October 28, 2012

Charcoal (my dog’s true tale)

During the summer that started with the end of third grade we moved to Morro Bay, a sleepy little fishing village located on California’s central coast.  It was quite a change for me as I had lived nearly all of my young life until that time in Rialto, a suburban community located in a large valley east of Los Angeles, that still had numerous orange groves.  We had also lived a couple of blocks from my paternal grandparents, who I frequently visited.  Our new home was several hundred miles north and far from family and childhood friends.

While lacking many things I had grown accustomed to, it made up for it in other ways.  Also, since we had vacationed in the area before, it was not completely foreign to me.  I recall spending most of that first summer riding my bike, playing on the beach, and exploring my new home.  When fall came that year it brought with it many cold and foggy days and, of course, the start of fourth grade.

Soon I found myself thinking about turning 10.  Like many pre-teens, I remember feeling that I would be very grown up since my age would now include two numbers.  My birthday fell on a Saturday that year and my mom and middle sister had left early that morning to go shopping.  They returned later on and asked me to help bring in the groceries.  I ran to the car and instantly noticed a shopping bag moving by itself!  I reached for that one first, as my mother and sister must have known that I would, because they were behind me.  I was happily surprised to see a small, dark and furry lump that popped up and greeted me with a lick!  He was no bigger than a Guinea Pig and had soft but wiry black fur, with a matching black nose, dark brown eyes, and a wiggly, long for his size, tail.  From the minute that I spotted him I knew that he was one of kind.  The first thing my mother asked me was “what are you going to name him?”  Without hesitation, I responded that since he was black as “charcoal” that would be his name.

Initially, I made Charcoal a nice bed, I thought, on the floor next to me, but he would have none of that and carried on until I picked him up.  After that, he slept at the foot of my bed.  We went for walks nearly every day and he grew quickly.  Being mostly Terrier, he was a smallish, medium-sized dog, who probably never exceeded 30 pounds in weight.  As he grew, he turned out to be not the cutest dog, but he had qualities that made him endearing nonetheless.

I taught him how to walk on a leash, though he really never cared for that much.  We would hike through fields and down rutted roads usually on route to the bay, piers, or the beach.  When he got bigger, I would ride my bike and he would run behind where often, because he was mostly a Terrier, he would bark at cars or people while trailing me.

I would sometimes find interesting trees to explore which, being a boy, I would do often.  One day while doing just that, Charcoal became tired of waiting for me on the ground and he started to climb the tree too!  After a few attempts doing this, he became pretty good at it, for a dog, and could usually make it half way up most trees.  Of course, I almost always had to help him get back down because I did not want him to get hurt, though loose sand covered most of the ground that we explored and the trees were not very tall.


Charcoal loved to play tug-o-war and he would find a toy, or rag, or once in a while even a stray piece of clothing, and drop it near me whenever he wanted to have a game.  He also loved chasing other animals and at night he would sometimes go out for a bathroom break and refuse to come back in the house.  This worried me, but in the morning he would always be at the door and wagging his tail, as if to say thank-you for not making me stay in all night.  It was during these “adventures” where he must have met the locals, because when I rode my bike around town neighbors would often talk to him as if they knew him.  I figured that he must have because his response to them was a wag and never a bark, which he did to strangers he did not trust!

When Charcoal was a year old we moved about 5 miles across the bay to another town called Los Osos.  The house we lived in was brand new and surrounded by fields with Oak trees and bushes, containing all manner of wild life from possums to lizards, the former Charcoal loved to chase!  This was made easier for him to do because the property, like most in the then semi-rural area at that time, had no fence.

The elementary was also brand new, and located down a sandy dirt road, two blocks from home.  One day, Charcoal showed up after lunch, and was distracting students who were looking at him through the windows.  The teacher was about to call maintenance to have him removed when I recognized him and let her know that he was my dog and that I would take care of it.  I went outside and walked him to the road and told him to “go home.”  He looked at me with pleading eyes and then turned and went back towards home.  At some point after that initial showing he appeared again, though this time it was near the end of the day, and he did not go close to the windows, but waited until I came out.  By spring of that year, he regularly met me at the end of each day and walked me back home!

