Goodbye, Sweet Carlile

VineSpeak contributor Jessica Cortell’s beloved pooch, Carlile recently passed away from an infection.

By Jessica Cortell

While thinking about what to write regarding vineyards and bloom approaching, my mind was stuck on my sweet pooch, Carlile. 

No longer will she be by my side, patrolling the vineyards for voles, deer and birds. No longer will she be with me to assist with harvest and play with my crew. 

On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I had to put my Carlile to sleep because of a severe vertebral bone infection. That evening, I was supposed to take my vineyard practices class out to work in the vineyard, but I couldn’t bear to tell my students of her passing, as she had accompanied me to class with me and was loved by all of them. 

The story of Carlile began while I was working at a vineyard. One of the supervisor’s had tamed down a stray German shepherd. Well, this dog, actually an expensive pedigreed dog, escaped one day and met up with a big handsome black Lab, and puppies were born. 

While it had crossed my mind to get a puppy in the spring, it was not until Carlos plopped a wet puppy, about five pounds, into my arms. She instantly whimpered and snuggled under my arm. That did it: Carlile was my girl. 

After learning there was one last puppy in the litter and realizing that little Carlile would be alone due to my work schedule, I made a decision bring her sister, Ally, home, too. Right from the start, I discovered they had two very different personalities, but both sweet in their own ways. The challenge of having littermates was about to unfold. 

Carlile was much more of the German shepherd: talkative but respectful, inquisitive, independent, sensitive and attached to me in her own unique way. She looked after both Ally and me. She loved attention but would ask for it by gently poking me with her paw coupled with a few whimpers to let me know when she was ready for her daily stomach rub. She had more delicate features and long limbs. She went through multiple bouts of puppy growing pains, during which I had to hand-feed her and comfort her for weeks on end. The bond grew stronger. 

Ally, who looked more like a furry black bear, was all black Lab: pouncing paws, demanding of attention, barking and licking everyone like crazy. Strong and healthy, she loved to chase balls and behave as most dogs do.

As different as they were, the two were best buddies and could mastermind mischief — namely, escaping the fence. Anytime they looked at each other in that special way, I knew it meant trouble. They’d take off across the vineyard and into the woods, exploring together. At times, the bond between them was stronger than what they had with me. 

Several times I brought them with me to The Dalles, where I was working on a vineyard project. We stayed at the Comfort Inn. I guess I didn’t read the part that said only one small dog per room. They always claimed the queen size beds before I had a chance. 

In August, I debated whether to leave them at home or take them with me to the Gorge. If I left them at home, there was a good chance they’d escape the fence again. There were times they had run off and were missing all day. 

Against the advice of my mom, I decided to leave them at home because of the hot weather, dust, ticks and the risk of them running off. Instead of rushing home, I visited a winery or two and then stopped to eat a burger in Hood River. Just as my order arrived, my neighbor called to say the dogs had gotten out and only Ally had returned. Ally was acting scared and visibly upset.

My worst fear was coming true. My sweet Carlile was missing and was surely dead or gone. I bawled all the way from The Dalles. I got home and hiked around in the new clearcut in the dark, mud and rain with Ally trying to find any trace of Carlile. I realized just how much this very special lovable dog meant to me. 

The next morning, feeling sick to my stomach, I called Animal Control. The officer asked me if I owned two big, strong black dogs that were littermates. Yes, indeed! Carlile was still alive! 

When we reunited, she jumped up on me and gave me kisses. The dog control officer told me my sweet pooches had killed a sheep — as I said, they could be unpredictable. He added that that most livestock kills were done by littermates because of their strong instinctual bond. 

After three years of challenges and lots of affection with Carlile and Ally — and just when I thought life would be easier with them — I lost Carlile to a painful bone infection. She was in so much agony; she didn’t even want me to rub her stomach. 

I was with her at the end. As I cried, she whimpered, but even in all her pain, she lifted her head and gave me a big sloppy kiss before we said a final goodbye. 

She is now buried under the big 200-year-old oak tree above my two acres of baby vines. She will keep good watch over the vineyard as she always did. I have been waiting for the right name. And now, I have it: Carlile’s Vineyard.

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