The Charlie Bravo Story

RIP Stevie

Dad here; it’s been a year since Stevie’s departure. I had thought of just reposting her earlier accounts, but somehow it seems to me like she deserves a better effort on my part.

June 2015; Summers in Arkansas can be brutal, especially for animals unaccustomed to the oppressive heat and stupidity. I was making one of my routine passes through the area where Charlie’ crate was abandoned when I first spotted Stevie, merely a flash of white disappearing into a thicket. The area is a swampy, desolate place, smelling of brackish backwater and populated with enough water moccasins to keep things interesting, so I dared not venture too far back into the slough.

As I was soon leaving on a Colorado trip with Zach, I had no opportunity to see her again until I returned in July when I would catch an occasional glimpse of the elusive girl; she made it much more difficult as she expanded her range quite a bit, but always seemed to return to the old bridge. I began leaving food for her, but unfortunately some other well-meaning but ham-fisted soul did as well, and it appeared that he wasn’t as patient and evidently tried to grab her, as she became increasingly more skittish; you can’t just go grabbing a pretty girl.

After weeks of failed attempts, a local vet offered a sedative to put in her food, but Stevie proved to be remarkably unsuspectable to narcotics, so I took it my self(just kidding). One day I remembered an old Finnish proverb, “a humble hunter gets the bird”, so I lay down on the hot pavement and started fiddling with my phone. I have wonder as to the thoughts of passing cars, but I might note that absolutely no one stopped. I was watching a YouTube video of Stevie Ray Vaughn, (RIP, SRV), when I noticed Stevie had krept within reach almost like she was wanting to be caught, and the rest is history.

She was completely infested with ticks, including a magnificent specimen hanging from her neck, so swollen that I initially thought it was a dog tag. Alex spent the better part of the day picking them off of her one by one as not to alarm her with a dip, and when they were done, Stevie was a new girl, almost unrecognizable in her demeanor. She quickly became the Yin to Charlie’s Yang; even though though they would tussle and fight for hours, Stevie never lost her air of gravity and humility, and if Charlie ever reads this, I’ll deny it, but Stevie could have ultimately had her own voice; she was that special.

Then on a Saturday in December, she started moving slowly, almost like she had stomach cramps. I feared poison, but had no idea where that she could have encountered it, so when she appeared to be fully recovered, it was back to the high octane lifestyle of the Casa. Then the next Saturday afternoon, the same symptoms; her labored breathing keeping us awake and checking on her off and on through the night. Again, everything seemed to ease towards morning, and I was working on a post when Stevie walked to the bed, looked at me, licked my hand and fell over; two or three kicks and it was over. Over the years, I have seen many dogs, and humans for that matter, pass away, but never have I seen one go so peaceably, almost like she was easing my mind instead of me easing hers. To this day, I’m not sure what caused her passing, but I suspect the “bloat”; as I understand it, intestinal torsion occurring in broad chested dogs. We’ll never know, and I guess it really doesn’t matter; what does matter is that she left her mark on all those that met or even heard of her.

I buried her out back. The other dogs cavorted around like usual, except for Charlie, who seemed uncharacteristically subdued and stayed close by. We made the long trek back your the Casa, dragging the shovel and rake behind us; I remember the day being beautiful, but the atmosphere was decidedly not.

As this page was started as a refuge from the negative crap that permeates the Web, I thought long and hard about not mentioning Stevie’s passing here, but are we not siblings? And since when does dad flinch from sharing all the news that affects the rest of the family? As it turns out, the news of her passing prompted more responses than any other since the beginning of Charlie’s story, all for a dog that had only inhabited the Casa for a few short months. This is why the month of December will always feature a rainbow on the calendar in Stevie’s memory.

Contemplate this when you feel like your own time on this planet is short or without meaning; as she went frolicking through life, I’m sure that the janky-eyed girl had no idea the affect she was having on others, and neither do you.

I’ll repeat that:

“neither do you!!!”

