Charlie Powell is pictured with his beloved dog named Poochie in 1961. After Poochie's death, Powell, who is the senior public-information officer for Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman, didn't own a dog for more than 30 years. Photo courtesy of Charlie Powell.
Charlie Powell is pictured with his beloved dog named Poochie in 1961. After Poochie’s death, Powell, who is the senior public-information officer for Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman, didn’t own a dog for more than 30 years. Photo courtesy of Charlie Powell.
By Charlie Powell
I can’t recall a day when there wasn’t a “Poochie,” until he was gone.
My earliest memories of the little Boston terrier were just that, my earliest memories. He and I grew up together beginning first in Oregon where I was born, then Illinois, and finally Las Vegas.
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My mother often said she thought I would pet his head bald with my right hand while sucking a bottle held in my left. She also said Poochie had no problem with that.
Being an Air Force family, when we moved, Poochie moved. He was equally at home on the floor of a car or jumping several feet off the ground to pop balloons tied to a clothes line. He loved to swim, fetch anything and laughingly protect our family as if his 20 pounds were 200. He was fearless to a fault.
As I grew up perhaps I didn’t notice — or perhaps I didn’t want to know — that the shadow of age was passing over him. By the time we moved to Las Vegas, Poochie was what we term today, a geriatric dog.
With his breed’s characteristic smushed-in face, the heat was hard on him. He’d seek the coolest spot on the concrete floor and stretch out for a snooze.
Poochie was not doing well, and there came that fateful day when an owner knows.
In this case, Poochie stopped meeting me or anyone at the door. If you went to find him, he wouldn’t raise his head. If you carried him to another room, he would stiffly get up and make his way painfully to his one preferred spot.
His character and spirit had left an old and infirmed body behind.
I held him and cried as we drove him to the veterinarian in the yellow 1955 Ford pickup. It would be the same truck I would drive all through college, into graduate school, as a medical paraprofessional, and I used to take my wife to deliver our first child.
Despite the little dog’s pain, he still let me pet his head. I last saw Poochie as we handed him off to a white-smocked gentleman who promised my dad to, “take care of ‘it’ for you.” That word “it” bothered me.
A day later, dad said, “Let’s go pick Poochie up and we will bury him at his favorite spot near Lake Mead.”
In the bed of the truck was a wooden M30 mortar shell ammo box discarded by the military along with thousands just like it at the close of the Southeast Asia war. It was a fitting coffin for the little tough guy.
We literally had to pick his body up. The receptionist took us to the back door and pointed to a taped-up bundle on the floor and said, “That’s him. Please take him out the back; not through the waiting area.”
He was frozen stiff and wrapped in masking tape up to his neck.
When we laid him in the box, he didn’t fit. Dad pushed the lid harder, and, with the sound of breaking carrots, he closed the hasp with wire, and we drove to the lake.
We rumbled down one of the many dirt roads leading to one of several hundred coves between Gypsum Wash and Colville Bay. We had fished there many times, and Poochie was with us when we did, usually in the shade of a mesquite tree. Near one of the largest trees and in the shade, dad took a shovel to the sandy ground, and in a few minutes, the hole was ready.
The 10 year-old wasn’t.