A piece Spence wrote for something on Scribd:
Of all the dogs who have shared my life, Charlie was the most handsome. A largish golden retriever with erect and dignified bearing and a big, magnificent head, Charlie was like some bygone courtier. Not the kind of courtier you wanted to help hatch plots, like Richelieu, say. Charlie was more the kind of courtier you wanted in the castle for decorative purposes.
I knew Charlie his entire life. He was born in a litterbox in our basement. Mother: Gansett, a small, active golden. Father: Dustin The Wind, a professional stud for hire. Charlie, just about all head at the time, stood out right away from the other puppies. I thought I was gazing down at a natural-born alpha male leader – he even sported a little Mohawk in those first few days. I was completely mistaken, as it turned out. Charlie was the actor you’d hire to play the alpha male leader.
Gansett, Charlie’s mother, was the real alpha male leader. She was a clever stalker and catcher – and therefore, let’s just say it – killer of creatures who dared enter our yard. Since we lived in a somewhat rural area at the time, her trophies included not just squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and the occasional daydreaming bird, but also more exotic invaders. Once there was a possum, for example. Charlie didn’t accompany Gansett on these hunts, but for some reason she always let him bring the corpse into the house, which he did very proudly, prancing around with that possum in his mouth like Hemingway after a kill. Okay, not Hemingway, but some prancing great white hunter. Maybe she wanted the humans in the family to believe Charlie really was what he looked to be.
My guess is Charlie was too content to hunt, too sweetly disposed. He loved treats, of course, but never demanded them. He liked swimming in the ocean and lying in the sun. What else? Being patted. He’d let himself be patted by the kids at any time, for as long as they wanted. Nothing upset him but the wind. On stormy days he’d hide in the pantry or wedge himself behind a couch until it was over. But I’d never question Charlie’s bravery.
Was he ever the smartest dog in the room? Probably not, but so what? Doesn’t anyone who gets involved with dogs come to believe that IQ is overrated, and I don’t just mean in the canine world? Charlie had only one area of expertise, which was digging up rocks that were hidden under beach sand. He was a genius at that, unerring in his knowledge of where rocks would be, deft and single-minded at unearthing them. What he was up to was never clear.
Charlie died at the age of ten. The fact that dog and human life spans match up so poorly proves to me there’s no intelligent design. On Charlie’s last day – he’d been sick for a few weeks and the vet had done what she could – he somehow made his way into a thick tangle of gorse and brambles and did that digging thing one last time, not for rocks, but to make his own grave. I’d never question Charlie’s bravery. It took me a while to find him. I carried him into the house so he’d have a little company. He was still beautiful.
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