Friday, October 30, 2009

Charlie: Faithful Friend, RIP

Beautiful, tender, funny, sad.
This piece is written by Stan Dimock, better known as Bristol's "clean up guy", about his relationship with his beloved cat, Charlie. Perhaps some of you have seen Stan walking Charlie around town. Charlie was euthanized on Tuesday, October 27.

I first met Charlie in April of 2003, on my way to The Gatehouse Restaurant in Providence. Charlie sitting at the front entrance of Simple Pleasures, a garden and gift shop adjacent to The Gatehouse. I said, “You’re a pretty kitty” as I passed by. Charlie neither retreated nor approached. Instead, he just observed, wide-eyed, while I entered the restaurant. The bartender (a cat lover, herself) relayed to me that Charlie had been hanging around the restaurant for the previous three days, and she was worried, because his front paws were de-clawed, so he shouldn’t have been outside on his own. He had a collar (so tight it left an indelible mark on his neck for the rest of his life), but no tag – and no one had come looking for him. 
After I finished my meal, I headed out to my car in a very crowded parking lot to discover that Charlie was waiting for me at my car. He kept pawing at my driver’s door, literally begging me to take him home. Having recently dealt with the death of a pet, I wasn’t prepared to take him with me, so I headed home, alone – but I couldn’t stop thinking about the cat that wanted so desperately to come home with me.
The next morning, I brought my pet carrier to work. After relaying the previous evening’s events to my boss, she insisted that we head directly to Richmond Square to hunt for the cat that had already found a place in my heart. Despite our “here, kitty” calls, there was no sign of Charlie – until we started to pull out of the lot. Suddenly, I spotted him heading towards us. My boss stopped the car, and we hopped out. When I set the pet carrier on the ground and opened it, Charlie came running, all the way across the lot, and dove into that pet carrier as if to say, “I knew you’d come back, now take me HOME!”
We brought Charlie back to Save The Bay’s office, and all available staffers gathered around Charlie in the library, as he walked on top of the conference table greeting every single person in the room. Clearly, Charlie had no fear of people, and despite whatever trauma he had experienced while he was out on his own, he was one very well-adjusted feline.
After spending that first night together, I awoke to a cat I didn’t even recognize. While I was sleeping, Charlie spent the entire night grooming himself. His gray and brown coat of the night before was white and orange in the morning light – a “Prince Charming” of the cat world!
That first week, Charlie was chased by my neighbor’s Australian sheepdog. That’s the only time I ever witnessed him run from a dog. Over the 5 ½ years that we lived together, we were charged by dogs three other times. After that first incident, I had his complete trust, and rather than run from an a potential attack, Charlie would simply lie at my feet, and let me chase away any charging dog.
The move to Stone Harbour was perhaps the luckiest day of Charlie’s life. We immediately developed a routine of taking a walk first thing every morning (usually to visit Angus, the feral library cat who lives across the street), followed by a walk later in the day to visit the downtown shop owners. I am so grateful for the many kindnesses displayed to us by everyone in town. Charlie was a “regular” at Olde China Trader, Claddagh Connection, Floral Fantasy, Studio Six, Harbor Bath & Body, Revival, and European Kitchen – just to name a few. Wherever we headed, he would (almost) always be right at my side. My proudest moments with him were the ones spent walking Hope Street. Pedestrians and drivers would often stop to comment about what an unusual cat he was.
We were only separated once outdoors, not long after our move to downtown Bristol. Just after heading outside, while I was distracted picking up litter, Charlie took a sharp left and snuck under a parked car on Thames Street. I assumed he had taken a right to head to the Thames Street Landing shops, only to discover that I had lost him. I spent the next hour searching high and low for my buddy. Finally, I gave up and headed indoors – only to receive a call minutes later that Charlie had been returned to Stone Harbour by John Allen, who had spotted Charlie lounging in front of the Elbow Room. When I retrieved Charlie from the McQuaids’ condo that morning, he looked pleased as punch – and a bit smug for having thoroughly enjoyed his morning adventure.
Charlie didn’t have a jealous bone in his body. If I spent a night away at my dad’s in Connecticut, or patted another animal before returning home, he would always greet me with tremendous affection.
Charlie had no fear – not of any other animals, people, fireworks, or even thunderstorms. (In fact, he loved to sit on a windowsill to watch lightning!)
Most unusual was Charlie’s ability to say “hello” in an almost human tone. When this behavior first started, I thought I must be imagining it, but one day when Charlie trotted ahead of me on our way outside, he said “hello” to one of my neighbors passing by. He was too far ahead of me for me to hear it, but the neighbor, in disbelief, said, “I think I just heard your cat say ‘hello’ to me.” We would often say “hello” back & forth to each other at home.
There is no doubt in my mind that Charlie was one of a kind. Something between us clicked from that very first moment we laid eyes on each other. He had the most delightful personality of any animal I have ever encountered. He was the best companion I could have ever asked for – like a gift from heaven.
When we took our last trip to the animal hospital, I am convinced Charlie knew exactly what the end result would be. I truly believe he was ready to let go. His exit from this world was a peaceful one, cradled in my arms while I kept repeating how much I loved him, right up to his very last breath. I will miss my little buddy more than words can ever express. Bristol lost its littlest ambassador with his passing this week.
(Photo courtesy of Alayne White)


Diana said...


So sorry to hear about Charlie's passing. Thanks so much for posting such a wonderful story. He sounds like he was a very special companion.

April Bellafiore said...


George always loved seeing Charlie - it was a highlight of his walks around Independence Park.

I didn't know how he came to be part of your family - what a wonderful story.

With sympathy,