Fat Charlie Went a-Running!, by Patience Renzulli

Fat Charlie Went a-Running!, by Patience Renzulli

Postby chelynnah » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:54 am

Fat Charlie Went a-Running!


NEVER thought I'd get to see the day...

Fat Charlie is officially Warburton Archangel, FCh, ARX, TRP. He also has ten points from one day of WRA racing toward his CR, and he only needed his second major to finish his AKC Field Championship. He had a point toward his breed Championship, too. He was born on June 29, 1997 and earned all of these titles before April 9, 2000. He suffered a limb threatening, career ending injury on that date. Most of you who were there will remember his accident at the 2000 American Whippet Club National Specialty ASFA Lure Trial. In a freak accident, the lure line became wrapped around Fat Charlie’s hind leg mid course. The Lure Operator stopped the line in a fraction of a second and flew off his ladder and got the line off of the flywheel, releasing the tension. This saved Fat Charlie’s leg. But not his Achilles tendon; it was cut clean through. We rushed him to Dr. James Radcliffe’s clini! c, just two hours away in Wheeling, West Virginia, and that gifted, kind man put the leg back together and gave me extensive physical therapy orders. He said that the realistic goal after an injury of this magnitude was for Fat Charlie to regain enough use of the limb to be a comfortable pet. But he admitted that he would dearly love to see him race again, one day.

I am fascinated by the recollections of those who were present when Fat Charlie got hurt. “I’ll never forget his screams,” said one. (He never uttered a sound.) “The blood. There was so much blood,” said another. (There was not a drop. The heat of the nylon line, moving at approximately thirty mph around Fat Charlie’s trapped, stationary leg, effectively cauterized the wound.) “The sight of him hobbling over to you still haunts my dreams,” sympathized yet another. (He stood as still as my heart, waiting for me to reach him, never taking his confused eyes from mine. I swear he never even blinked.)

Now I will ask you to travel forward in time with me to this summer of 2003.


We've been gearing up for the CWA National (straight races). My youngest guy, Sam I Am, is growing up with the big stinkin' handicap of being a city dog. It's hard to get a whippet fit here, acccccckkkk! So, every morning for the last three months I've been driving him to a nearby baseball field in a public park to throw his ball for him. I'd usually take one of the older (trustworthy... the field, like every field in western KY is not completely fenced) dogs along for a little fun for them, too. One day I took Fat Charlie. He had a BLAST!!! And he's such a grateful dog: mile wide smiles, wags that involve his whole body, kisses, and such beaming twinkles of thanks in those huge eyes.

The next day he had a little fluid in the point of his hock, but he also used the leg better than he had been. Hmmmm. He has periodically chased my lure machine a bit without a problem. The next time he went to the ball field, I wrapped his hock in vet wrap. Nope, still swollen the next day, but again, he was "tripod"-ing less and using his leg even better. HMMMMM!

Next time I taped his hock with athletic (NON stretchy) adhesive tape, using the same technique that trainers employ when taping human ankles. Voila!!! NO swelling the next day, and he ran and ran and outran his surprised nephew! Wag, wag, wag, grin, kiss, pant and smile.

So Fat Charlie started routinely heading to the park every morning with Sam I Am and I. A few times I'd skip a day because there would be a little heat and or swelling in the hock. But gradually I was seeing a six year old Fat Charlie who was happily RUNNING again, who was getting some muscles, who was getting IN SHAPE. I know the exact moment when the thought snuck into my brain of Fat Charlie running in just one race at the upcoming CWA National. I faked throwing the ball in one direction, and Fat Charlie took off. Sam I Am knew this trick and only bounced a few feet forward before turning to see where I was really going to throw it. I threw it in the opposite direction, and Sam I Am took off. Fat Charlie came flying by me in a full blown double suspension gallop. He had gotten his ARX as a young dog, to my abject delight and amazement, and oh, how I would love to see him run just once more in his life!

