Settle in; this is a long one…
I’ve never told this, but the story of Charlie didn’t technically begin with Charlie. The beginning even predates the Story of Trevor by many years; it all goes back to a dog named Yahtzee, son of Beebe.
Beebe was one of the four Mt Rushmore figures, iconic dogs of the Casa. He came along at a time that I was as obsessed with duck hunting as I am now with motorcycles. And just like the whole motorcycling thing, duck hunting may be possible without a dog, but what is the point?
It’s like Tarzan without a loin cloth; it’s missing something vital, but you can’t seem to put your finger on it.
So, I had to find a dog, preferably a black lab. It just so happened that a terrible tornado tore through Beebe, AR; my grandmother was living there at the time, and prayed right through it. We found her sound asleep in bed the next morning, totally oblivious to the carnage and the sound of sirens and chainsaws ripping at the the pre-dawn sky. That’s faith right there, and a story for another day.
Oh my trips up to Beebe to help with the clean up, I heard of a labrador bitch that had broken her front legs in the carnage and was having difficulty caring for her twelve pups. “Time to take one for the team” was my reasoning at the time, but I learned a valuable lesson: never pick the most aggressive pup in the litter. Beebe was as headstrong then as Charlie is today; traditional training techniques are an exercise in futility, and all you can do is work toward the strengths that the dogs already have.
Some professional trainers think they have to break the dog’s will; I’m no professional. But I do have a decent track record when it comes to including dogs in my activities; first Uki and the mountain bike, Beebe and duck, Dove and squirrel hunting, Max as a road tripper, Charlie and now MacDuff on the motorcycle.
My role model when it comes to dog training is Susan Butcher, the four time winner of the Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska. It is said that she never wielded a whip, but would instead start training her dogs as pups by breathing directly into their mouths. Don’t laugh, because it seems to work. The dog locks into the scent at an early age and instinctively picks up on who is actually the alpha of the pack. That pup will then be motivated by love and loyalty instead of fear and bribery to do almost anything for that alpha, including winning four consecutive Iditarods.
Or riding across the country on a motorcycle unsecured. The real trick is finding a dog that is so obsessed with being on a bike that nothing, squirrels, cattle, elk, other dogs, etc, off of the bike is interesting enough to tempt them to bail.
But that’s not to say that they won’t be a total pain in the butt at every opportunity. Luckily, Beebe had the retrieving instincts to overcome his hubris, and his exploits are legendary to this day. I have never seen a dog with better instincts, both at retrieving ducks and doing it his own way.
And lordy, could he fart; his name should have been Vesuvius, which translates in some obscure language to “he who smells of the devil’s armpit”.
So where does Yahtzee pop up in relation to Charlie’s story? Beebe was such a legend of the duck blind that others wanted dogs with his characteristics. As a result, the Bee Dog got him a little boomchickawaawaa on the side, and Yahtzee was the pick of the litter as a result. Zach and Alex were also both kidlets at the time, and got very attached to the puppy who was rapidly growing into a dog to rival his own daddy Beebe.
But one day, Yahtzee disappeared, as country dogs sometimes do. I don’t know if he was stolen, hit by a car, or what other fate befell him; all I do know is that one day he was, and the next he was not.
As I didn’t know for sure, I couldn’t tell the kids, so I tried to ease the sting of his disappearance by making up “Yahtzee stories”. The first was that he had gotten arrested and was pining away in jail. And why was he arrested? For breaking into the local grocery store to score some catfood, and the law found him there the next morning, sprawled out asleep on a bed of empty cat food bags.
And the stories kept getting wilder; Yahtzee breaking out of jail, Yahtzee sneaking back to “borrow” the car or the ATV out, Yahtzee out drag racing at night, Yahtzee stowing away on the space shuttle and going to the moon, you get the picture. I have no idea at what point the kids actually realized when Yahtzee wasn’t coming home, as they would clamor to hear the stories, sometimes even the same stories, for years afterward. While I did get tired of telling Yahtzee stories at the time, the day I realized that they were no longer wanting the stories was as sad a day for me as the day Yahtzee went missing was for them.
So now you can how the fiction of Yahtzee stories led to the grittyvreality of Charlie Bravo…
…with a bit of embellishment, of course.
We be of one blood, ye and I