Especially during this time of festivity for many, it’s imperative that you consider the affect that you can have on those around you that might be a little less fortunate, or even a lot more lonely.

Like Stevie’s and Charlie’s, the life you save might be your own!

Join the discussion

  1. Mary Hicks

    She was blessed to have you love her for the time she did.

  2. Jan Davis

    RIP Stevie..such a precious soul❤️

  3. Sarah Reynolds Adair

    I lost my sweet Dixie girl on Christmas eve, two years ago…much in the same manner. She laid her head in my lap, took a breath and she was gone….11 years of her undevoted love…I miss that big black dog everyday….thanks for sharing Stevie with us…both in life and her death….

  4. Becky Casper Wiltsee

    Thank you for saving her and letting her know love!

  5. Elisa Charleston Robertson

    at least u gave her a great end to her life

  6. Sam Howard

    I wasn’t around during Stevie’s time, I’m very thankful her last days were with all of you.

  7. Kimberly Nalley

    Thanks for all you do. You touched Stevie like she touched you. Blessed you and your family.

  8. Karen Ragle

    Thank you for all that you do!

  9. Sylvie Saunders

    RIP beautiful girl! xxx 🙁

  10. Robin D Mahan

    Time…it is a flyin’. Sure doesn’t seem that long ago. Stevie will be missed, but never forgotten. I’m so grateful she was brought into Charlie’s lair of love for her last days. I’m sure those days with y’all did much to erase the previous years of her life. Dogs are like that, and that’s why I love a rescue dog. They forget the past so much easier than we do. Rest easy sweet Stevie ❤

  11. Linda Hubbard

    Her face tells it all. RIP Stevie. And thank you Bret for saving her, for ever how short a time. We can’t forget that even a small action on our part may mean the world to someone else.

  12. Debbie Cawthorn Dawson

    It was in her eyes! I was so sad that day! She made an impression on me!

  13. Wendy Nugent

    RIP Stevie… I’m sure you have been romping about over the Rainbow this past year.

    (The idea of Bloat or Stomach Torsion scares me quite a bit, I picked up my first dog from a doggy kennel motel after a holiday, only to hear at work that week that one of my friend’s dogs had passed away in their doggy kennel motel from bloat/torsion while they were on vacation….So scary. Too much food at one time, too much water with that, too much play on a full stomach, you never really know what is TOO much for that one dog, until it happens….. I try my best to never find myself in that position, i buy kibble that has so much packed into each one, that recommended daily feedings are more like 2-1/2 to 3 cups per day for a 50lb dog, vs some kibble that’s easier to find but requires 4-5 cups for the same nutrition, splitting the food into 2 half meals a day for adult dogs, and offer a little water during dinner time / breakfast time, just to wash it all down, then more water after a few hours or during walks, and no rough play or long walks right after a meal, I wait about 2 hours after that meal, or we play or walk before the meal and instead pop a few doggy treats so she’s not on empty. I do my best to be preventative , but I realize it could still happen even with precautions.) 🙁

  14. Caitlin Kelly-Jensen

    Made me cry again. Stevie was one of a kind. Each dog touches the heart somehow but she was special

  15. Claudia Burris

    There are no guarantees as to how long our furry friends will be with us. Stevie made her voice heard and we fell in love with her. Her time at the Casa was short but she won’t be forgotten . You are missed sweet girl❤️

  16. Carol Tedford

    RIP Stevie!! I remember when this happened..I cried and I remember feeling so broken hearted for Charlie and how she must have felt…and again as I read this. Be the light in someone’s dark!

  17. Annie Parisella

    Stevie was a special presence, and I am grateful that she graced us, and that I got to be in the room with her once. Her built in pink bow was the best, and those eyes….so soulful, she could have rewritten the Tao with the wisdom in her eyes. I hope there will always be a moment for Stevie every year.

