Monday, January 4, 2010


This is the part of the blog where I share too much. I give too much away. But this is who am and this is what I do. Buckle up.

I love animals. All animals. Not in a PETA-no-meat-save-the-leafy-seadragon way but still. There is much love. My last hermit crab that the kids HAD to have but forgot about died last night and I can neither confirm nor deny shedding a tear. Hey - I cared for those little guys for almost three years. The one named Don'tDie ... ahem... did last week. And then the one with his shell painted like a creepy eyeball had his heart fail him. Maybe due to loneliness. Maybe because he had no water. I guess we'll never know. But I digress. Back to my love of animals. I had 174 dogs and 1,215 cats growing up. A few ferrets. Dozens of birds. Turtles. Fish. Lexi had a hamster - cat #807 ate him in the dryer. I loved them all. Even when we sent the kittens down the stairs on cookie sheets covered in bowls - it was out of love.

Anyway, one of my favorite things about my house is that it's surrounded by six acres of woods. I have deer, possums, raccoons, foxes, cardinals, bluejays and more. I give all my leftovers to them. I know I shouldn't - don't lecture me. It's freezing out there! I hate to think of them cold AND hungry. I have a white owl that hoots (hoos, really) outside my window at night. I love her/him. I love them all. And I have forced my kids to love them all as well. Our favorite is Charlie the rockchuck/marmot. He is huge and fat and adorable. I bet he weighs 35 lb. Not squirrel-sized - more like huge beaver-sized. Since the day we moved in, he has been hanging out in the front yard every day. We keep binoculars by the front windows so we can watch him use those little black hands hold things and see his huge belly spill over his feet not unlike a daddy penguin. (Penguins are soo soft. I have pet one. I love them, too.)

Every day, when we'd come home we'd pause to let him undulate back to his hideout before driving up to the garage. "Hi, Charlie!" Preslie and Mason would yell. (I know, I changed tenses - forgive). Then one fateful day (I hate fateful days), I was driving to the Y and I'm not sure how I knew because there wasn't a thump or sound, but I stopped and looked in the rearview and there was Charlie. Laying on the driveway. THe kids started screaming, "CHARLIE! CHARLIE!" as I ran out to him. He wasn't squished but he had a bloody nose. Did he run into the back wheel of the car? I have no idea. He was still breathing and I was a mess. I called jaymee crying my head off. I can't even think about it now. So sad. So, I pet him until he stopped breathing (he was SO SOFT!) and then went to the Y and sobbed to Krista that I couldn't stay because I hit Charlie. I went back home and called Mami because I was broken. Her kids loved him, too.

In the garage I found a shovel and as I walked out, there was Krista with her kids (that she pulled back out of kidcare RIGHT after signing them in), a shovel of her own and a bouquet of flowers. A minute later, Mami and her girls were here, too. I told Sienna to write something and that we'd have a funeral. I'm pretty sure Mami and Krista aren't big animal people but they pretended to be for my sake and I'll love them forever for it. I really was a mess. So we picked him up (so soft!) and carried him to our grave under the treehouse. Sienna read her poem:

Charlie the Magnificent Rockchuck

Charlie the Magnificent Rockchuck
When people see him they fall into a daze
And now his life is done,
But when I look back I am I amazed,
At the times he came into our yard.
And, I swear, I saw him smile.
I can't believe he's gone for good,
But I'll have to get through this trial.
He'd run back into his little hole,
Although we'd want him to stay.
But we all knew that
we would see him the next day.
We will remember him forever.
From our hearts he will not go.
And when I look into our yard
He's still there, I know.

When she finished, HUNDREDS of birds flew in and landed in the trees right above us. Mami suggested that each kid say something they liked about Charlie. Even with my deep love for him, I thought that was silly since we only ever watched him. The kids surprised me with their thoughtful answers. They said things like, "He was always there when we got home from school - kind of like he was waiting to see if we were ok." or "I like how he'd sit up and use his little hands to eat." and "He was so happy." He was happy. I don't know how we knew that, but he was. Mason said we could ask Heavenly Father to ask Grandpa Ron if he could take care of him. Camryn said a prayer. In it she said,"please bless that we won't always be as sad as we are right now" and "please take care of him in heaven until we can see him again". So sweet. When we all said amen, the birds got up all at once, flew around the tree in a circle and flew away. Seriously. It was an amazing sight. Like a military "fly-by".