The next year I started Junior High, 7th grade, and also attended a new school, but it being well over a mile away, I had no visits from Charcoal.  One day, in the fall, I road my bike up to a local market to get some comic books (we did not own any video games).  Charcoal followed me and waited outside the store.  I was not inside for more than a couple of minutes when I heard the sound of dogs barking, with one of them being mine.  When I got outside he was in the jaws of a large Pit-bull and it was swinging him around.  I quickly located the owner inside and he freed Charcoal, who was bleeding from a large wound on his neck.  I went to the payphone (cell phones were not widely available yet) and called home and asked my brother to come and pick us up.  Charcoal did not whimper or fuss when the Veterinarian was fixing him up.  If I remember correctly, he required around a dozen, or so, stitches and the Vet told us he was lucky to be alive.  He soon healed up and was back to doing the things that he loved in a short time!

When taking him on walks, or bike rides, to the bay, I noticed that he did not want to go near the water.  I thought about this, and one time brought a favorite rubber toy with me and tossed it in the bay very close to the shore.  He went in and grabbed it quickly, shaking himself off and looked at me as if asking that I not do that again.  Of course, being the child that I was I ignored his request, and in a few days I had him regularly fetching sticks in the bay, which he did often after that.

Time passed and before I knew it, I was starting the 8th grade.  I had Charcoal for 3 and half years by then.  Unfortunately, he still liked to go out at night and many times continued to refuse to come back inside.  One morning after going out (I think it was in October) he did not show up and was nowhere to be found all day long.  I was really worried about him when late that afternoon a friend from school called.  I knew from the sound of the ring that I did not want to answer the phone, but I did, and my friend asked if I was missing my dog.  I said that I was and he told me that his brother accidentally hit one while driving home late the night before.  He asked me to come over and see if the dead dog was mine.  I hung up and was at his house in half the time it would have ordinarily have taken me to travel the 4 blocks.  I slowed down when I saw my friend in his driveway and the unmoving, small mound of black matted fur next to him.  He asked me if that was my dog, to which I just nodded, turned and quietly walked back home.

In his passing he taught the 13-year-old me a great deal about the essence of life and, in time, there were other terrific dogs, but none were quite like him.  I have not been back to that town in many years, but when I visit, I am instantly reminded about those halcyon childhood days and my loyal pal and fellow adventurer who was so much more than simply a pet…


  1. There is always one, and often the first, who gets that close to your heart.

    Comment by Animalcouriers — October 28, 2012 @ 11:18 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for this post and yes, for you and Charcoal my eyes are filled with tears.

    Comment by newsferret — October 28, 2012 @ 11:25 am | Reply

  3. beautiful post…dog-lovers can relate

    Comment by lasesana — October 28, 2012 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  4. Wow. What a story. Tears…. I thank you for sharing the memory of your wonderful dog

    Comment by M — October 28, 2012 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

  5. Absolutely Beautiful!! Totally gave the tear ducts some exercise though… Grrrr…

    Comment by Patrick — October 28, 2012 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

  6. Aww – thanks for sharing this story. I still miss my Chelsea, twenty-five years later. And thanks for following my blog! Glad to share the journey. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

    Comment by melanielynngriffin — October 28, 2012 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  7. Absolutely beautiful!!! 😀

    Comment by mlatimerridley — October 28, 2012 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

  8. What tribute to a wonderful friendl

    Comment by coastalcrone — October 28, 2012 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  9. This brought tears to my eyes. I was hopeful for a story of a long companionship after Charcoal survived the pit bull attack. I’m so sorry his life ended so soon, and in that way. I have the strongest attachment to my second pet (my first was a Siamese cat who liked my mom better and she disappeared after we had her only a year.) My second pet, a Siamese mix, lived many years – I was ten when we got her and she died when I was twenty nine.

    Comment by jannatwrites — October 28, 2012 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

  10. Awareness of mortality keeps us alive at all moments.

    Comment by Sandeep Bhalla — October 29, 2012 @ 6:12 am | Reply

  11. Sounds like a wonderful pet….we lost one in May … I ran him over….it’s hard when they die. I have kids and they moved on faster than I did – although they were excited to have a puppy again and I think that helped them move on….. Thanks for sharing and stoping over at my blog!