  18. Sandy Lane

    I remember reading the story of Stevie’s demise and crying, while also admiring her wisdom and the idea of her last unselfish goodbye. Today I read this with tears in my eyes, after spending one of those nights listening to the labored breathing and cough of our dear sweet Molly who is slipping and creeping towards her own rainbow bridge. I pray for an equally peaceful loving end for our rescue dog or the wisdom to know when to help her to that bridge. The old gal is almost 15, and nobody is ready to let go without one last lick and one last longing eyelock.

    • Sandy Lane

      Update, our old gal was helped over the Rainbow Bridge yesterday, and she is at peace. We are at peace too, knowing she feels no more pain, but there will always be that hole in our heart. All of you here on this site understand the emotional pull these pooches have on us. Keep on with the good work Charlie and Dad, inspiring us and entertaining us with your adventures!

    • Jeannine Prince

      It’s so heartwrenching trying to decide when to help them, even when we truly know we need to, the decision is so painful. Perhaps you will find another that needs a loving home, and to help put a patch on that hole. I’m sure Molly appreciated that you helped her to the Bridge.

  19. Mary Lou Murphy- Przewoznik

    Awe. So very hard. Lost two of my beloved pets this year. They provide so much love and entertainment! So thankful they chose me! And Stevie chose you!

  20. Dee Soulier

    Miss me some Ms Stevie always love the Casa inmates run free baby girl your up there keeping watch over everyone

  21. Mary Blythe

    Stevie is resting in heaven.I am
    So glad that Charlie was rescued by such great people.

  22. Danielle Scott

    Someone’s cutting onions…

    I like to think you are right! Stevie coming to lick your hand was her not only easing your mind, but also thanking you. You may have given her the best possible life she’s ever had, since it’s always a party at the Casa and all! <3 Stevie!

  23. Candi Hedgpeth Schriefer

    Darned onions. Bret Winingar, you’ll never fully know what your posts mean to so many people. Stevie’s story is such a perfect example of what God does for US. You rescued her but she had to decide to trust you. You fed her, cleaned her up and gave her a safe life- protected and free. You are a special man, called by God, I believe.

  24. Becky Casper Wiltsee

    I encourage you, when the time is right, to go to your local shelter or rescue group and adopt another dog. They all deserve to be loved.

  25. Anna Staffini Cammelli

    A perfect and moving Christmas tale. Just a few months at the Casa, but you gave her enough good memories to wipe out any bad ones that came before.

  26. Rita Wise

    Becky Casper Wiltsee of

  27. Sissy Hughes

    Love you, Stevie!!! <3 <3

  28. Rita Wise

    Sorry about that post above….we said when our Jessie passed that we just couldn’t go thru saying goodbye again to another dog, but we have softened a little bit in that thought. Our hearts are too full of love and it feels real empty around here. We are looking and by the first of the year we will no doubt have a new ‘best friend’

  29. Mikki Calm

    I kept a picture of Stevie, (sorry, stole it from you) I felt the need to be able to actually see her when I thought of her, and I do quite often. I have O.C.D. ( obsessive canine disorder ) my co workers and family know that I’d much rather be around dogs than people. I carry healthy dog treats in my pocket no matter where I go, just in case . Don’t tell Charlie this but there is something about Stevie that just grabbed ahold of my soul and won’t let go. This picture you’ve posted of her is perfect. It’s in her eyes. It’s as if she knew she didn’t have long on this earth and wanted us to know that no matter what has come before, all the pain and suffering, it’s worth it to hang on, cause you never know what bit of heaven on earth might just be around the next corner. You were her heaven on earth. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do for the members of the Casa and for all of us who get to share your adventures.

  30. Janice Mecca

    I’m getting ready to go into work and I have tears in my eyes after reading your post. Thank you for being a defender of these animals in need and giving this sweet dog the love she needed. She gave it right back to you. It will be almost a year since my rescue dog passed from cancer and I still miss him. They aren’t just pets, they are family.

  31. Nicole Chaisson

    Reading this again, a year later, and it still breaks my heart. Rest easy Stevie girl. I’m glad the last part of your life was filled with the love you deserved your entire life.

