HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — “A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can’t get it by breeding it, and you can’t buy it with money. It just happens along.”
— E.B. White, “The Care and Training of a Dog”
Charlotte the dog died Nov. 13, 2010. She was 15.
Nearly 2 1/2 months later, her master, Carol Gallant, still cries when she speaks of the loss of her pet.
Charlotte, a mutt, came into Gallant’s life by accident when visiting an animal shelter in Charlotte, N.C., to pick up her mother’s two cats who had strayed.
“I was standing in line when I saw her in a glassed-in room,” Gallant said. “She was twirling around.”
The dog had been in the shelter for nearly three months and was on a list to be put down within the week.
The two bonded from the beginning.
“She loved that first ride home and went with me everywhere after that,” Gallant said.
Charlotte easily fit into Gallant’s life and life in general in Harpers Ferry. She became well-known and began appearing in productions at the Old Opera House in Charles Town, W.Va., including twice in the role of Sandy the dog in “Annie.”
“She seemed to delight in being part of things,” Gallant said.
It was hard to tell Charlotte’s lineage. She resembled somewhat a West Highland terrier in appearance, although much larger at 50 pounds and knee-high.
“She looked like a breed that no one had ever seen,” Gallant said. “She was sweet-natured and bright, loved everyone she met, but she was a little picky around other dogs.”
Charlotte visited shut-ins in nursing homes and children in their classrooms. She was photographed nearly every place she went, Gallant said.
In 2008, Gallant self-published “Charlotte the Wonder Dog,” subtitled “The Adventure of a Dog-Pound Mutt Who Finds Her Way to Friends, Fame and Peanut Butter.”
Her friendly, curious and exuberant ways won the hearts of many who met Charlotte over the years, Gallant said.
On page 68 of the 114-page book, Gallant writes, “Wonder Dog travels to the homes of friends, to meetings, restaurants and parties, to guard the car or to be a full participant: ‘Hey! Is Charlotte in the car? Bring her in!’”
Charlotte, according to the book, trotted down the avenues of major cities and romped on the lawns of country inns and colleges. She and Gallant vacationed at the beach and visited parks. She has been photographed at rest stops and historic sites up and down Interstate 81.
“When you have a cute dog, she’ll be photographed in lots of places,” Gallant said.
Charlotte began to slow down as the years passed. Gallant had to rig a ramp so the dog could climb into the car.
“She began to wind down like a clock,” she said.
Gallant organized a 15th birthday party for Charlotte on Aug. 15. About 50 people attended.
It was becoming obvious that Charlotte’s time was coming. She’d have a bad time then recover until the day Gallant called her friend Barbara Birney, owner of the Homeless Hospice Sanctuary in Bolivar, W.Va., to check on Charlotte’s condition.
“Barbara looked at Charlotte and looked at me,” Gallant said. “Carol, she can’t come back from this.”
The next day, friends drove Gallant and Charlotte to a veterinarian in Berryville, Va.
“I rode in the back seat with Charlotte,” she said. “The vet came to the car. It couldn’t have been more peaceful. She just went to sleep.”
Gallant received more than 40 condolence cards plus e-mails. Charlotte’s obituary ran in a local weekly newspaper.
Asked if she wants another dog, Gallant said, “A lot of people have suggested that, but I’d feel vaguely disloyal. I need more time to grieve and reflect on Charlotte’s memory. I suspect that just as Charlotte crossed my path, the right dog will appear.”
Gallant’s book can be bought at area bookstores and outlets, on www.Amazon.com or by logging on to Gallant’s website at www.dcgallantbooks.com.
All proceeds from sales of the book go to Birney’s Homeless Hospice Sanctuary, along with a reminder from Gallant that people should consider adopting dogs from shelters and pounds.