The Charlie Bravo Story

The life you save, part dos

“One, two, three; lift!”

Who are these people, and why are they levering me from one bed to another? And why do I have hoses and tubes inserted into every hole I have, and even into a few that someone has taken the liberty to add? And will the indignities never end? It appears that I’m now the proud owner of a shiny new colostomy bag, attached to my gut like some sort of plastic parasite; if someone won’t do me a huge favor and just go ahead and shoot me, just give me the gun and I’ll do it myself.

I awoke in a level 2 trauma center an hour south of Little Rock; Joann and Alex made it there just as I was coming out of surgery,and Zach made it in from the west with the bikes on Bryan’s trailer. I didn’t know it at the time, but the waiting room was full of friends and family, with Alex directing traffic like a pint sized Napoleon. I won’t go into all of the gory details, but a few do stand out as particularly memorable. One such was when, in the middle of the night, an older nurse was making rounds; I had been incarcerated for three days at that time, and as a result was akin to Lazarus in the Bible as “I stunketh”. The nurse informed me that she was going to give me a bath; when I, shall we say, “expressed my reservations”, she told me, “you gots to be gettin over that!”. She then stood me up, stripped me down, and gave me a scrubbing that was miraculous, especially considering that she left any hide remaining whatsoever. Actually, it was so heavenly that I told her that whenever I got this plethora of tubes removed, she and I were heading for Vegas. When I informed Jo Ann about the encounter the next morning, I was not a little surprised when my wife unreservedly gave her blessing should I ever decide to actually make the trip.

After seven days of such hilarity, they finally sent me home; I could scarcely look at the bag, much less the 9″ gaping incision in my gut that had to be repacked twice daily. I have no idea what I would have done if JoAnn hadn’t stepped up to the plate; to say it was a depressing time is the understatement of the year. Even under much less trying circumstances, I am not a good patient, and for her to put up with my shenanigans qualifies her for immediate sainthood as far as I’m concerned. It was during this time that the infamous “poop on the foot” episode occurred, a story humbling beyond belief at the time but one of my favorites today, although I still can’t believe I still tell it.

So how does all this relate in any way to Charlie? After a few weeks of hiding in a dark house, I had to get out. I had lost so much weight that I could easily hide the bag under my riding gear, so on a cold, rainy day in January, Zach came over and we took the street bikes out for a spin. It was on this ride that we spotted Charlie’s crate; to be honest, we didn’t stop the first time we passed. We had seen a few rabbit hunters in the area, and at first I put the two together. We then switched bikes and made a second pass; it was then that we saw her emaciated condition, and I flashed back to laying on the ground myself, watching Zach’s tail light vanish through the trees. Would we have stopped anyway? Of that I have no doubt, but, by previous experience, we knew that it was “right”. As we were both riding Honda CB motorcycles that fateful day, she named herself Charlie Bravo.

The network of ADV riders across the country is notorious for their dog relays, and it was my initial intention to get Charlie stabilized then adopted out to someone suitable. On a side note, Dash/Takoda Steele’s dad is one such rider, which is how we both came to drive over a thousand miles each to meet in Raton, NM in the dash for Dash relay, another story for another day.

As we needed another dog at the Casa like I need another hole in my head, or elsewhere, I posted Charlie’s story over on, and, as a result, quickly compiled a list of riders across the country willing to adopt CB. But life is what happens when you’re making other plans, and the goofy girl began to successfully insinuate herself as the Queen of the Casa del Whackos.

And here we are today; on one side, a mountain of debt and a gut full of scars, and on the other side, tipping the scales towards the good, a black dog with one heckuva story.

I think it’s a pretty fair trade.

Join the discussion

  1. Iris Maldonado

    You should write books!!I love your stories. God bless u and ur family

  2. Medusa Habanera

    I will say prayers in my church for you. Stuff like this happens to good people.

  3. Darcy Roberts

    One heckuva story indeed!! And it continues, and will have MANY more chapters! Chark on Charlie and Bret Winingar!!! ❤

  4. Maite Chaves Penna

    Very inspiring story, things worked out as they were meant to be…it was not your time, it was not her time.

  5. Lori Stiefel

    What a read!! Thank you for sharing! I truly believe you and Charlie Girl were destined to be connected! You found each other in the midst of your storms and together found the shore!! I hope you both have a beautiful day!!!