  32. Kim Fudge

    My Beautiful, beautiful Stevie, Oh how you stole my heart the first time I saw your beautiful face, and those “You have to love me” eyes, and how my heart broke when I heard that you had crossed the rainbow bridge. My heart ached so, for all of those you left behind, because you see Stevie you and I know that the scary part is not the dying, when you get to always be pain free, be in a place where the sun always shines, and where everything lives and flows through love, no it isn’t the fear of dying, it’s those that we leave behine, whose heart and life are now so empty, as I am sure Mom and Dad’s still are in the little corner that was reserved for Stevie, and of Course Charlie Girl, because despite what anyone tells me as the “Crazy Dog Mom” that I am, I am a firm believer that our beautiful fur babies love, ache, and mourn, the same as we do as my wee Maggie proved when her daddy passed away, she grieved for him for so long, not even during the grieving process allowing me to hug her. So I am sure Charlie Girl did her grieving for you as we all did, oh but she was so blessed to have Mom and Dad to see her through, and of course all of the love she continually receives here. You know what I think Stevie, I think it’s time I ordered a Calendar, and may be throw in a mug, if you ship to Canada of course. You will always hold a piece of my heart Sweet Stevie, as well our Sweet Charlie Girl. Now I must go shopping for that Calendar and Mug.

  33. Jeannine Prince

    Thank you for not leaving Stevie out, even though it’s a sad reminder that she’s no longer here, physically. The only reason that I can fathom that a dogs life span isn’t as long as ours is to make room for others that need us. Stevie was telling you that before she left. Miss her.

  34. Becky Casper Wiltsee

    I understand. My hubby & I have lost 3 dogs, the latest one being in February 2016. We have always been a multiple dog family. Driving away from the vet without my Buddy was heart wrenching. I still miss him everyday (along with my Elvis & Arthur who both passed years ago). But knowing I was coming home to my dogs Eleanor, Lucy & Dottie made it easier to come home. Of course my human children were supportive as well. Buddy was special, twice daily insulin injections, eye drops, blindness all just bonded us even closer. Sorry about this post, I can’t help myself when I think of Buddy. Good luck and so sorry for your loss.

  35. Sandra Lutz-Rodriguez

    RIP Stevie! Sending you ll good thoughts on this anniversary. Thank you for being who you and your crew are. You guys are awesome and because of people like YOU there is good in humanity

  36. Deb Silva

    I, too, remember Stevie’s story. She was indeed a treasure. While her situation at the bridge was unfortunate it ended up being the gateway to a joyful life at The Casa. And indeed it was joyful.. I always picture her as in the photos you posted of her running … happy and carefree. Missin’ me some Stevie.

  37. Rita Wise

    Jessie was a rescue dog we got shortly after our Maggie passed. Had no intension of getting her, but saw her picture and couldn’t resist her face. She had broken her hip when she ran away from her adopted family, and also got a scar on her side when she rolled under the car. God saved her for me, I know it. She had a slight limp from her hip injury, but for a couple of years did real well. Then we found out she was diabetic, so she had two pills a day. 6 months from that she started to go blind. Then she developed a “bump” right where her scar was, then it grew and it was cancer. We had it removed with hopes she would never go thru that again, but one day she woke with a swollen left leg which grew and soon, very quickly covered her chest. I knew that when I took her to the vet she would not come home with me. She was so good, never barked unless necessary and would welcome anyone to fuss over her. She even got to go to work with me at a store we owned and all the customers loved her. Even the FedEx man would stop, just to see her. So her memory is still pretty vivid around our home. Thanks for listening. We share so much.

  38. Kathy Moody

    Makes one want to go forth and do good. As we all should. Stevie will always be in our hearts.