I'm really sad still, but it gave me a lot of thoughts for my mind to nosh. First and foremost being the quality of my friends. They didn't mock me. They just dropped everything to "mourn with those who mourn". It touched me deeply. I also have pondered why Charlie made such an impact on us when we really didn't interact with him all that much. I've decided that my life is filled with Charlies. A Charlie is someone who makes a difference just by existing and being happy. I'm lucky to live in a semi-small town. I see many of the same people every day. Some are Charlies. There is a crossing guard down on State and Smiley who waves and smiles at EVERY car that drives by. Every time. My kids make me roll down the windows so he can see them wave back. Have I ever spoken to him? Nope. Would it impact me greatly if he passed away? Absolutely. Another one I thought of is Claude at the Y. (My kids call him Clog). He's a cute man that volunteers in the kidcare every Wednesday holding babies. It melts my heart. I don't have any babies for him to hold or know the babies he is holding, but I love him for it and I hope he lives forever.

I want to be a Charlie. It is one of my goals to really be part of my community even if it just means smiling at everyone I see. I can wave at the cars that don't hit me when I go running. I can take treats to the girls at sonic at Christmas. I want to help and be happy for the rest of my days so that just maybe I'll get my own "Charlie" bird fly-by.


Kim said...


Thank you for sharing, totally hits home with me. I too have had many Charlie's in my life, human and animal form, and to be one is a noble goal to my way of thinking. I miss my IL backyard creatures, although I have some new ones in VA where I currently am.

For domestic friends, I am happy that the local SPCA is the largest no-kill shelter in the country, so many kind hearts out there helping those who bring us joy and companionship.

I have had friends share with me their own Charlie's when I have been away from my own. That's what friends and sharing are truly all about. So thank you again for sharing, made my day...

My New Year's resolution is to daily:

do something for someone
take note of a blessing, or several in my life
breathe and

now I will add to be daily aware of the Charlie's out there too. :)


Rod and Kandace said...

Seriously the sweetest thing I have read in a long time. Thanks for sharing. You are a talented writer. Even if something like that happened to me...I wouldn't know how to put it in words. You are the sweetest!

JennM said...

Shelby, you had me sniffling, that's not allowed. ;) I share your love for animals...What a knack for words you have, really made me think...and I too love Clog at the Y. =) He holds the babies and Justin comes around him, he's so sweet with Justin. Thanks again for those beautiful words...This is what our time on earth is really about. It's nice to see this side of you, Its hard not to love ya. =)

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Shelby -
Just a couple of comments:
1. You shouldn't go to the Y - bad things can happen.
2. Off topic a bit... Sean read your Christmas book again this year. He must have forgotten the story. When he got to the end, he looked really confused and sad. I laughed my butt off. You should publish that thing.
3. There is no "maybe" you are in line for a fly-by. Even if I have to do it myself.
Love your guts,
Lisa B.

Lexi said...

This whole thing made me so sad. I'm SO glad you have such wonderful friends. They are such a blessing through all of the hard things you're faced with. The birds knew. That's why they were there.

I can only imagine the type of fly by you will get.

Shauna Miller said...

I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful celebration of life and awesome lesson for your babes. Thanks for being a Charlie for me on Sunday. I know Logan appreciated your kindness and attention.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Tami G. said...

Shel, I love you so much. Thanks for writing this. It was beautiful. So sorry about Charlie. I can't believe out of all the pets you listed, you didn't mention the rooster.

Jodi said...

A real Charlie is one who doesn't know life any differently. Shelby, I think you are a Charlie and just don't know it!

Natalie said...

um...the comment above mine will be hard to follow, but i will try. hmmm...still feeling sorta funny....okay...recovering... here it goes...

I may or may not have cried when i read that charlie died. (I may or may not still be a little bit puffy in the nose, eye region.) I love that you love animals like that. I do too. the empty bird nest in my front yard makes me sad every single day. I loved those little birds. That was a really great post shelby. One to make me think and smile more and love more and laugh more and cry (even over deceased animals without feeling silly) more too. perfection. i'll do a dove release in honor of you today. or a homing pigeon release might make more sense...

Christy said...

One of the things I dislike about myself is that I am not an animal lover. Try as I may, I can't get past my fear of fur, flapping wings, and pretty much anything that doesn't walk upright. (I have made my piece with babies- since I've had 2. So that's something, right. *cue uncomfortable laugh*)

But I can hate myself a little less knowing that Heavenly Father put people like you(and sweet Natalie)on this earth.(Don't tell her but I prayed that bird away so I wouldn't be terrified to walk onto her front porch.)

People who love all creatures with such Christ-like love. People to love them like family when they are here, and to share their important message to others when they are not.

No matter what the animal complex- I'm grateful that because of your compassion, I too, was able to learn from Charlie.

shel7by said...

aaarghh! I'm so sorry about the comment above Natalie's (that is now gone). Sheesh. That was gross. That guy was not a Charlie.

Mae Chapman said...

Oh Shelbly thats Wonderful. BLESS DA WOODCHUCK!