Our Charlie Boy: RIP
On July 31 our beautiful Charlie Boy was diagnosed with a mass in his abdomen. He came home to be with us for a day and a night, and then returned to the hospital for surgery on Aug. 1. Our extraordinary veterinarians, doctors Holdsworth and Marino, removed his spleen and the masses on his adrenal gland. We brought him home again on August 5.
Test results showed an aggressive cancer. We sat with him. I slept next to him on the floor. Our two blind Calicos, Bella and Sophia (Sophia was the love of his life), stood sentry in the doorway to his room and came to visit him every hour.
But Charlie wasn’t doing well, and everyone knew it. Howard and I made a promise never to let him suffer, so we took it day by day. We loved our boy. We cherished our time together. But on Aug. 12 we realized we could no longer keep him comfortable. We kept our promise. We let him go.
Of course, there’s nothing unusual about Charlie Boy’s story. Everyone who adopts and loves a pet fears the moment when this decision might be necessary. Animals bring so much to our lives — they sleep in our beds, comfort us when we’re sick or sad, love us no matter how badly we sing, and they teach us over and over the joy of laughter and play. And unlike some of the people in our lives, they never judge or criticize. That’s the best part of sharing unconditional love with a pet: It flows both ways.
So even though there’s nothing unusual about Charlie Boy’s story, like every animal he was unique. So I don’t want to tell you only how Charlie Boy left us; I also want you to know the wonderful story of how he arrived and how much, like all pets, he changed our lives. He was such a sweet surprise.
In July of 2012, our wonderful dog, Bianca, passed away. We were devastated. Three months later, we decided to honor Bianca’s life by adopting an adult cat who’d been at North Shore Animal League America for some time. North Shore’s wonderful cat behaviorist, Dorit, told us about a very special girl named Kitty. She thought we’d love her.
I didn’t even need to meet Kitty. I knew Dorit and trusted her judgment. Yes, I said, we’ll take her!
As it turned out, on the day I was supposed to pick up Kitty, I was called on a three-day television shoot. I told Dorit I’d pick up Kitty when I returned. But my husband, Howard, overheard my plan and told me to pick up Kitty immediately. He volunteered to watch her after she arrived and help her acclimate to the other cats and the rest of the house. So I went to pick up Kitty, and there was Dorit rushing toward me saying, “There’s been a terrible mistake! Kitty is not a she, but a he! Do you still want him?”
That was Oct., 4, 2014, the day Charlie Boy (Howard named him) came home. Needless to say, Howard bonded with him those first few days without me. I’ll never forget the constant phone calls with Charlie Boy updates! We were thrilled and relieved to see him acclimate so quickly with our other resident cats, Apple, Walter, and Leon Bear.
Charlie was an easy-going guy from day one. He loved to just hang out. He didn’t bother anyone. Nothing bothered him. He quickly became obsessed with hanging out in the kitchen and waiting for his meals. He slept in the kitchen at night. He loved the kitchen. I always laughed because his favorite spot was in front of the ice maker, and it makes the loudest noise. Yet there he’d be in a deep sleep, right in front of the ice maker. Nothing bothered him!
Then two years ago I had a very special blind foster kitten arrive. Howard named her Sophia. Charlie always loved to go into the foster room and eat the kittens’ food, but for some reason he gravitated toward this one kitten, Sophia. He would just stare at her in her pen for hours. He was mesmerized. In fact, she was the only thing that distracted him from food!
Every day, all day… Sophia and Charlie. She became familiar with him and would know when he entered the room. During that period, we lost our beautiful Apple to mammary cancer. The morning after her death, I found that Charlie had pushed through Sophia’s pen and, not surprisingly, had eaten all her kitten food. Then I saw him grooming her. Hours and hours and hours of nonstop grooming.
That very day Howard and I decided to adopt Sophia for Charlie.
It was a love affair like I’ve never seen before in my life. They were so attached…Charlie grooming and grooming Sophia’s eyes. I think that’s been the hardest adjustment since he passed: observing Sophia. She often sits in the kitchen in front of the ice maker and jumps when she hears the clatter of the ice. When she was with Charlie in that spot, she never jumped. She felt safe with him. They were always touching each other. Since Aug. 12 I’ve often wished I could close my eyes and open them to see Chunk and Sophia together just one more time.
Now she seems lost. She didn’t eat for two days after he died. She’s a little better every day, but she certainly knows he’s gone. What’s amazing is that Leon Bear and Walter have started grooming her, though it will take time for Sophia to grieve. I respect that in her. In fact, I think it’s important that you show extra affection to all of your cats when one of them is sick or has passed. They know what’s going on, and they need you more than ever.
Since Charlie died, it’s been a very difficult few weeks. He was such a presence in our home! It’s not the same without him. How could it be? The nuggets and our five resident cats — Bella, Leon Bear, Sophia, Walter, and Yoda — have helped Howard and me tremendously. We thank them every day with our love. And so have our friends, families, colleagues, and the many people we know through social media. We thank them, too.
At the moment, Howard and I are trying to figure out what kind of little tattoos to get to honor him. We miss our enchanting Charlie Chunk.
On Aug. 29 we got his ashes back and cried all over again. He was such a good boy. We’ll never know how old he was. I think he was ageless. And though losing him breaks my heart, I remind myself of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s consoling words: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
We will always miss Charlie Boy, and we will always count ourselves blessed to have known and loved his gentle spirit.