First time poster here looking for ways to cope (30M). Probably wrote too much but I wanted to get everything out.

It was ~5 years ago when you came into our lives. I had always loved dogs and we had many family dogs growing up. I loved my brothers dog who had stayed with us when my brother moved across the country. We had just moved to Socal and having his dog Marley around made everthing so much funner. He was going through a bad part of his life so I treated the dog as if t was mine as he got his life together. He would go to the gym or go off roaming tinder and I would be walking Mar and making her chicken marrow soup. We grew very close. Finally the day came where he was recovered enough to move out of our apartment. It was only 2 hours away so not a big deal on paper. Mar and him were off to start their new life in their new city. I knew the time would come so the void left by Mar leaving, even though large, was not long lasting because I could still see her often.

I realized at this point, I needed to get my own dog. The time wasn't quite right as my wife and I lived too far from our demanding jobs so we were never home. Knowing it wasn't fair to have a dog sit at home alone a majority of every day we waited. My wife is not a dog person and resisted my urge to get a dog. I spent my days looking at the SPCA website for dogs in need of a home day dreaming about calling one of these piles of fur mine. After about 6 months of this limbo state, we finally moved closer to my job and she got a job closer to mine. It was finally time to get a dog.

After looking on SPCA for so long before, I realized that its impossible to know if the dog would be a good from just from descriptions on SPCA website. Most of the foster parents in the Socal border area dont speak english so the description and even the names are copy pasted and not accurate. I stumbled upon a dog that was listed as a lab-hound mix that was found on the streets of Tijuana and went by the name goofy. I instantly knew he was the one. We met up the next day down by the border of mexico. From the time I first saw him I knew he was my Mr Perfect. He looked so lost and confused and looked like a Charlie. He didnt know any English commands and it even took months for him to learn his name, Char. Anyway, we quickly filled out the paper work, and communicated as best we could with the foster parent (language barrier) and we were off to show Char his new home. I could tell that he would be a piece of work. He hated all dogs, most men, and growled at everyone that was Hispanic since he was likely abused on the street. We could tell that he had been a stray for much of his time in Mexico and he had some serious mental/physical baggage that stayed with him until his last day. He was under weight and had scars all over his body. His foster parents were great and rescued him from the streets. They nursed him back to life and I will be forever grateful for that.

He took a few days to finally trust use and would howl in the corner of the room likely missing his foster parent. For the first few weeks he kept his distance and didnt want to let us in. After a few weeks, and many rotisserie chicken dinners he was finally able to relax and get to know us. From this point on, Char and I were inseparable. He would follow me around the apartment and would paw the door when I was behind a closed one. I took him to dog beach every morning before work and we walked him on his "dog loop" which over looked the ocean every evening and weekend.

When we took him to the vet for his first checkup, they pulled a bunch of bad teeth and cut a few lumps off of him but told us overall he was in good health. For the entire next year and a half, we hung out at dog beach, and spent every second outside of work together. My wife always said she would be grateful if she got half the attention I gave that dog. I was honestly bad at not planning everything around the dog. Every vacation, every Saturday and Sunday, every plan I made was shaped to include Mr Dog Shoes (chars nick name since he had white feet). I started to become flaky at work because I'd lose track of time playing and petting some Char during the week. All of this love and attention had a down side in the sense that he had crazy separation anxiety from me. When my wife was around he didnt really notice. Everyone was invisible but me. This made me grow even more attached. Anytime I was away and got home, he would howl and wag his tail knowing he was going to get a chicken or a steak or some pulled pork and then hang out with his dog friend. I really do think that he considered me another dog since I would roll around with him and howl at/with him unlike of ther humans. He had so many funny mannerisms that gave ordinary things a fun and funny twist. He would "go trick or treating" on walks where he would run from door to door as if he forgot which house was ours. He would smell dirt and find a scent then follow it and apply dog brakes if you tried to make him stop following. Everything he did, I thought was hilarious and awesome. My wife would catch me just staring at Char and say "stop staring at the dog" in which case I would reply "hes not a dog". Dog people understand. Char consumed every aspect of my life. I saw Char as more of a person than as a dog. His hound smell, his rough coat, his poor manners were all part of what I loved about Char. Ill always miss that when a horn would honk on TV, he would wake up and move locations to be next to us (we think he was honked at by cars as a stray so he had been wired to think honk means move). He was always the outcast, the loner, and had heavy emotional baggage that made him mysterious and able to trust me so much. I can truly say that I was the only thing he ever cared about.

