Jeneé Osterheldt

Dogs know how to live

Charli Brown never met a flower she wouldn’t smell.
Charli Brown never met a flower she wouldn’t smell. The Kansas City Star

She always stops to smell the flowers.

Not even a bee sting can keep my boxer Charli Brown from appreciating a good bloom — pansies, roses, petunias, she loves them all. Sweet dog of mine, she’s always teaching me.

Her shake-the-past and enjoy the moment attitude? I need that. I’ve been so caught up in her making it to her 10th birthday next year, so anxiety-ridden over the chance of a cancer relapse and a battle with an eye ucler that just wouldn’t quit, that I forgot to have fun with her. After nearly two months in a cone and a successful surgery, she’s all better. (And thank you to all my readers, especially Grace Fiorella, for your outpouring of support.)

Her eye is healed. That tumor on her foot is gone. It was benign. Her ninth birthday came and went, but I had still been treating her like a patient, always telling her to slow down.

I was caught up in the possibilities of what might happen. She could lose her eye, I thought. The cancer is back again, I worried. So many skin tags and tumors popping up, her time is coming and I just wanted to fight it. She started to look like one, big heartbreaking goodbye, and it hurt deep in my soul.

She doesn’t know what an ulcer or cancer is. Yet she beat them both. And this past week, she reminded me who she really is: Charli Lola Brown, ever the downtown diva, lover of flowers, treats, running and a good cuddle.

Peppermint Patty is our baby beast of a wild child, the boxer with no boundaries, jumping over couches and treating every day like a wrestling match. She doesn’t smell the flowers — she eats them. Her energy level is always at 100. Charli normally can’t keep up. We often tell Pep to lay off of her older sister. But Charli can handle herself.

Lately, she’s the one jumping all over Pep, hanging over the couch and greeting us with full-force jumps and hugs and wet kisses. The other day, she dragged me across the pocket park to pounce around near a new patch of flowers. She instigated a game of chase with me, grabbing at my legs in her version of tag.

At home, sometimes she walks over to the kitchen when I’m cooking and looks up at me, sitting and staring, willing me to give her a spoonful of peanut butter. I look at her. I see a pink scar splashed across her right foot, and the tiniest piece of her ear missing from that cancerous tumor we had removed some five years ago. Her left eye, no longer cloudy and stuck in a perpetual wink, is bright and filled with excitement and a strange wisdom. That beautiful boxer face and the most charming frown ever is covered in gray hair.

Illnesses, bumps and bruises do not define her. I see beyond that now. Every day is brand new for Charli Brown, an opportunity for more snuggling, more sloppy kisses, more treats, more boxing and racing and gardens to peruse.

I’m no longer wishing and praying and hoping for that 10th birthday. I’m borrowing from the book of Charli Brown and enjoying every moment God gives us. Scabs and scars are a part of life, but we keep on moving. We keep on loving. We keep on smelling the flowers.

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or email “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at