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.
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 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.