Charlie Bray was brokenhearted and not interested in much of anything. In less than two months, he lost his mother-in-law, followed just 4 weeks later by the death of his beloved wife, Joanie, to an aggressive cancer. Shortly before Joanie passed, Charlie also said goodbye to Bella, his 15-year-old Lab/shepherd mix. It was a very low point for the 84-year-old Montgomery resident.
“So here I am, no mother-in-law, no wife, no dog and I’m by myself in an apartment. For a while there, I was a hermit. I didn’t want to go out,” Charlie says. “My children kept begging me, ‘Dad, get another dog. You have to have something to occupy yourself.’”
With their encouragement, Charlie decided to look for another dog. After going to several rescues in the area, he and his son Scott found their way to Pets Alive.
“We went there and I was aghast,” Charlie says, citing row after row of dogs looking for their forever homes. Charlie was guided by Pets Alive’s Volunteer Adoption Coordinator Patti, who worked to find him the perfect match. After looking at all the dogs in their runs, none seemed to be the exact fit. But Patti had saved the best for last.
“We were walking back to the office and Patti said, ‘I have one more in the back. If you want to take a look, I’ll take you back there.’ He was in a run all by himself. I took one look and thought, ‘I think he’s the one for me.’ We just connected right off the bat,” Charlie says.
The 2-year-old hound mix named Chance had been found with a back-leg injury alongside a road. “Patti brought him out and he laid right across my feet,” says Charlie. “I just fell in love with him. He was so calm and he kinda stole my heart. I said I’ve got to take this guy home.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Chance has a new name now — Duke, in honor of Charlie’s favorite movie star, John Wayne. “So now he’s the Duke of Montgomery,” Charlie jokes. The leg injury turned out to be an older break, with a bone that had already healed, so the consensus was to let it be.
Duke settled in right away in Charlie’s apartment within a converted old barn. Charlie had made up a bedroom for the new arrival, complete with a doggy bed and old recliner. But from the very beginning, Duke let his adopter know exactly where he planned to sleep: at the foot of Charlie’s bed!
Charlie has a new recliner now and it’s a favorite spot for the two to rest: “If I sit in my recliner, when I tilt it back, he hears that and the next thing you know he’s on my lap. He’s such a big mush. I just love him.”
He’s also stolen the hearts of the entire Bray clan, which includes 6 children, 21 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, with 2 more on the way. When family members arrive, Duke’s tail is wagging.
Charlie’s daughter Donna finds the connection between her dad and Duke remarkable. “He’s always got either his paw or his head on my dad’s leg,” she says. “The only thing I can think is that my mother sent him to my dad so he’s not lonely. He has a purpose again. And my dad is so happy, he talks to him and I’ve seen him perk up 110% since he’s had this dog. My mother would have loved Duke.”
For Charlie, he feels like he hit the lottery: “He’s just a pleasure to have around. It’s almost too good to be true. I never dreamed a dog would adapt to me. He’s made my life a lot better.”
Charlie encourages others to head to Pets Alive to adopt their best friend. “I just feel like I should yell from the top of my lungs about Pets Alive,” he says. “I felt so good about everything that I made an extra $100 donation.”
Charlie’s car features a dog paw magnet that reads “Who Rescued Who?” In the case of Charlie and Duke, John Wayne would probably call it a draw.
Written by Joyce Washnik, Pets Alive Volunteer