I tortured myself over the next seven weeks. Was I doing this for Fat Charlie or for me? The entry deadline loomed. I entered him. With a note to the Race Secretary that this was NOT a filler dog. If scratching Fat Charlie meant screwing up the points for the whole damn meet, I would do it in a heartbeat, maybe on the way down to the box, if I chickened out. He was entered, but that in no way meant he would run. He would need to be considered a bitch that was due to come in season ANY MINUTE!!! (Only time in his life, big ol' Fat Charlie would be thought of as a bitch!!!)

He kept running with his nephew at the ball park. I was allowed to use the Kennel Club Property, and set up the lure. (There's enough room for about a 125 yard straight right now.) Fine, he was doing just fine. I expected him to come up lame, or swollen, but he just continued to get stronger. I finally told my friends what I was considering. They were no help at all: they trusted my judgement. Oh, lordy...

The weekend before the race meet, my husband and I and all the dogs drove the 15 hours to Maryland (16 and a half, what with the rain storms) to see Bill's two new grandsons (and Terrie's new puppies, who are bred so similarly to Fat Charlie!!!). Bill's daughter has a lovely, large, fenced, country yard which my dogs totally enjoyed. Fat Charlie ran out there for four days without being taped. It was my test. He passed: no lameness, minimal fluid in his hock.

We drove home from Maryland on Monday, I unpacked and repacked the van and Sam I Am, Fat Charlie, Caruso, and Luciano and I headed for Wisconsin on Thursday. Thursday evening, we practiced Sam I Am out of the box (good, clean boy!) and then Fat Charlie ran 100 yards out of the box with a puppy who needed to practice. I just used an ace bandage on him, as we were short on daylight. Besides I wanted to see how the leg did after the thrust of coming out of the box. It was FINE.

Friday Fat Charlie's daddy Caruso was Best of Opposite to Karen Lee's famous Sanibel in the fun match (I think there were 63 entered with some absences) judged by Bobbi Mason. I started crying then. New friend June Harrison (of the famous Loughren Whippets) had kindly taken Caruso back in for Best in Match for me, as Caruso's son Luciano and grandson Sam I Am had also won their classes. I got to see Fat Charlie's sweet old grumpy Dad smiling at his new friend June as she took him around. Yup, that's when I *started* crying!

It was already Saturday morning. After tempting the Whippet Gods by my recent bragging on the Lists that Fat Charlie had never required a second measurement, the wicket touched his back and the cement on the first measurement. I wasn't happy with that, waited a moment, the wicket was reapplied, and there was daylight. His usual 1/8th of an inch of glorious daylight. He *was* pretty excited, I must say!!! First time in a roll call line since April of 2000! My mouth was dry and my stomach was churning.

He had been an A dog (in CWA) and since he hadn't run in more than a year - three to be exact - he would drop to a B. I think for the most part that would correspond to a C WRA dog. I started the taping. I felt like I was going to throw up. Since there were so many dogs, and since he was running as a B dog, he didn't run until something like
race 11. I tried worrying about whether Sam I Am would run clean in his first ever run with more than one dog. He ran great; in fact I think he was second! I volunteered to take ANYONE's dogs down to the box to stay busy. I went to the port-o-pot. Several times. I was quite certain I was going to vomit.

I went back to the van. Fat Charlie EXPLODED from his crate, jumping and wiggling, and grinning and wagging, and sparkling and celebrating with every molecule he was made of. OH GOOD, GOOD HUMAN!!!!!! He leapt into the air over and over again, and little guttural squeals of delight escaped from his soul and landed square in my heart. The lump went from the pit of my stomach into the middle of my throat. I looked at this dog who depends on me for everything, and who had never once complained about his lot in life, and I saw this joy. I knew if I had only brought him along with no chance of running, as had been the case for the last three years, the worst thing he would have done would be to stare at me hopefully. I knew I was taking a chance. A terrible chance at re-injuring this dog that I love. I knew he was fit. I looked at him. All indications were that he could do this. Just this one race.

