Happy Birthday my Floofers! My Toasted Marshmallow! My Golden Eagle! My Sweet, Good Charlotte!
Because we don’t know exactly when Charlotte was born or even how old she actually is, we celebrate her birthday on her “Gotcha Day,” which is August 11th. She was picked up as a stray off the streets of Tacoma, and when no one came looking for her, was made available for adoption at the Tacoma-Pierce Humane Society.
It was on this day, four years ago, that I wandered into the shelter to “look at” dogs. I didn’t really have an intention of finding a dog that day, much less bringing one home, but let’s get real: how do you go into a place like that and leave emptyhanded with your heart intact?
I had been looking around in various places for a second dog and I had a very specific idea in mind: I wanted a young-ish dog, not a puppy, but someone with enough energy to contend with Aggie, who was two years old at the time and still very much a puppy (and still is.) I was hoping for a lab mix as well, since lab mixes are my jam, a great combination of energy, intelligence, and health.
It’s hard to go to a shelter. I can know intellectually that the animals there are receiving great care, that they’re better off there than on the streets or in bad homes, it still feels like a jail. We humans tend to anthropomorphize dogs more than any other animal, so I couldn’t help but imagine what the dogs must be feeling as they laid in their kennels, wondering why their people left them, wonder if they were ever getting out.
I walked past big dogs, small dogs, pit bulls, terriers, until I had reached nearly the end and wasn’t sure that I had found what I was looking for.
And then I saw her.
She was the color of gold, with russet hues, and a solid streak of white down the middle of her forehead. She lay with her face against the bars, the biggest and saddest brown eyes I had ever seen looking dolefully out. I recalled seeing her on the website, leaning against the wall in the background as another dog mugged for the camera.
I approached her and reached through the bars. She perked up a little, turning those saucer eyes up at me, her fluffy white tail beating against the floor.
Christened “Ginger,” by the shelter staff, she wasbrought to a little visiting room, where she promptly created a whirlwind of fur as she panted and spun excitedly, immediately perking up and happy to be let out. I tested a few basic commands with her; she was most responsive to the word “outside.”
Because she was picked up as a stray, we could only guess at a lot of things. Her age was estimated to be about five years, and her breed as some kind of Lab/Golden Retriever mix. She was already spayed and obviously well-fed, so she had been cared for in her life, though her fur was a fright, badly in need of grooming (it was for Charlotte the Furminator was invented.)
But nobody had come looking for her. Someone had lost her and didn’t want her anymore. But after ten minutes with this goofy, bumbling floof, I decided I did.
We named her on the way home. Since I already had a dog named after an author (Agatha Christie,) I decided to keep the trend going. Thus, Charlotte Bronte become a part of our family on that hot and dry August day.
It was fun and a little heartbreaking getting to know Charlotte over the next few years. She knew basic commands, she was housebroken, and smart; she picked up on her new name in a day. She had also never been leash trained and didn’t know how to play with toys. She and Aggie had some disagreements at first, but soon fell into a begrudging friendship based on toleration.
One of my favorite surprises was the first day we took her to the ocean. Charlotte HATED water. She fled from sprinklers, water hoses, the swimming pool, and especially the bath. When I took her to the beach, I figured she’d flop her fluffy self down on the sand and enjoy the smells.
That dog swam straight into the ocean, floating along the waves like a fluffy buoy. Since that day, she swims in every lake, river, creek, and pond that she meets.
Another fun surprise was seeing her interact with my nephew when he was born a few months later. She was so chill and sweet with him as he grew into a rambunctious toddler.
Four years later and I can’t imagine my life without this floofer. Her standard greeting whenever I come home is to slam her butt against my legs and wait for a booty scratch. Oh yeah, she’s all about the booty scratch. So today is her birthday, which means unlimited booty scratches, now and for all time.