  6. Kathleen Ellis Delatorre

    You and Charlie need to write a book of your adventures (even with the gory details). My life is so boring compared to yours. And yes, your wife is a saint.

  7. Lanae Rossi

    Wow! What a story. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Ann Ownsby-Scott

    Wow, that was an amazing story and I teared up some mostly of the happiness of the good ending for you and Charlie.

  9. Sarah Reynolds Adair

    We are ready for the next chapter…keep posting and I’ll keep reading…

  10. Stephanie Karabaic

    She and you were so very lucky to find each other….that is what I truly believe! If You Love Me, Put a Leash On Me ride on….

  11. Dee Soulier

    omg when you mention the poop story..i just about choke on my coffee laughing…still remember your description on that one and still can visual that site…only one word comes to mind ..YIKES…what a image..thanks know that is stuck in my head again….all good though…..

  12. Sherry Landon

    I love your story! You need to write a book! May God bless you!

  13. Carole Walker

    You could say that you went to the theatre in a revealing gown! x

  14. Kate King Williams

    I love your posts!! What an amazing story.

  15. Mable E. Boswell

    May God Continue to Bless You.

  16. Terry Weidert

    Bret I am almost one year with my permanent “poop bag” and it has had its moments especially this last month at work. Went home crying and just wanting to die. BUT got on facebook and you had posted something about CB and the crew. Got a good laugh picked up and moved on…. At least you had an older nurse, I had “perky puppies” (nursing students) can’t tell you how I threw out of the room

  17. Rexanna Robinson Martin

    Heartwarming story that proves humanity still exists admist a world of craziness and evil towards animals. So glad you pulled through your adversity and found Charlie. Iv read your rescue story but didn’t know about your own health issues which makes this so touching for me. You and your family are wonderful.

  18. Porscha D Ward

    Happy Thanksgiving to you! May we all reflect on our individual crates and the lessons learned in darkness that can be brought to the light and shared.

  19. Jodi Aucoin

    So glad you overcame this obstacle in your life.

  20. Sherry Ralph Jadrnak

    Lol, as a former LPN (yes, I’m like a cat with many lives, lol) I remember those colostomy bags, and the tendency of the clips at the bottom to open at times! I have been a sales consultant/dealer trade manager for the last 11 years. I always thought I was going to be like Laura Petrie when I was growing up. Life! What a roller coaster! Lolololol

  21. Sam Howard

    WOW, you were only in the prison they call a Hospital for a week, you were lucky. I was in 2 for 3 months ICU mostly, lucky I don’t remember much. Here I sit tho when they said I wouldn’t, I call it my “Gothcha” moment. All my pension check goes to my Red Angels and 2 Hospitals. Well deserved took early SS, we survive. The kicker be when I got back on my feet they discovered the level 4 cancer. Once again I’m OK, they said I wouldn’t… Life is good folks, enjoy it and don’t complain about the little things. I’,m a little bit Wacko too. Thank Goodness for Charlie girl you both were at the right place at the right time..

  22. Darlene Cartier

    You are an inspiration. You survived and you saved Charlie. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But in either case, you and Charlie are able to share your journeys with eloquence and humor. Thank you for that.

  23. Ruth Thornton-Thayer

    Whatever y’all do, do not I repeat do not ask about “the bag”

  24. Fran Scott

    I’m in the mood to read the “poop on the foot” story again 🙂

  25. Krystal Kinder

    Thanks for sharing and God had a plan you were kinda depressed (from being in house) and he sent you to Charlie to save…so you both saved each other!! That’s great story with a happy ending! You don’t get to many of those..usually it’s a bad story with a happy ending or vise versa. I love happy endings!!

  26. Mikki Calm

    You just keep it going please, two beautiful lives still with us to inspire everyone. How do we return the favour ? I really hope to some day be passing through your neck of the woods so we can share stories. Meeting your amazing wife , getting to scratch all those fury ears and butts ( the dogs ) would be wonderful. But for now I just get to enjoy all these posts…..and I do!

  27. Christina Totaro Renfer

    May I ask what happened?? Colostomy’s, they’re not the greatest, but you do get use to them(I had a temporary one back in 2007). Look on the bright side, you could be in line at the grocery store and take a shit and nobody would be the wiser 😉

  28. Jody Hess-Franey

    What a great story. If it hadn’t happened, you might never gave taken the ride and found Charlie! So it goes, everything happens for a reason!

  29. Jill Baker DeAquair

    You are one darn good man. Bless you!

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