I got out his blanket and put it on his wiggling Whippet ecstatic self. He then stopped all of a sudden, swung himself right around and looked me square in the eye, let out a little squeal, and gave me a rather bumpy, big, bouncy kiss on my whole face. I grabbed the race muzzle and a spray bottle and headed towards some bushes. He was way too excited to pee. I wanted him well warmed up, so we "walked" around the parking area. HA! We jumped, bounced, spun, wagged, yipped, twirled, kissed, bounced some more, goosed, wagged, grinned and grinned around the parking area, with Fat Charlie continually suggesting that we head toward the race track NOW. RIGHT NOW, in fact!!!!

The dogs were coming off the track from the race before his. Tongues hanging out, sides heaving, muscles bulging. Another jolt of nausea hit me. This was real. Fat Charlie would run full out. He would not think, "I better protect my leg." I looked at him again. He was staring at the track, head up, tail still, nostrils drinking in every race smell, a perfectly self-stacked gentleman of a whippet, one leg taped from mid gaskin to mid tarsals. He was only vaguely aware that I was there. He was going to run again. I was pretty sure I was going to actually vomit and started figuring out where.

Fat Charlie's and my good friend Carolyn was going to catch him. She has been my advisor, my supporter, and my friend every step of the way with him. She smiled at me, eyes brimming with tears. "He can do this," she said quietly to me. I hadn't realized it until then, but I was crying, and from the state of my face, I must have been for a while. "Get that bunny, Charlie!" said Carolyn.

It was time. We headed down the track. My own throat was choking me. Fat Charlie was goosing me. I was trying not to cry out loud, but then I couldn't breathe, and I was splashing up bile with the effort. Since it was the first program, there were only four dogs in the race, what a blessing. The other folks knew me a little, or not at all, and I'm sure were questioning the weirdo gulping sniveling sobs with a taped up big old grey faced dog. I got to the foul judge, a friend, and just gave up. I just started sobbing. I said, "I'm nearly fifty, menopausal, and I seem to have to cry out loud now." Fat Charlie looked up at me with puzzled eyes. Human? This is ***FUN***!!! Why is your face leaking?

Behind the box I started to tell him to be careful, but he caught my eye, and he yipped a little excitement, and I told him "YOU GET THAT BUNNY, CHARLIE BOY! YOU JUST ****GET**** THAT BUNNY, BUDDY!!!" He jumped in the box and I don't remember getting there, but I was at the side line looking at him. Crouched at the front of the box, still as the ice in my veins, focused only on the grubby lure, Fat Charlie waited for the box to fly open. The box operator showed the lure to every dog and ran to the back of
the box. He waved the flag to the lure operator. In super slow motion, the lure took off, the box flew open, and Fat Charlie surged forward, but he slipped. I died. Then he regained his footing, left the slow motion footage, and took off, about two lengths back of the pack. Later the box operator told me that Fat Charlie had kicked his side of the box back so far that he had to reposition it before the next race.

I couldn't yell my "Go Charlie Go." I can't see the computer screen right now. Fat Charlie flew down the track. His buddy Carolyn was at the end screaming "Come on Charlie!!! Come on Charlie!! Come on Charlie!!!!" He ran like he'd never been hurt. He ran like he had never not run. He ran like there hadn't ever been two surgeries, unending days and weeks and months of physical therapy, and three years of not running.

And he finished third. And his smart friend Carolyn didn't hurry taking him away from his bunny. She let him hug it, and maul it, and call it very bad names.

And he's one hundred percent, absolutely fine.

He did stare at me, when he didn't get to run in any more races, but I think he didn't mind so very much this time. And he slept so soundly, in bed lying closer to me then the other three, (which takes some doing with this bunch!) that night in the hotel.

And I love that dog. So very much, I love that dog.

by Patience Renzulli
August 2003

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