Travels With Charlie

Charlie close up

Hi, there!

Charlie had no idea why I was rushing around like a mad woman, packing a suitcase, stuffing his carry bag with his toys, chew things, food, dishes, water, leashes and the dozens of other things necessary for an overnight trip. He knew it was fun though to follow me as I dashed around the house. Several times he took opportunity to steal a toy from his packed bag to play with. Soon enough, we would be off on his biggest adventure yet. This trip would start with a visit and overnight stay at his cousin’s house. The next day, he would meet his new family for the first time.

Charlie’s “cousin” is a lithe 9-month old chocolate Labrador beauty who is sired by his half-brother Ranger. It was love at first sight for Charlie. Piper is sleek and coy with the darkest of coats, and typical of all Lab puppies—always ready for a good play session. She didn’t have to do much to engage Charlie in a game of chase. He quickly figured out his bulky build could not keep up with her as she zoomed around the yard so nimbly and skillfully at lightning speed. But Charlie is a thinker, and he developed his strategy to even the playing field. He found places along her circuit through the yard where he could crouch down nearly flat on the ground and lie in wait until she rocketed by, when he would pounce on her like a great lion attacking its prey. It took him a few attempts to perfect the technique, all the while offering great entertainment for Piper’s owner and me.

Charlie meets his new family.

Later inside, the pups contrived games involving a pile of toys and a very large open-door crate in the room where all the people sat talking. I am always fascinated by dog games. They are so creative, and the rules are pretty clear even to those of us not participating. I suspect they would have played all night if we had not put an end to it and gone to bed. Once tucked in with his favorite blanket, Charlie fell into a sound sleep. Good! I wanted him to be fresh for the big meeting in the morning.

After an hour drive the next morning, we arrived at the home of Charlie’s new family—and were greeted by a very excited young lady who would be his new partner. This is always the most anxious time for me, even though I’ve gone through it a thousand times before. Will the dog and person I am trying to match up be the right fit? It took only a few moments to realize that Charlie was indeed home. He walked in confidently, looked around, then glanced at me as if to say, “Yes, this will do just fine.”

Charlie and the "big dog"


Charlie got the full tour of the house. He was a little taken aback by the largest stuffed toy he had ever seen in front of a television, something else he had not seen since we don’t have one at home. I imagined him calculating, in typical Charlie style, just how he was going to play with this thing and move it to where he thought it should be. I’ve accused him of being a decorator at heart, as he constantly moves his bed from one spot in my office to another for reasons only he knows.

The best part of his first visit to his new home was meeting all the friends and family anxious to see him. He handled his near celebrity status with composure and cool you could only admire. Everyone had cameras and videos pointed at him, everyone clamored to get in a photo with him, and he patiently complied with all requests.

It was difficult to leave, but I could see Charlie was getting tired, and we had a long trip home. He still has much to learn before he returns here ready to take on his duties as a diabetic alert service dog.


A Puppy In The Land of Giants

Traveling with a puppy is much like traveling with a baby—you need to take lots of extra stuff to make things easy once you get to where you’re going. The night before for Charlie’s big trip to the city, I found myself packing a “puppy bag.” The next morning before the sun was up, Charlie and I left on his longest trip yet—to my office near Washington, D.C. He is 12 weeks old, and I felt he was ready for the experience.

We arrived in the parking garage of the building just as the sun was peaking over the far horizon. The city was just beginning to wake, so the streets were relatively quiet. “Perfect,” I thought, as Charlie and I walked out of the garage toward the only two 2 x 4-foot grassy patches in that area of town. As we approached the sidewalk, Charlie stopped and craned his neck upward as if in awe at the enormity of the skyscrapers all around him. He kept looking at the shapes—some smooth stone, many with repeating color patterns, some reflective, all very tall. In his world, our ancient oaks at 80 feet are the giants on the farm. Here he was in a strange land were the trees were barely 12 feet tall and dwarfed by buildings so gigantic he couldn’t bend his head up enough to see the tops.

A garbage truck rumbled by and broke his stare. He looked at it, appearing amazed by its size. This was certainly the largest vehicle he had ever seen. He turned to look at me and his expression clearly said, “Mom, what kind of strange Land of Giants did you bring me to?”

Charlie "at work."

As the streets began to fill with people, he was so fascinated he stopped sniffing the grass and just sat and watched. I wish I could have read his mind as he saw his first bicycle rider with a strange pointed head (helmet) and a woman jogging behind a tented tricycle pram. He cocked his head from side to side. So many new things to experience and it was all happening rapidly! Behind him a bus chortled by, and more people of all sizes and shapes crowded the walk. All the while, Charlie sat calmly, taking it all in and contemplating what it all meant.

Finally, I had to remind him to “get busy” so we could go inside. Entering the building my office is in, he negotiated his first obstacle—a revolving door—then turnstiles, guards and two elevator rides. After what must have seemed like a tremendous journey for a little pup, we arrived at my office. I had already placed his crate under my desk and had his favorite toys spread out. He jumped with glee at them, relieved I am sure to see something familiar. He seemed very content to lie at my feet and play with his toys. Few people in the office even realized a puppy was in their midst.

Charlie makes friends wherever he goes.

Later, as we roamed about the office complex on our way to my many meetings, he got much practice with the elevators and revolving doors, handling and adapting to them like a good student. By lunchtime, however, this little guy was tuckered out. On our return to my office, he headed straight for his crate, grabbed a corner of his blanket, rolled over and snuggled down on his back half covered for a long nap. I ate lunch at my desk and finished up the last of my work while he continued to nap. It had been a very stimulating day, and I’m sure he was in sensory overload trying to assimilate all the new things he had experienced.

When he finally woke up, we made our way back to the parking garage for the journey home. By now, he handled the elevators and doors with the aplomb of a veteran. I couldn’t help but be impressed. There was no pulling on the leash, no barking and no jumping on people, just calm self-assuredness of a tiny puppy in the Land of Giants.