While only knowing Charlie for half her life, she left a big impression on our family.

Charlie was our Great Dane who came into our lives five years ago. Last week, we had to say “goodbye” to our dear friend.

When my oldest son left for college, his younger brother started lobbying for a big dog to call his sidekick. For a few weeks, he kept sending us photos of large dogs in an attempt to break us down.

His strategy worked.

After several weeks of seeing photo after photo of large dogs, his mother decided to call him on his tactics. She decided to look for the biggest, laziest dog she could find. A few days later, a beautiful Blue Euro Great Dane appeared on our radar.

Meeting Charlie was an instant connection for us, even though it took some time for her to warm up to us. She was four years old when she strode into our home, filling our house (literally) and hearts instantly.

Her 175-pound frame and deep baritone bark were intimidating to those who rang the doorbell, but wrapped in her blankie, she often retreated to the safety of her crate when unfamiliar visitors appeared. Charlie was a timid soul, often running away from visitors and sheepishly turning the corner out of curiosity.

She became part of our family instantly, connecting with our youngest son and providing our family with the giant presence we all needed. Over the next five years, I would learn a number of valuable lessons from her.

Here are a few of my Charlie Lessons.

Charlie lesson no. 1: A loud bark does not always reveal the real story.

As I stated earlier, Charlie was a timid soul even though her bark terrified every Amazon delivery person who knocked on our door.

It was amusing to watch: As the doorbell rang and the bark began, the delivery person would instantly retreat. Then, when they saw her, they retreated even faster.

While her bark echoed through the house at the sound of the doorbell, she was the kindest and most lovable creature.

Charlie lesson no. 2: Making a big impression does not actually mean having to be big.

Charlie weighed 175 pounds and people’s first remarks were always about her size. But the most significant thing about Charlie was not her size at all; it was her ability to love.

There was nothing better than a Charlie snuggle on a cold Oklahoma night and an opportunity to pet those long velvety ears. She was an enormous-sized amount of love, but it had nothing to do with her physical size. It was her heart.

Charlie lesson no. 3: We all need someone to love and be loved by.

Everyone needs the love of someone else. Watching the bond between my youngest son and his dog was a beautiful thing to witness. He loved her, and she loved him. Anytime he was home, she followed him everywhere, like a 175-pound shadow.

Charlie lesson no. 4: We all need someone in our lives to dance with from time to time.

There are times to dance even when you’re a large and lumbering Dane. Charlie laid around the house most of the time, but when my son would walk through the door, her tail would begin to wag, and she danced back and forth. It was the funniest and cutest thing anyone could ever see.

Charlie lesson no. 5: Deal with the poop before going to work.

Big dogs make big poops. When we had little dogs, mowing over the small mounds of doggie poo was a breeze. When Charlie joined our household, another mowing tactic was desperately needed.

There was no mowing over her piles. Nope. I had to scoop it up before I mowed. When you have to special order a pooper-scooper for your oversized pooch, you know you’re in new canine territory.

Charlie lesson no. 6: Never forget to say thank you.

It did not matter if we were letting her outside, feeding her or offering her a treat from the cabinet, almost immediately afterward Charlie would begin the Great Dane lean to show her appreciation.

Dane’s often lean on people they love, displaying affection by the only way they know: scare the pants off you or crush you like playdough. And believe me when I say that you did not miss a Charlie-lean to show her appreciation. She was generous with her gratitude because she knew love is what mattered most.

The Randalls will miss Charlie immensely. We have already shed plenty of tears since last week, but Charlie’s memory will be as big as her presence.

She lived big and loved big. We would all be wise to learn from her life.

We hope she is now reunited with her little buddy, Shadow, playing in that great big backyard in the sky.

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