13 October 2012

Missing 'Gillis.

It just dawned on me last week why I have had such a hard time getting up at 5:30am every morning. I've been getting up early since my late 20's. So, why have I recently been having a hard time?

Charlotte is not here.  

Nothing motivates a person more to get out of bed than a wagging tail and muzzle to the face . . . She was always so polite about it, too. No whining or crying or barking was ever involved. Just an intense stare at my face--no more than 2 inches away--and a silently wagging tail. I knew to get up because I could feel her looking at me (her breathing on my face) and the air would move when her tail wagged. She was very gentle. And her reward was a 2 mile walk around the neighborhood or a nearby park (most recently Shelby Park in East Nashville).

Charlotte and I found each other in Nashville in January of 2003. She was roughly 4 months old at the time. She was, for-all-practical-purposes, a rescue dog. Her previous owner thought she should stay locked in a bathroom all day long/every day until she chewed through a plastic plumbing pipe and flooded his apartment. (She showed him.) He told me to babysit her while he got everything fixed and I never gave her back. He didn't really ask for her back, either. So it was meant to be! From that day forward, we became best friends.

She went everywhere with me. 

We've traveled through most of Middle Tennessee together and the central part of Texas. She loves to stick her head out of the back window when we are on the open road together. And, she can feel when we are getting close to our destination, because she sticks her head between the front seats of the car and begins to navigate. We've taken longer road trips to Houston, Dallas, Medford, and Savannah together. She's been camping at least 100 times. And, she's lived in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Texas.  

The first time we didn't live together was when I went to Baltimore for graduate school in June of 2009. She stayed in Austin with my former boyfriend of 5 years, Doug. My graduate program was only 14 months long so we felt that, although it would be hard, this was the best idea. But then, last July, I got a job for 3 years in Singapore, so I decided the best--and most heartbreaking--thing for Charlotte would be to stay in Dallas with my mother. She would get to ride in the car a lot, sleep on the bed, and get to play with my nephews and their two dogs, Henry and Ernie. She would also get to play with the cats.  She loves cats--strange, I know.  

And, she wouldn't have to deal with the heat and humidity found here in Singapore. She gets to enjoy the fall, winter, and spring seasons. (She loves winter best:  it's easier to spot bunnies.) While I miss her everyday, I know this was the right decision to make. And, I am so excited to be traveling back to both Texas and Tennessee for the upcoming Christmas holidays. Not only will I be able to see my friends and family, but I will be able to spend a week with Charlotte!

Some things to know about Charlotte . . . Her nicknames are plentiful, and go something like this:  Charps, Charby Gillis, Chablis, Sharp Shootin' Shimpus, Charpus, Gilly-Gilly-Goo-Goo, and Shimps. She is a full bred Chow. She has a file that includes excellent health and recommendation letters from veterinarians, groomers, and boarding facilities. She does not like table scraps due to a sensitive stomach and she loves to have a fresh haircut (only twice a year, as it costs $90 each time).

Charlotte enjoys parties! She's sort-of stand-offish with new people, one-on-one. But if there are 10 or more people, she has a blast!! She hangs out--smiling--wherever the action is.  In the above picture, she is sitting on the deck at my dad's house. Everyone was drinking and talking, there was music playing, and she had a grand time being the center of attention. She's been like this ever since she was a tiny little wombat. Invite her to a play date with one or two people or dogs, no thanks. Invite her to a New Year's Eve party with 30 or so guests, she's totally there!!

Sometimes, when I would get home from work, she wouldn't even bother getting off of the bed to greet me. She would recognize the sound of my car and the jingle-jangle of my keys, I suppose. Here she is in a scandalous sprawl. She didn't even move after I took this picture.  

She likes to help with art projects. One weekend, we were down in Franklin taking care of my dad's house while they were out-of-town. We moved around the den furniture and organized all of my fabric into piles of color. Then, I started putting various pieces together. We made a huge mess and then cleaned it all up. Dede and my dad never even knew that we did this . . . (They do now.)

She let's me put things on her. A blanket for when she is cold or wet from a walk . . . 

A sombrero to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or Dia de Los Muertos. (She said no to the celebratory face paint, but she has been known to wear sequins and paint dots in the middle of her forehead from time-to-time.)

Antlers for our annual watching of Elf and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. She loves the holidays, classic animation, and Will Ferrell. Who would've thought? (And, just look at her:  she couldn't be more well-mannered if I paid her money.)

Random poof balls. (This happens a lot . . . )

A strand of pipe cleaner hearts for Valentine's Day . . . 

One of the rewards from my Kickstarter project . . . I don't even remember taking this picture. When I found it, I laughed out loud:  for real! She is laying so still and perfect! A little bunting Chow-Chow!

Very, very rarely are the moments when she misbehaves. She has only chewed up two things that were not hers in her lifespan of 10 years: the heal of a platform shoe and a Madonna biography.  Both when she was a puppy. She has also only gone to the bathroom inside the house on accident probably a total of 5 times. (More times, if you count the times she goes to the bathroom inside the house on purpose during one of her "I'm-the-dominant-dog" spells. This only happens in the presence of other dogs, to save face of course.) However, she is rather sneaky. She gets up on my dad's couch when no one is around. He doesn't allow that. But, somehow she always finds a way up. I can't blame her, really, it's a comfortable couch.

If you are ever looking for Charlotte, this is the best place to find her. Possibly because I crate-trained her for two years, or maybe because she likes it to be super-dark when she sleeps, or perhaps it has to do with her coat and how hot she gets on top of the bed . . . But, she LOVES to sleep under things:  desks, beds, taller chairs, decks, but almost always beds. What's funny to me is that she never fully gets all the way underneath.  I think she gives up on the army crawl and just falls to sleep . . . It's hilarious to find her deer paws hanging out from under something. Like the witch in The Wizard of Oz. So random.

Last-but-not-least:  like me, Charlotte is obsessed with watching creative videos. She loves this video because it features rescue dogs and was created as a benefit for homeless animals. When not watching this video, she can be found chewing on sticks or learning about something new (she watches people very closely to figure things out--if she had opposable thumbs, she would be running the world).  

Every day I miss Charlotte. Sometimes I worry that she will forget who I am while I am gone or that she is not being walked enough or that she is getting older and I am not there to see her grow into old age. It makes me sad. Really sad. But, I know how much my sister and my mother love animals. I know that they are taking the absolute very best care of Charlotte. She is getting to watch bunnies hop around in the yard, ride in cars, and she gets to have her paws licked by her male cat companion, Pepper Jack Lil' Tejas. 

I'm hopeful that I will be able to live with her again in 3 years. Perhaps I can find a job somewhere with a cooler climate, or even back in the States. I look forward to that time and place. Until then, be well my little four-legged furry friend. I love you more than you will ever know!

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