|Barbara Lampert and Charlie|
You asked me to talk about Charlie, my Golden Retriever who is the subject of my dog memoir Charlie: A Love Story, about the impact he had on my family, and about what living with any dog means to a family. Great topics – and fun to think about!
I love all dogs and have all my life. I’ve had a number of them, at one point four dogs and two cats, which was paradise! Mostly I’ve had Golden Retrievers, whom I just adore. For me they’re the perfect family dog: smart, very playful, and endowed with an abundant emotional intelligence that makes them very sensitive to people’s needs and wants. They love people, adults and children, and other dogs, so they fit easily into a family. But because of these wonderful qualities, don’t look to the Golden Retriever to be a great watchdog! If you want protection, I suggest almost any other breed.
Because dogs are pack animals, the family group is perfect for them, one most of them love and can enhance. Most dogs love unconditionally, are enthusiastic and joyful, love to play, are loyal, can be made happy by the simplest of things, live in the moment, and prefer being close to nature – in their essence, they remind us about what’s important in life. These qualities of these very special beings are great gifts for a family.
Charlie was extremely empathetic, had an uncanny ability to tune in. I always felt understood by him. Lots of people did. So many times I’d hear other people say, “He seems almost human…It’s like having another person around.” Charlie was very grounded and solid. No jumping and barking unnecessarily, no shaking or pulling when we went to the vet. There was a calmness about him which he carried with him always, even through a number of very difficult circumstances. In the words of Fran Lewis, a reviewer on Goodreads:
“Charlie had a special glow, energy, strength that most of us wish we had in times of illness, strife and stress… He truly lived his life to the fullest.”
Charlie brought all this to our family, and to me. He was easy to be with, a Buddha, no matter what was going on. Problems for Charlie were like gnats going by. He’d get through them calmly and then bounce out of them with joy, at times doing much better than before the problem happened. He was like this for his entire life – every single year and every single minute. He was exemplary. Even just after a surgery or other serious health event, there he’d be, raring to go after having encountered what many dogs probably would not have pulled out of. Charlie taught us to forge ahead, no matter what. He was a master, indomitable.
Let me tell you about a few of his funny ways. Charlie threw his paw high in the air when he wanted something, usually to be petted. For such a large dog, that was the cutest behavior. And if I sat on the floor cross-legged, Charlie (all one hundred pounds of him) would back up like a truck, plop himself backwards into my lap, and then turn his head and, with a big smile, look at me. Of course I’d be laughing as he did this.
And then sometimes I’d lie on the floor with my knees raised, to rest my back, and as soon as Charlie saw me doing that, he’d come over and lie across me, actually pinning me down, again with that great big grin on his face. I’d be laughing hysterically and usually would need help to get him off of me. He was so proud of that behavior. Of course, because Charlie saw me laughing so hard at things he’d do, that would encourage him to keep on doing them. Even when Charlie didn’t feel well, it was sometimes difficult to know that, because his sense of humor seemed to override everything.
Charlie served as an example of how to live. He was an extraordinary being. Who lived an extraordinary life. And ours was an extraordinary relationship I feel blessed to have shared with him.
Betty White once said, and I wholeheartedly agree: “Once someone has had the good fortune to share a true love affair with a Golden Retriever, one’s life and one’s outlook are never quite the same again. A warm afterglow remains that lasts a lifetime.”
All my dogs have given me the feeling of being a part of a wonderful family, Charlie maybe more than most. But then again, dogs are family for me.
Again, thank you!
And happy reading to all!
Barbara Lampert is the author of "Charlie: A Love Story" and a psychotherapist specializing in relationships. She lives in Malibu, California. Her passion is dogs.
Mad About Pets' review of "Charlie: A Love Story" can be found here.