As I remember it, we met Charlie in late fall of perhaps 1968, when Roseann, Bill, Marlin and Dan and I were taking a late afternoon walk on a rainy evening.
We lived at Cobbs Corners. Bruce and Vivian Bailey, our near neighbors, owned land on three sides of our house and we had permission to take walks there. I think we were looking for something, perhaps for school — interesting leaves, or maybe seed pods.
While we were in the field, a mature beagle dog came limping to us. There was blood on his face, and I thought he was hurt. Neighbors down the road had some dogs, and I thought this dog was one of theirs.
He was happy to see us, and very friendly. He followed us home, and I didn’t try to discourage him. I planned to call the people and help him get to his home.
Surprise! When I made the phone call, I discovered that this dog didn’t belong to them. It turned out that we had acquired a dog!
I fixed a bed for him in the laundry room and let him sleep there overnight. Because I thought he was hurt and he obviously was an older dog, I thought he needed a dry place to sleep that night.
In the morning, I discovered that the blood that had been on his face was not his blood. He wasn’t hurt! He must have provided his own supper that evening.
And the limp? He always limped. Sometimes he would limp on his left back leg and then he would switch and limp on the right side. But he never complained.
Now we had a dog, but we had no idea what his name was. We tried some names for him, but finally settled on calling him Gypsy, because he had been wandering from place to place, like a nomad.
At that time of my life, I hadn’t been looking for a pet and I didn’t know much about the nature of dogs. I now know that a dog is a pack animal and loves to be close to his pack. I realize now that Gypsy fully accepted our family as his pack, and he certainly did enjoy being with us.
We lived seven miles from the Excelsior Church, which my husband pastored, along with the Cobbs Corners Church. One Sunday afternoon, our family walked to the Excelsior Church for the evening service. We had planned carefully for this and had made arrangements that Alfred Ongley would bring us home after the service.
We were well on our way, I think almost half a mile or maybe a little more away from home, when there was Gyspy limping along beside us. He really wanted to be with us. To turn around and get him back home again would really upset our plans.
But could he really walk the seven miles with us? We had to let him try.
He did walk the entire distance with no problem. We gave him a place to rest in the Sunday school building while we had the evening service. When Alfred drove us home, he graciously allowed Gypsy to get in the car with us.
Another time when my kids and I were planning to walk to Ronald and Elizabeth Messenger’s place, not nearly so far away from us as the seven-mile trip had been, we made sure that Gypsy was in the house when we left, because I always felt uneasy about him walking along the road.
We got to Messengers and visited a bit and my husband came to get us. We were all in the car and getting ready to leave when Roseann said, “Shouldn’t we take Gypsy home with us?”
And there was Gypsy, although I hadn’t noticed him at all. But how? I knew he had been in the house when we left. It turned out that someone had come to the door and when my husband answered the door, Gypsy had slipped outdoors and, beagle that he was, he had followed our scent and tracked us down, even though I hadn’t even noticed that he had followed us.
One Sunday afternoon when I was resting in the bedroom, I heard Gypsy making a joyous racket out in the yard. I got up and looked out the window and saw that a car had pulled off to the side of the road and a man and woman were out of the car greeting our dog with affection.
His real owners had found him.
I hurried to talk to them. “I can tell that this dog belongs to you,” I told them. “I would certainly understand if you want to take him back.”
“Oh, no!” they told me. “Charlie left us when our kids grew up and left home. He wanted to be in a home with children. He’s happy here. We won’t take him from you.” Now he was no longer Gypsy. He was Charlie, and we called him that once we knew his real name.
It was so long ago and, I’m not sure now, but I think the family’s name was Webber. They lived in Corry, somewhere near the railroad.
Charlie was a real adventurer. They told me that one time when a very slow moving freight train was going by, they saw Charlie on the other side of the railroad and he ran or crawled under one of the freight cars and was safely back in his own yard.
From what they told me about Charlie’s age, we knew that Charlie lived to be 17 years old. He had a gentle, easy death. He became very tired, had no appetite and finally just curled up and went to sleep.
He really loved us, the family he had chosen.
We have fond memories of Charlie, the pet who chose us.
Nancy Klingensmith writes from Corry.