  39. Liz Ledsham

    It’s dreadful that we outlive them. But that’s gotta be a good way to go. My beloved former stray miniature tiger left us just over a month ago. Still smarts. But it was quick and painless in my arms. Thinking of you all at the casa

  40. Robin D Mahan

    Rita, I’m sorry you lost Jessie, but so glad she had a family dedicated to her well-being. Beautiful story of your love. I’m dreading my faithful girl’s time. She’s a lab and will be 16 in February. She’s beginning to stumble, doesn’t see very well anymore and has congestive heart trouble. But, she’s still happy and wagging that tail. I have 3 others, and of course each one has their own personality. I try to stairstep mine so that I’m hopefully never without the love of a dog. They are necessary to my soul. When the right one finds you, I’m sure you’ll get a nudge from Jessie. ❤

  41. Luke Sherwood

    I never met you stevie’s, but followed you all the way, and I still follow miss Charlie, must obey the queen of the casa lol.
    You may be gone in body, but you will never be forgotten.
    You touched so many around the world, have a great time over the rainbow bridge, keeping watch.

  42. Rebecca Marquette Dumas

    We lost our Annabelle last week. On the day she died, a beautiful Labrador showed up at our house. Such a sweet natured soul. I posted her on Facebook and had her scanned for a chip. She’s not chipped and no one claimed her. So, she has a home here. I think she was sent to help my heart. I miss my Annabelle, she was my soul dog.

  43. Eileen Myers

    She died in a home filled with love…thankfully not alone under a bridge without having ever been shown she belonged…

  44. Tisa Powell Geesey

    RIP, Stevie! Remember that you were loved by many!

  45. Kim Griffin

    I sure miss that sweet girl. There was just something special about her, like Charlie, but different. Charlie, give dad some extra kisses tonight!

  46. Laurie S. McLendon

    SHe was beautiful & I cannot believe its been a year

  47. Mollie Walls

    The Casa is a wonderful place. Do you accept broken people?

  48. Sally Attard

    I always let my granddaughter read the stories of Charlie and Stevie when she visits me fro New York! And she has so much compassion for animals that she is bent on being a vet and she is only 10 and I will fund it ! I had a Doberman and they we’re truest best friends since she was 2 ! And he passed 3 years ago in front of us all and before he died of heart attack he came to us all offering his head for us all to pet! But this girl is determined to save animals!! Your stories inspire her !!

  49. Maria Dawybida Minerley

    Stevie looks so precious. She’s waiting at the bridge! <3

  50. Wendi Macey

    Oh man… that one did me in. What a ripper of a tear jerker! God Bless the time you did have…

  51. Kathleen Glenn Pfeifer

    I loved that Stevie … I still look up to the stars and smile..,Merry Christmas and God Bless the Casa.

  52. Tasha Marie Whaley

    I was taken back yesterday, I came across a Villalobos live post on my Facebook when I literally stopped and paused because I think I found stevies long lost twin brother. Felt like I had to share…

  53. Jody Hess-Franey

    She came into your life long enough for you to need her; she thanked you for what you did for her, then she went home. Beautiful girl.

  54. Jana Blackwood

    I really loved that little dog!

  55. Charlie Bravo - The Motorcycle Rescue Dog Story

    Making me cry before my test is totes not cool, dad. Miss the Stevie girl… -Kat/Alex Bret Winingar

  56. Luke Sherwood

    Thy casa certainly knows how to show love and kindness and inspiration, to both human and fluffys. Because of you all, I take my Kiki on many a road trip, not as far as you all travel, but Kiki loves her trips regardless.
    Kiki has on many occasions saved my life in many ways, where humans have not, I owe her everything in life and share whatever I can with her.
    Many have said our lives would be easier without the Kiki, but my life would be incomplete without her, plus I love her craziness and quirkiness.
    Your all an inspiration that included the stunning Stevie.

  57. Jeannine Prince

    Rebecca Marquette Dumas Your Anabelle sent her to ease your loss, not to replace her, but to put a patch over the hole in your heart. And the new one needed you, too. I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas getting acquainted. 🙂

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