We spent the summers exploring Sierra back country and backpacking to the many magical lakes. We averaged 10-12 backpacking trips a season and char loved them. He would chase squirrels and Marmots and I would have Char pose for pictures at the many beautiful lakes and mountain backdrops. He got to where he could hike 20+ miles a day with me and wanted more. He was solid muscle and never got tired. I didnt mind carrying the 5-10 pounds of steak Char wanted on our week long backpacking trip. He would eat steak and chicken, I would eat dehydrated meals that looked like dirt. I always put Char above anything else. Everyone always told me, that he ate better than 99% of the planet. They were probably right. He had a very sophisticated pallet and never really cared for dry dog food.

Fast forward a year and a half. We move to bay area for my job. Its a big change but Char has helped me through all of the changes and rough times so far. My wife gets to work from home, which meant I could focus on work for a while. My goal was to work really hard for 6 months then slip through the cracks so I could be flaky again and hang out with Char full time. This plan worked out and I was soon cutting work to pet Char and explore our new area together. Around this time, I noticed that he looked a little bloated so I took him to the vet just to see if anything was wrong. He had been eating a lot of steak/chicken/lamb/wet food the past few months I figured he was just getting alittle fat. I didnt get that nervous because Char spent half of his time at the vet due to being malnourished as a puppy and spending time as a stray in Mexico. We knew the drill as there was always something minor going on with Char due to our extreme and fast paced life style and his preexisting conditions. At the vet they saw his spleen was enlarged and his platelet count was abysmal. He could bleed out at anytime. He had dormant Erlichia in his blood stream and likely had this undetected from his time in Mexico. He was always on his monthly heartgard and flea and tick meds exactly 30 days apart so the vet thought he had been infectred for a majority of his life. The diagnosis was mixed, they gave us a bunch of meds and sent us on our way. A week later he went back and had no improvement so they gave him more meds and prednisone. A week after that he still had no spleen improvement and was feeling the side effects of the Pred. I was given a strong immune suppressant and high dose of Pred and was told to have him chill with no hiking. He still acted normal so it was hard sitting and watching movies instead of our normal dog beach and hiking outings. As he spent time on Predinsone, he deteriorated a little it but was still my perfect Char.

I took him to Oregon for Vacation so he could eat snow over Christmas. While in Oregon, he was fighting the harsh side effects of the Predestine. When we got back home, he went to the vet for a check up. They saw no improvement in platelet count and thought his Ehrlichiosis was in its chronic stage which was a death sentence, or he had bone marrow cancer. They couldn't do a bone marrow extraction to narrow down his condition because his platelet count was too low. At this point his spleen was so enlarged that he looked pregnant some days. We were told to monitor him and that he had only a few months to live. I broke down and swore to spend every second with Char. For the next year, I was the sketchiest employee in history. I requested a second desk in the lab area so that when I was absent from one desk they assumed I was at the other. I would work from home (boss hated people working from home so I couldnt make it known what I was doing) then show up to work for only my meetings. I was spending every waking second with Char at this point. When id work at home, I would pet him every chance I got and put movies on for him (he loved background noise). Surprisingly, he deteriorated really slow. I weeded him off of the prednisone as requested by the vet. He recovered quickly and even though he was terminally ill, he acted fine. I'd make him chicken every day and slowly built up his muscle so he could do his favorite active, backpacking Sierras. It would be a scaled down version of backpacking from here on out. I knew that each trip could be his last so I captured every second of it.

On weekdays, we would just sit and stare at each other making faces. We'd play 'find mr couch kitty' (id play youtube cat sounds and he would try to find the phone). I was mentally preparing for his departure but was trying to stay strong for both of us. My wife never really understood how much I cared for him. Char and I understood each other on such a deep level. Everytime I was going through a rough patch either in my marriage or family, Char was there to comfort me. His Howl instantly put a smile on my face. My howl at him would always put a smile on his face. I always joked (but was serious) that I wanted his scent as dog cologne. Not cologne meant for dogs, but people cologne that smelled like Char. He sat in his dog spot on the couch across from my computer so I'd work and stare at the screen and he would sit and stare at me. He stayed in this state for a year. Slowly deteriorating. First it was that steak upset his stomach. Then pork. Then he would no longer eat the wet food. Then he would only eat chicken. Then he had the desire to eat dirt ( i put him on vitamins since this is a sign of anemia), Then he would leak pee due to his enlarged spleen pushing on his organs . Then he started loosing weight so his ribs were showing. I was always so blinded by the changes because we spent so much time together, each progression kinda flowed into the next. Finally after COVID quarantine started, I took a step back and realized that he leaked urine almost every night and his week long diarrhea episodes meant things were quickly coming to an end. I took him to the vet again, and they said his spleen filled his entire abdominal cavity and his platelet count was still too low to really do any kind of procedure or exploratory diagnosis. Since people were not allowed in the vet, it was the first time in a long time that we were separated. I realized just how hard it was going to be once this separation was permanent. I was once again told he only had a few months. Before, a few months meant a year and a half at least, so I dumbly thought it would be the same. This is at the time when he began to vomit a few times a week. I started to feed him smaller portions but would still feed him mostly any time he asked. He began to want food fewer and fewer times a day.

