Categorized | Family Care, Features

A Not-So-Shaggy Dog Story About Companionship

dog, Charlyn

Charlyn had never had any interaction with a dog and wasn’t excited about the prospect of getting to know Rocky.

By Carolyn Schultz Eggert

It was the end of a chilly Wednesday in late November and I had a car full of blankets made for dogs living in a shelter. I was determined to donate them that day. I did this in memory of a friend, Charlyn. She had died the day before.

Charlyn never liked dogs, but that changed when she met Rocky, my cockapoo. After some hesitation, she agreed to pat him. Not long after, Rocky was on her bed with his head on her lap. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship between the two.

Carolyn Eggert

Charlyn and I met in 2012, when she moved into a nursing home at age 83. Charlyn, a real estate attorney and social justice champion, needed 24/7 care. She was blind and had short-term memory lapses plus a host of other medical issues. She reluctantly moved from her condo to a skilled nursing facility.

I was her companion. Every day with Charlyn was an adventure. Her mood was up and down but somehow I learned to keep her more up than down. This was especially true after a life-changing meeting.

I introduced Charlyn to Rocky a few weeks into our relationship. Charlyn had never had any interaction with a dog and wasn’t excited about the prospect of getting to know mine.

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It was amazing to see how she and Rocky connected. He brought her joy and some good memories, despite her short-term memory loss. Their relationship was so tight that she remembered Rocky’s name and yet struggled to recall mine. I started referring to myself as Rocky’s Mom and that actually stuck.

He visited her a few times a week. He was forced into retirement when he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. He was treated and recovered, but was on a strict, boring diet. That meant no more cleaning up food from the dining room floor in the nursing home.

Charlyn never forgot Rocky. When she was concerned about literacy in young children, we decided to write a book about how they met. We donated books to elementary schools.

Recently, when we talked about the epidemic of dogs in need of a forever home, she wanted to do something for them. Together we made blankets for the pups at the Shultz’s Guest House, a dog rescue shelter in Dedham, Mass. Charlyn had visited the shelter many years before.

Together we made blankets for the pups at the Shultz’s Guest House, a dog rescue shelter in Dedham, Mass. Charlyn had visited the shelter many years before.

The blankets were easy to make, but it took a long time to complete the project. We took two pieces of fleece material, cut fringe and knotted the fringe together. Even though Charlyn could not see, when I gave her the two pieces of fringe to tie together, she could do it. It made her so happy.

Our plan was to invite Shultz staff and volunteers to Charlyn’s nursing home to present the blankets. But there wasn’t enough time. Charlyn’s health was declining and, ironically, Rocky had a life-threatening tumor. I was going to bring him to her so that they could cuddle and bring comfort to each other.

A few hours after I left Charlyn one night in November, she passed. There was no opportunity to reunite with Rocky, but we did have a pile of blankets that she had lovingly made. I followed through with our plan in honor of Charlyn. The next day I went to the Guest House to present the blankets.

dog, Rocky

Rocky

They were surprised and thrilled. Charlyn would have been overjoyed. Fifteen pups living at the Guest House had warm blankets that they would eventually take to their new homes. Charlyn lives on through the philanthropic work she had done throughout her life.

Charlyn’s love for Rocky was the motivation for this project. I had hoped to bring him to visit the Shultz Guest House, but the tumor, which had not grown after two years, suddenly tripled in size. Despite this, he continued to be loving and communitive. He had a knack for making people feel good and served many roles in our family: When someone was sick, we called him the nurse; when we were stressed he was our confidant. The tumor made life hard for our boy. He passed a few weeks ago,  leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

I hope Charlyn and Rocky have reunited in some way, shape or form. They both made the world a better place.

I miss them both.

Carolyn Schultz Eggert is a freelance writer and founder, Family Friends Boston (FamilyFriendsBoston.com), providing compassionate companions to elder adults.

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