Charlie, our rescue springer spaniel has passed away.

I did not love Charlie.

I’ve given up loving pets. It hurts too much. We get them for the children. And we can’t have just one because they need company. We’d had Buttercup, and Buttercup was alone, so we got Obadiah — aka Obie — to be a companion for Buttercup.

Then Buttercup died on a hot Labor Day weekend. The ground was like a brick, but I dug a grave along the fence in the backyard for Buttercup in the baked ground. It was a hard thing. I used tools for digging that one ordinarily uses for mining. But I got Buttercup buried.

I had only one request when it was done: Anymore animals we get should fit in a boot box--and preferably — a shoe box.

Then they brought back Charlie from the Humane Society. While he wasn’t a huge dog, he definitely didn’t fit in a boot box.

We hadn’t had him too long before we learned he was a jumper and a climber. He loved to jump out of our backyard fence. He didn’t have any place he particularly wanted to go when he jumped out, and he never went far, but this was the beginning of a time of “growth” for us. We had to grow in our thinking of how to keep him in our backyard.

We’d kept Buttercup chained up before we built the fence for our backyard, and I’d decided that I would never do that again. The fence was enough for Buttercup, but not for Charlie.

So we put in a radio fence. You may recall that with a radio fence you bury copper wire in the ground to enclose the area where you want your dog to stay. You then put a shock-collar on the dog so he receives a jolt of electricity whenever he crosses the line. This was enough to keep him in the yard.

That is, it was enough to keep him in the yard until it was a thunderstorm or the Fourth of July or a home football game. The football games were in some sense the worst. As you may know, we shoot off a cannon whenever we score. Charlie hated that. Eventually, he came to associate the sounds of tail-gating and the crowd with it, so, after a time, a game was enough to throw him into a panic. We didn’t even have to score for him to endure the pain of the shock collar.

But he began to get older and fatter, and I think calmer too. He settled down and was happy with his life in the backyard.

He had his favorite spots where he liked to rest.

He loved people.

And he loved squirrels, though in ways that weren’t always so fortunate for the squirrels.

And he and Obidiah were good companions. He had the calm disposition of an Irishman in a pub, and Obidiah the more regimented personality of a German prison guard, the schnauzer that he is. Obie is getting blind and senile and barks at things that aren’t there, and Charlie took that in his stride.

But Charlie’s bark began to change. He sounded like someone was trying to start a broken chainsaw.

Jean took him to the vet who told us he had congestive heart trouble and tumors on his lungs, probably cancer. She was given some medicine for him, but we knew it wasn’t long.

He had good days and bad days for a while, but it was getting worse. Yesterday, before I went home from work, I told my boss that I would be taking the morning off today because I would probably be taking Charlie to the vet to be put to sleep.

Last evening he died. He was here; then he wasn’t here.

It hasn’t rained in a few weeks so we let the water run on a spot along the fence for about an hour. Then this morning Jean and I dug the grave together.

We put him in a bag and lowered the bag in the ground. Then as we tossed shovels of dirt on top of him, I began to say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...”

I will not love another animal again.