    Comment by joy2wrld — October 29, 2012 @ 6:40 am | Reply

  12. Amazing how a great friend – four paws or otherwise – can influence your perspective.

    Comment by snakeriverbbb — October 29, 2012 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  13. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story of Charcoal. What a sweet little dog — he watches down over you from the Rainbow Bridge (my vet has convinced me that this is where are animals go). There he can run and jump and chase to his heart’s desire. Great post!!

    Comment by Nancy Arter — October 29, 2012 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  14. I like your blog the content is exceptional! It was a great read I spent some time here. I will be back for more posts Thanks!

    Comment by Virginia Beach Roofers — October 31, 2012 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  15. Sweet story! Thanks for following my miracles blog. Appreciate it!

    Comment by danitacahill — November 1, 2012 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

  16. I have a dog who is very like Charcoal. What a lovely story – thanks for following and I look forward to reading more (although dog-related posts are always the best!)

    Comment by PJ Young — November 2, 2012 @ 2:21 am | Reply

  17. Great story, I am going to bookmark Charcoal (my dog’s true tale) dranthonysblog.

    Comment by Jewel Andrea — November 3, 2012 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  18. Loved the story. My mother lives in Los Osos and I know the area well. A great area for a dog and a boy to develop life long memories. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Bishop — November 4, 2012 @ 9:49 am | Reply

  19. Charcoal (my dog’s true tale) dranthonysblog is an excellent blog post. You get my vote regarding Charcoal (my dog’s true tale) dranthonysblog and I’ll bookmark this website right now.

    Comment by Darrick Mckellan — November 4, 2012 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

  20. Thank you for cisiting, and now following my blog, and welcome to Bearspawprint. I am enjoying your stories. Thank you for posting them in your own blog. I have some, also, that when I become more brave, I will publish, also, er, maybe. Anyway, thanks.

    Comment by bearspawprint — November 4, 2012 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  21. The loss of a pet leaves such a void in our lives. I still call out “I’m going to get the mail!” half expecting my little Trixie to come running and she’s been dead three years now.

    Comment by whatwereyathinkin — November 9, 2012 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  22. I am still plucking up courage to write about the end of Jamie-dog. You were very lucky to know Charcoal.

    Comment by gooseyanne — November 9, 2012 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  23. What a beautiful story about your best and most loyal little mate. You were lucky to have each other.

    Comment by suze01 — November 9, 2012 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

  24. Nice tale of a boy and his dog, and what it taught you too. Thanks for the like on my post, and for following. Not as comprehensive as your blog, I’m afraid, but it is nice to know that the Atlantic Ocean cannot divide like minds! Regards, Pete, England.

    Comment by beetleypete — November 10, 2012 @ 11:51 am | Reply

  25. Sad and lovely. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by despoticloset — November 11, 2012 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  26. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d truly appreciate it.

    Comment by air max 90 chaussure tn air max 95 — November 15, 2012 @ 6:25 am | Reply

  27. When people like your work enough to reprint it, they should give you credit. I’m sorry that some of your ‘admirers’ are dishonest. :0( This was a wonderful, heartfelt story. Anyone who has ever loved a pet will identify. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Linda Lewis — November 22, 2012 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  28. Thanks for sharing such a personal story

    Comment by Ankur Mithal — November 23, 2012 @ 2:30 am | Reply

  29. Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is magnificent, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Charcoal (my dog’s true tale) dranthonysblog .

    Comment by Baju bayi laki laki — November 27, 2012 @ 3:20 am | Reply

  30. Your special Charcoal will know he was loved and take this with him. I lost a third special cat over the years just before Christmas – Tinker and have immortalised her on YouTube. She was slow one day and gone the same night before I could take her to vet so it was unexpected too. Tinker was so loud and vocal that the home is quiet with old Smokey and myself but love binds every living creature here and beyond. I have painful eyes and not been in here much so thanks for this lovely story and for following. Will read more tomorrow.

    Comment by jimmorrisondreamdiaries — March 8, 2013 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

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