chareze and charmWe knew her for a month before she died in a terrible accident, but Chareze Clamor touched us so profoundly that she may have well spent 15-or-more years, a whole doggie life, as part of our family.

She was only five-months. A puppy. She weighed maybe seven pounds, much of it hair. A pure Shih-Tzu, Chareze was a tiny physical presence. Ephemeral. How amazing – how enlightening and inspiring – to realize the immense power coursing through that little canine body. Spiritual power. Chareze projected a yogic calm and confidence; she was never aggressive and she was seldom afraid; she was ready to befriend every creature she encountered, even the neighborhood’s grouchiest old snarler, who quickly became Chareze’s best friend. Her secret? Chareze seemed determined to love the world, and the world was inclined to love her back.

Yes, everyone loved her. Adults and children, dogs and puppies. Even the doves in our garden.

The power of her adorable physical presence – when it was taken away from us suddenly, shockingly, our despair was intensely felt. My wife Charmaine and I both had trouble sleeping or eating for several days. (Talking with a trauma therapist helped). Until she was gone, I hadn’t fully realized how comprehensively Chareze filled my heart. You could say she cracked my heart wide open, and you would be right on, because the act of cracking does involve pain, the acute anguish of loss and remorse, but it also involves widening the aperture through which our kindness and compassion flow.20160710_173200

For the past seven years-or-so since my mutt Ella died, I wasn’t ready, for various reasons, to adopt another dog. (Charmaine has been ready and campaigning for a couple of years.) Chareze came into our life not by choice but by chance; we were doing a good deed. But taking her in meant getting over my lifelong prejudice against toy dogs. Within a day or two, Chareze had me convinced that no matter how small the package, the delivery girl brings as much joy to our life as a larger creature. She taught me that love is omnipresent if you let it be.

Chareze was – and I know this is going to sound crazy – Chareze was gifted. She was extraordinarily intelligent, learning new behaviors and tricks on an almost daily basis. When I was still drowning in the “if only” and “should have been” phase of my grief, I was fixated on the idea that Chareze was going to become a highly trained therapy dog, just like Ella. She seemed to have the aptitude and the composure for the job. She would have been a tremendous therapy dog. Then a friend helped me realize: Chareze already was a therapy dog. She didn’t have a license or a cute vest, but she was already doing the work. For the month she lived in our home, she healed all of us in one way or another.

chareze and kingstonAnd imparted many lessons. There’s that power, again. She was here briefly, she taught deeply.

One of the many things I learned is that my newly opened heart is eager for a canine friend amid the writer’s solitude. As we recovered from her loss, wouldn’t it be wonderful, we fantasized, to adopt a puppy with some of Chareze’s best qualities? Calm, happy, confident, unaggressive, affectionate, playful, smart. Not one that looked like her or was necessarily the same breed – but a puppy with Chareze’s personality and vibe. Was that possible?

Yes. Everything’s possible. The worst and the best. Tragedies happen. So do miracles.

We found Chareze’s spirit harbored in a 10-week-old mutt that may be part Shih-Tzu, and may be many other things. For her soulful eyes, we namedbillie charm her Billie, after Billie Holiday. The runt of her accidental litter, she grew up at a rescue ranch in Southern California, where the dogs (from pitbulls to poodles) live outdoors, uncaged. She likes being outside.

Billie Henrietta Konik has a few favorite lying down spots in her new back yard: beneath a rose bush to nibble on; atop a leaf pile near the lemon verbena; beside the geranium pot. But her joy place, the place she returns to every day, every morning, is in a stand of tall grass just across from Chareze’s grave. Something’s going on here, and I know it’s good.

Love does go on. It doesn’t end. Let us count ourselves lucky whenever our heart cracks wide open and the divine energy flows through us, for a minute, a month, a lifetime.

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4 Responses

  1. Nieves Clamor says:

    Thank you so much my son this is a very nice tribute to a beautiful creature we had in our life for so short a time. I love and miss her so much it hurts deeply.

