we think it could be season change. We've heard of dogs that have more seizures during a season change, Mama's arthritis is worse then too. We hope Fat Charlie is back to his old self very soon.
    Luv & Wirey Hugs!
    Butchy, Snickers & Ruby

  11. Besides having a whippet and a terrier I've got a Weimaraner. She gets ANXIOUS very easily. Besides fireworks and thunderstorms there are things around the house that set her off. Sometimes it's a cell phone battery that's run down and beeping. Sometimes it's a wristwatch that have an alarm set or hourly beep. Sometimes it a UPS power supply that is chirping. It could be something in the house or outside that is too high a frequency for your ears. (My teenager can set her phone to ring at a high frequency that only young ears can hear.) Good luck in finding the source - Perhaps you can unplug some electronics to see if it eliminates the panic attacts.

  12. Poor Fat Charlie! I wish I could give him some extra hugs!

    It might be spirits. In Japan, they believe that ancestors visit home in August for a few days, then go back to the other side. Maybe someone's ancestors are visiting your home in September every year?

    Maybe a visit from some of Charlie's favorite people/doggies will cheer him up?

    Please give him some smoochies from me.


    Dog lover

  13. My first thought was it has to be a nature "Thing" being seasonal but I have since wondered about radiators coming on and the system starting up again in the Autumn. Could it be air in the pipes and the knocking or hammering sounds are frightening him? Some times we become so accustomed to these sounds we don't even hear them.
    Only a thought but this problem is going round in my head this morning. I will certainly send some "Your'e O.K." thoughts to a frightened little loved one.

  14. Patience, Rivet has had lots of behaviors off and on. Most I attribute to bugs or that he thinks there are bugs, but he remembers sooo much and if he was hurt or frightened at all in any situation, when a similar scenario happens he disappears quickly to his crate with a droopy head . He would do that at feeding time for me also, as tho' he was afraid of the eating process. He is much better now but still worries about bugs and flying things , even in the winter here in MN.
    Other times I can't figure it out but wait for him to get over it and he comes out to join us... I do coddle him at times too and go downstairs to get him if he's gone fleeing from something at bedtime.

    Now my first Basenji had the weirdest thing... for awhile I was eating broiled lamb burgers. We realized that every time I cooked them he would go running to the bottom of the hill as if he was badly frightened.... oddest thing... only when we cooked that. He would EAT a little of it if offered...

    I have no idea what could be bothering your sweetest and I wish I could offer help. He'll be in my thoughts and prayers too... and you for wisdom to help figure it out.

    Hugs to you all and especially Fat Charlie! Riv reminds me of him so much...


  15. We still love your blog. We didn't point the paw at any one doggy. We just wrote down our opinion. Doesn't make me right, just gives my thoughts on that. I've read your blog forver and always will. So please, take the I love your blog,cuz we do. OK?

  16. That sure is odd. I wonder if it is an allergy. They are often worst first thing in the morning or last thing at night, because of the pollen settling. Scarlett has been reverse sneezing more the past couple of weeks too. The difficulty breathing could be making him panicky? I would try giving a Benedryl and seeing if it matters at all.

    Good luck!
    Erin, Rose, and Scarlett

  17. Poor Fat Charlie. My first thought was a high frequency sound too. But it could be that light comes through the window differently in the fall and flashes in a way that he notices but you don't? Whatever it is I hope he is back to his self soon.


  18. Dear FC,

    Smooches and Licks!!

    Vee and Nearly

  19. We hope Fat Charlie is back to his old self soon!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  20. Tanner is now hiding under the bed yelling GO INTO THE LIGHT FAT CHARLIE!!! This is what happens when we have HBO too long, he sees horror movies he never should have. ;)

    But in all seriousness, we are sending calming and confident vibes to to you buddy. Feel better, fall can't go on forever.

  21. Hope he doesn't take the full 6 weeks and starts adjusting earlier. My only additional thought is that maybe it's the light. No, not for him to go into, but light hitting the windows or reflections.

    I know that Fling had some odd reactions several years ago when I realized that her vision acuity was shifting. It was back when she was a youngster, only 10 1/2 years old. We were at agility class and she was refusing the A-Frame which was always her favorite obstacle. It was getting towards twilight and the lights had just come on. I went around the other side, and she happily went up and over. That's when I realized it was a vision issue and some dulling of her night vision. So no, she didn't go into the light, she had to start from that side... (Stop groaning, you KNEW I was going to say that)


  22. Oh is our 2 cents and it ain't worth much......
    *Mommy had an Italian Greyhound once and he hated Sept. - October in Arizona because it rained so much.* They lived in the low desert but when it rained he freaked, wouldn't eat, jumped out of screened in windows if mommy was on the other side OR run off when taken outside to go potty to look for mommy if she was gone. Mommy and daddy would wrap him up in his own blankie and carry him like a baby. Not only that...he went everywhere they went and was NEVER left alone. He was well loved. That was about 16 years ago...he was a rescue dog. See just our 2 cents. Every doggy is different.
    I wish they would wrap me in a blankie and take ME everywhere. sheesh.


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