To view photos of Barbara's dogs, click here.
Most were Charlie’s pack members at some point in his life, and most you’ll meet in Charlie: A Love Story. But only briefly, because it’s Charlie’s story.
My first dog was Simon. I was a flight attendant living in San Francisco at the time, and Simon was a Christmas present. I was told he was a Pekingese-Pomeranian-Maltese mix. Wrong – not even close! He was mostly a Cairn Terrier. He was extremely smart (all fifteen pounds of him), a bit aloof, very independent, and liked very few people. He’d be invited to dinner parties where there were no other dogs, because he was so well-behaved and appropriate.
Next was Amanda (Mandy), my first Golden Retriever. At the time I didn’t know much about Goldens, but Mandy taught me, ensuring I would always have at least one Golden in the house, forever. She was always on the go, always wanted to play. As a puppy, her nickname became Mandamonium. She loved everyone and loved but loved chasing squirrels. Never caught one, but I don’t think that was the point.
Next there was Arthur. I’d been thinking Mandy needed a playmate when I heard from a local vet that a litter of ten Afghan puppies had just been born about two minutes from where I lived in Malibu. Great! Got to the house, and there were more than twenty Afghans of various ages.
Everywhere I looked were these gorgeous dogs. And then there was this little puppy with his nine littermates. While the nine were all huddled together, the little puppy, who would become Arthur, was happily walking around by himself, with his tail constantly wagging. Home he came. And very independent he stayed. Though Mandy wanted to play constantly with him, it seemed he would do so only to please her. One day she dropped a towel on his head, and he just sat there, content. As she stared at him, I started thinking that maybe this wasn’t such a good match. Though Arthur was totally in love with her. He really liked sitting quietly with her, and all she wanted to do was play. The odd couple.
When Mandy was about two years old and Arthur was a little less than a year, we got Charlie. I really hadn’t been looking for another dog, but there he was. I don’t want to give away his puppy story – it’s in my book, almost at the very beginning. In any case, Mandy now had a better playmate, and Arthur had some parenting to do, which I think was really good for him. They took Charlie in, each taught him different lessons about life. Mandy taught him how to play and dig, and Arthur taught him his place. Charlie couldn’t have had better parents.
Then one morning I got a call from David. He said he’d found a bedraggled Sheltie with no tags dodging trucks in downtown Los Angeles. David loves Shelties, having had two of his own years ago, so I knew this meant something. After work, David took her to our veterinarian, Dr. Olds, who said she’d probably been on the streets for at least a year. That evening, she was bathed numerous times. She looked beautiful, just like a show dog! This little girl, who I named Sabrina, marched into our house with the three big dogs and fit herself right in. Such intelligence. And chutzpah! So now we had four dogs. I was so happy! And Sabrina was so much fun. Didn’t bark too much, unlike most Shelties. But I could see her thinking constantly. Only issue was food. Because of her living on the streets, where food was probably scarce, we had to keep a constant watch. She once took an entire tin of sourdough bread and ran into the yard with it – not just one piece but the whole container. I don’t know how she carried it!
Years went by, and eventually we lost Mandy and Arthur, so it became just Charlie and Sabrina. Then, three weeks after Arthur died, I found Barney crossing the Pacific Coast Highway. Looked like a Golden Retriever, also with no tags. Here we go again. Took him to Dr. Olds, because I had to go to my office. Then David picked him up after work. For a few days, we tried to find his owner – no luck. So we set about looking for a home for him, because I did not want another dog right then – don’t ask me what I could have been thinking. Anyway, after looking for a home for him for about a week, we found one: ours! Charlie was nine, and here was this approximately eight-month-old Golden. But eventually it worked out just fine. Barney turned out to be a wonderful dog. So very friendly, totally appropriate, and ever so smart. And so happy with his new pack members. He became somewhat of a mascot to the children at the school near us. And best friends with the local policeman. Just happy all the time, he deferred to Charlie, which was really good for Charlie.
And now there’s Harry. You guessed it – another Golden! We call him Charlie’s grandson. From when we got him at nine weeks until he was about four years old, he was a maniac. I actually thought he was a sociopath. He didn’t listen – in the house or out – didn’t care, followed his nose (best sense of smell I’ve ever seen). Must admit I’m not the best dog trainer, and David is ten times worse! But you know what I call Harry now? “Happy Harry.” He’s so gorgeous. And the happiest dog I’ve ever known! Like most Goldens, he loves to play, and what he loves the most is to play ball. Now he listens quite well around the house. Still a little issue with listening when we’re out, though he’s a lot better than he was. No matter. I’m sure that will straighten out eventually. Or not!
I’ve always thought I want to give as many dogs as possible a good home and a good life, so this story will continue. Just a little interlude now with only one dog. Dogs are the very best beings on the planet, the only species that has made friends with ours. Don’t they deserve the best?