Before long, he was vomiting most days and had really dark diarrhea. I knew the end was near and decided to do his favorite activity, take him on his last road trip. He had lost half his body weight and would throw up food he ate the day before and it would not be broken down at all. His favorite activity at this stage was taking car rides. I took the seats out of the SUV, made a large queen size bed in the back seat and just drove. Char would sleep, smell the car window air, and stare at me in rotations. I would take him out of the car to play at the abandoned beaches up the Cali, Oregon, and Washington coast. We spent his last days eating watermelon and rotisorie chicken, and hanging out in his favorite places. It was still quarentine, and Cali didnt let people in the vet still so we stayed in Oregon (vets allow people in them). One morning he stopped eating and drinking water and would make a pitiful moan sound every once in a while. I took him to the vet and ended his suffering. My wife was there but wasnt devastated. I on the other hand lost a big part of me. I've lost grandparents, friends, gone through things lot of others that on paper look tragic, but they never really effected me much. Ive only really cried once in my life outside of childhood. Loosing my Char, was so much harder than I had planned for. On his last day, he wouldn't let me sit near him, he couldnt get confortable and didnt want me near. Pets hurt and his stomach was hurting him. I cant get these images out of my head. Exiting the Vet office and seeing Char laying there, dead after taking his last beath in my arms will always haunt me. Im just a shell of my former self. A little bit dead inside just going through the motions. Going back to the apartment, brought back too many memories. We are packing everything up and moving next week. Looking at Chars' dog spot on the couch he loved so much, where he would sit and stare at me for hours, with his white belly patch, hound smell, and soft cold ears, is too much to bear. The only way to recover is to make huge life change. Im getting rid of most of my stuff and moving to Hawaii while I try to recover. He is all I think about and hiking will never be the same again. The hound smell on everything I own will slowly fade and that makes me sad. As I move forward, I cant stop but wish that I could simply replay the past 5 year of our lives together. You left me too soon in this awful world. You were only 6 or 7. You were so alone for your first few years and now I will be the same type of alone until its my time to leave this world. You were my everything 🙁 You were my Char 🙁

Forever Char
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Thank you for sharing your story, your adventures with Char. I smiled, I laughed and I cried. Clearly he was a very special dog and had a very special bond with you. You gave him a fantastic life full of love and adventure and awesome food.

My condolences,
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I am deeply sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved Char. Wow, what an adventure the two of you had, a beautiful life together ( minus the trips to the vets ). Just like Jan, I laughed and I cried. He was very lucky to have found such a caring & loving companion like yourself. The two of you had a wonderful bond and it will take time to heal, but in time you will. I can relate in a sense.when you mentioned wanting Char's scent as a cologne. I was so obsessed with not wanting my beloved 'Daisy'scent to escape her blanket when she passed that I put it in a sealed bag & then into a storage box. I took it out a little while ago, held it to my chest, sniffed it & wept. It still had her scent & afterwards I put it back in the bag & box. I think the most beautiful thing we can do when we loose our furbabies is to 'keep their memory alive'! This may help you. I bought a scrapbook/journal, & it is like a research project, I had her initial tattooed, her name engraved onto a neclace, a few trinklets with her  name hanging on my wardrobe & planted a perineal plant in memory of her. In addion to that I visit a  church to light a candle & ask God to take good care of her. Then I sometimes donate to wildlife charities in her name.. Doing these little things helps me & lots of people on this forum have done similar things, & however we choose to remember them, they will always be in our hearts just like Char will always be in yours. The two of you were meant to be & in time things will get easier. I still miss my little dog so desperately & sometimes the pain feels unbearable but I know I am healing & you will too.  Everyone on this forum will support you, we all understand. 

Sending you comfort & peace 

Daisy's mummy 
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