Sunday, May 17, 2009
A Dozen Years of Chuckles
Charlie (WayToMe Midsummer Knight, HIC) is 12 years old today. It hardly seems possible that my little brown fuzzball could be a canine senior citizen. It wasn't that long ago that he was jumping four feet straight up to pull the babies off my spider plant and hanging on to Doogie's ears for free rides from room to room.
His name was Charlie long before he was even a twinkle in his sire Jamie's eye. Since Beardies are Scots dogs, I was possessed of the deeply non-original idea of naming my next puppy after Bonnie Prince Charlie. Little did I know that I'd end up with Good Time Charlie instead.
Charlie might actually be my first "slacker Beardie." Maybe that's due to the experience of having shared a household with Duncan, the Border Collie in a Beardie suit, the canine A student. Maybe it's because he's brown. (In the ancient Beardie lore, the brown Beardies are the troublemakers, the dirt-rollers, the silly ones, the ones who don't play by the rules. It's part myth, part self-fulfilling prophecy, and part spot-on description.) Anyhow, Charlie was always destined to go his own way.
I tried every activity in dogdom with Charlie, looking to find something he and I could enjoy. He enjoyed puppy-K and basic obedience classes, but more for the social aspect than for any genuine educational value. Sure, he did what he was asked and looked really cute in his POC mortarboard, but he made it clear that obedience just wasn't his thing. At the Canine Good Citizen test, he jumped on the examiners -- but passed all of the other, harder tests. He didn't want to be seen as an overachiever.
Herding was my first love as a dog sport, and Duncan lived for it. I started taking Charlie along to herding lessons. He half-heartedly moved the sheep around a little and then went off to splash around in the stock tank. Although he did earn an HIC (Herding Instinct Certificate) from the BCCA, he never really thought much of sheep. The stock he was given to work in his instinct test had been ripped on all day by at least a dozen Malinois, and it was the hottest day of the year. No way were they moving for anybody, least of all a Beardie puppy. The passing score was more or less a gift. (Not that Charlie can't herd. He's tried it since as an adult, and is good enough at it. He could just take it or leave it.)
We tried agility for a while, too. He would run the course perfectly and end up at the door. "All right, I've done this. Let's get out of here." He did enjoy flirting with the pretty Rough Collie babes, so at least agility class had a few perks. At agility trials, he'd run the course, head straight for the kiddie pool, and start splashing.
Next, we tried tracking. Charlie actually did a brilliant job and found all of the objects on his trail. He also found the swamp closest to the tracking field, plunged in, and emerged grinning, looking like The Creature from the Black Lagoon's dog. People recoiled at the sight of him.
Charlie loved many activities in his youth, however -- and he still does. He's always enjoyed hiking, and is far more obedient off-leash than he has ever been on-leash. Most of his favorite activities involve dirt, water, or a combination of both. At Beardie Bounces, the hosts always filled the pool for Charlie. He'd spend the day in it, and would invite other Beardies (preferably clean, well-trained ones) to share it. No matter the season, he'd never pass up a chance to jump into the waves on the beach and lie down to let the surf roll over his back. To this day, he's never so happy as when he's running on the sand and splashing in the surf.
He also possesses a great fondness for rolling in stinky stuff, a habit he learned from his dad Jamie. Be it big or be it small, he would never pass up a chance to roll onto -- or in -- something smelly. He'd try to roll on dead earthworms in the driveway. He'd roll in deer and fox poo on the trail. His ultimate score was the very, very dead seagull he once found on the beach. If I could have, I'd have driven the car home with my head out the window.
These days, Chuckles presides over the household as elder statesman. From the age of about 9 months, he held the post of alpha dog of the pack. Although it appears that Badger might want to take over the day-to-day operation of running the dog pack, Charlie still surveys his domain like the king he is -- even if he is King of the Slackers.
Happy Birthday, Cheeseball, and here's hoping for many more!