  2. Cheryl Nebbia says:

    This was beautiful! Thank you for taking us through your journey of love with Chareze <3

  3. Greg S. Castilla says:

    Keep Me in Your Heart
    Greg S. Castilla

    Well, it has been a long eleven and a half years. For my breed, it was a long time. I was not supposed to live that long because of my 60-pound frame. But I did.
    First, I would like to thank you not only for taking care of me, but for loving me. Ever since I was a puppy, you showered me with love. You bought me my favorite toys. You regularly bought me to the veterinarian. You never failed to bathe me. Every time you hugged me, I felt you never wanted to let me go. And whenever I behaved “bad,” you would call my attention, always with a stern voice. I had always been thankful that you wanted to discipline me.
    Through the years, we became friends. But more than being your friend, you considered me your “daughter,” a part of your family. Family during those early years was only you and me. But I never was lonely. You were always there for me.
    When you were in the graduate school in Denver, you often left me alone. But I did not mind because at the end of the day, I knew you would come back and you would walk me around. Occasionally, we would go on car rides to bring me to the park, just the two of us, cementing what would be a lasting relationship. One Christmas, you even brought me with you to Seattle to be with family though I was not particularly thrilled with the plane ride.
    I was always excited to entertain you with my tricks, like shaking your hand, bowing my head or playing dead when you would pretend to shoot me with your finger, as you uttered, “Bang.” I could sense your excitement whenever relatives and friends would visit. You never forgot to proudly introduce me to them as your “Skye Pie” and ask me to entertain them. And I would always comply to their satisfaction and mine. And, of course, I always got my treats.
    You went through many struggles and heartaches and I was always there to comfort you with my presence; sometimes with my silence. When you graduated from your doctoral studies, I even posed for a photo with you. You were beaming with pride, so was I. When Kevin came along and you fell in love with him, my heart leapt for joy.
    I was glad that Kevin came into our lives. He instantly became my “doggie dad.” We just clicked. He was cool. He was so nice to me. He religiously attended to my needs. Like you, he loved me so dearly. I was so happy when he entered into our lives because you were happy. That’s all that mattered to me – your happiness.
    One day, you noticed that I was losing weight. You noticed something was not right. You brought me to the clinic, as you normally would do. The prognosis was not what we both wanted to hear. I knew you were devastated. But you did not show it.

    You asked me to hang in there until your wedding and I did. Too bad, your idea to have me march with you did not materialize. It would have been a moment I will never forget.

    You asked me to stick around until Niko was born and I did. I shared your joy when he was born. I was glad that I had the opportunity to bond with Niko even for a short time. I was glad that you and Kevin trusted me with Niko and allowed him to lay his head on my tummy. My only regret was that I would never have the chance to be a playmate to him when he finally is able to walk. I would never have the chance to show him my tricks.

    What you posted about me on Facebook was accurate: I tried to remain sweet, patient, loving, and mild-tempered despite my debilitating disease. After all, you taught me these qualities. I did not want to disappoint you. That’s how I wanted to reciprocate the many good things that you and Kevin did for me.

    I loved everything that you and Kevin did for me during my last days. More than the visits to the clinic which I appreciated, I loved the hugs, the kisses, the touches, the special food, and the stories that you told people about me. There was nothing more I could ask for.

    I knew it was a very hard decision for you to bring me to the veterinarian for the last time. The car ride must have been emotionally draining for both of you. Niko was too young to understand. But I knew it was the right thing to do. I did not want to be a burden anymore. I understood the realities you had to face.

    Inside the clinic, I knew what was coming. My heart started to pound when I saw the white sheet. As part of who I was, I was thinking more about you, Kevin and Niko. I would miss licking Kevin’s legs, playing with Niko or sleeping with you on your bed. The thought of parting started to creep in.

    As I felt the sting of the needle and the effect of the medicine injected into me, I knew it was the end. For a few precious seconds, everything that you did for me flashed in my mind. The pain of leaving someone I loved was excruciating. But I was ready. I was grateful. I felt relieved. And what was important was I never felt alone when I took my last breath because you all were there with me. For that, I am eternally grateful.

    Let me leave you with a quote from Winnie the Pooh: “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”

    It was definitely worth the eleven and a half years. I hope I, as “man’s best friend,” exceeded your expectations and that of your family and friends. Thank you. Good bye.