Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In Memoriam: Victor Charles

"If you should die before me, ask if you can bring a friend ....."

Victor Charles
August 21, 1989 - March 2, 2002

Who can say for certain; maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me - your memory's so clear
Deep within the stillness I can hear you speak
You're still my inspiration - can it be

That you are my forever love
And you are watching over me from up above
Fly me up to where you are beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight to see you smile
If only for a while to know you're there
A breath away's not far to where you are

Are you gently sleeping here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing all power can't be seen
As my heart holds you just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me every day

'Cause you are my forever love
Watching me from up above
And i believe that angels grieve
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up to where you are beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight to see you smile
If only for a while to know you're there
A breath away's not far to where you are.

I know you're there.
A breath away's not far to where you are.

"To Where You Are"
By Richard Marx

The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Loved Dog

The original version of this tribute was written by Eugene O'Neill for hiswife Carlotta, a few days before their Dalmatian passed away from old age in December, 1940.

I, SILVERDENE EMBLEM O'NEILL (familiarly known to my family, friends, and acquaintances as Blemie), because the burden of my years and infirmities is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near, do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master. He will not know it is there until after I am dead. Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.

I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are wiser than men. They do not set great store upon things. They do not waste their days hoarding property. They do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith. These I leave to all those who have loved me, to my Mistress, who I know will mourn me most. I ask my Mistress to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to be a comfort to her in time of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in her happiness. It is painful for me to think that even in death I should cause her pain. Let her remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to her love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that a rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation.

I feel life is taunting me with having over-lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-bye, before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love me. It will be sorrow to leave her, but not a sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those my fellow Dalmatians who are devote Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; where all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris, beautifully spotted; where jack rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning, and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one's Mistress.

I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.

One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, "When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one." Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have permitted to share the living room rug during the evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit, and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others. Dalmatians, naturally, as everyone knows, are best. So I suggest a Dalmatian as my successor. He can hardly be as well bred or as well mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must not ask the impossible. But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green. To him I bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made to order in 1929 at Hermes in Paris. He can never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the Place Vendome, or later along Park Avenue, all eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog. Here on the ranch, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume, come closer to jack rabbits than I have been able to in recent years.

And for all his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.

One last word of farewell, Dear Mistress: Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourself with regret but also with happiness in your heart at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved me and whom I loved". No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.


In 1990, I was separated, jobless, and facing the prospect of losing my home because I couldn't even pay my mortgage. On my way home one evening, as I stopped at the intersection of two rural roads, a little black-and-white dog came up out of the ditch and stood right in front of my truck. He peered at me so intently, I was reminded of the James Herriot short story about abandoned dogs and their heartbreaking efforts to find the people who so callously dumped them. I drove on, but a minute later, circled back and picked him up.

Victor Charles, as I named him, had been beaten and was starving and dirty. His eyes were red from road dust and he was exhausted from his efforts to find his people. A bath made him look a little better, but he was so malnourished, he couldn't even keep food down and needed medication just to keep a meal in his stomach.

His inner wounds were even worse -- he was afraid of all men, and every time I reached to open a cupboard door or something, he ducked down as though fearing a blow. When I took him to the vet, he cowered away from the open door of the truck -- he was terrified of riding in the car. No doubt a ride meant, to him, another dump in the country.

Things weren't going much better for me at the time, and often, the pain of the divorce, fear of the future, fruitless job searches and just plain despair overwhelmed me. Frequently, it was just too much to bear, and more than once, the thought of ending my life crossed my mind. But always there was Vic. Who would take care of such a badly damaged little dog if I didn't? And even in the depths of my depression, I knew I couldn't let him be abandoned again. So I lived -- for him.

Eight years later, Vic and I have a much different life. He is happy and healthy and medication controls the epilepsy the vet thinks was brought on by his beatings. You'd never think he'd ever known a bad day to look at him now! Vic turned nine August 21st, the eighth anniversary of the day I found him. Our story is very much like the line at the end of the movie "Pretty Woman." I rescued Vic, and he "rescued me right back."

-- 1998

(On Valentine's Day, 2002, Victor Charles was diagnosed with cancer. He died at home in my arms March 2, 2002)

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