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Charley and Hugh, A Dog's Tale
Ode to a Faithful Dog
CHARLEY: (newly rewritten)
On the unpainted, open front porch,
he heard a sound, came to, and lifted his head.
An unlit pipe between his teeth,
Hugh squinted his eyes to focus,
craned his neck- then sat back.
Beyond his good years- those physically sound years,
the grizzled Vermonter continued to rock back and forth,
floor boards moaning under his meager weight.
Up the gravel driveway it bounced and rattled;
the familiar pickup truck approached his cabin,
finally coming to rest outside the open gate.
With two taps of the horn,
the driver beeped a friendly hello.
It was his great niece Heather,
who brought with her- a two month old puppy
the chubbiest pick of her Chocolate Lab’s recent litter.
On seeing the dog, Hugh, through impulse, responded gruffly
"I don't need no dammed dog, Heather,
I’m too old and don’t have it in me anymore.
You know it- I know it- and damn it- that’s that!”
Heather had brought a lunch for them both,
persisted for the next three hours,
and succeeded in placing the pup on his lap,
all the while, him, of course, shaking his head side to side,
mumbling something unintelligible.
Pulling at his sparse white beard with his left,
his right hand eventually gravitated over
for a quick scratch to the back of whimpering pup’s ears.
With an exaggerated exhale, Hugh continued to protest,
but it was plain, his voice softened,
his manner less rigid.
He couldn’t help but fall for the pudgy little gal on his lap.
This new arrival was Green Mountain stock,
born into a litter of four- both parents good hunters, pure-bred.
The old man's reason and heart were at odds.
He was bothered most by just how many years
he had left on the planet.
Considering the 8 week old retriever’s longevity,
figuring to be long gone, far ahead of the dog,
he had, but few years to give his new charge,
just didn’t feel right …
He told his niece that he needed some time,
time to think before adopting another dog;
the responsibility was considerable.
Hugh's previous hound, a Beagle named Danny,
left his side when the boy was fourteen years along.
He remembered the tears and trembling
that morning in February,
when the old boy simply didn't wake-
passed over in his sleep.
He swore that he’d never again, suffer another dog,
but here she was; whimpering, yapping,
smelling like puppy breath; something brand new.
The puppy never left the house that afternoon.
Hugh adopted the squirming mess of home sick, she slept in his bed that night.
Hugh named her after his very first dog.
Charlotte her name…
Sixty nine years before, on his tenth birthday,
she was given to him by his great aunt Elsie.
The mongrel pup, obviously lost, was found down the old lake road, rib skinny, and fearful of humans,
the reaction spoke a tale of mistrust and abuse.
But Elsie managed to coax the wary dog into her car
then spread the news around.
The dog stayed with her family,
until its strength returned.
Not a soul in, or around town, knew who owned her.
It was up to Hugh to give that lost pup a good home,
he did that,
and how he loved that short haired, brindle orphan
for the next 13 years.
But that was then.
Hugh nicknamed the eight week old puppy, Charley.
From the first, she was his new pal and partner,
and for the next nine years,
slept in the same bed as the old hunter.
They shared a good life, the man and his dog.
Hugh, forever grateful, to a niece that twisted
an old man’s arm until he surrendered.
That confusing day,
when Charley's devoted comrade, failed to wake,
she stayed beside him.
After two days of getting no answer on the phone,
Hugh’s younger brother finally drove over.
Seeing Hugh’s old Chevy still parked out back,
Ed entered the house.
He searched the cold cabin and found his brother;
found the two of them together.
Laying there faithfully atop the bed,
Charley’s head was resting, on his lifeless brother's chest.
She moved ever so slightly at Ed's presence,
looked up to him, the white rims of her eyes
under a furrowed brow,
carried the unmistakable look of despair.
Ed took the orphaned girl in after Hugh's funeral,
but she refused to eat, took little water,
and not long after, disappeared from his home.
News in the small town spread quickly,
the thought being; that Charley wandered off to die.
Far across town, she was found on the rise, overlooking the river,
Charley found her absent friend- a local found her;
the lifeless casualty of a broken heart.
She came to rest on old Hugh’s grave
at the Common Burying Ground.
Ed decided that his brother would favor the old girl
be buried just above him.
After careful excavation, to the depth of three feet,
she was gently lowered,
wrapped in the quilt she once shared with her best friend.
Old Hugh, and his ever faithful Charley,
as it should be.
Together, they remain...