Thousands of good dogs are getting extra love these days to honor a golden retriever named Charlie.
After losing Charlie to lymphoma earlier this month, Sallie Gregory Hammett cried for about four days straight. Then she decided to do something different with her grief: write his obituary.
“I wanted to get down all of this quirks,” she told TODAY. “Not that I think I’ll ever forget them, but I wanted to immortalize them and write down every little thing, like him hating stairs and loving peanut butter and all that stuff. I wanted him to be recognized for how important he was to me.”
Despite her loss, Hammett managed to capture canine whimsy — “If we’re being honest, Charlie loved everything life had to offer (except stairs. He hated stairs)” — as well as the deep love they shared. She concluded the obituary with a poignant request to readers: “He will be forever missed and forever remembered, but he left behind his fierce love, which never wavered. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you give all your pups some extra love in honor of Charlie.”
The message resonated. Soon after posting Charlie’s obituary on Twitter on Sept. 22, it went viral. It’s been liked over 108,000 times, and more than 3,000 people have commented, sharing condolences and photos of pets getting extra love or deceased dogs who will be greeting Charlie on the other side.
The response has been a great comfort for Hammett.
“It’s been a distraction because I have a new dog picture to look at every two minutes, which was an unrealized dream of mine,” she said. “It’s been so overwhelming but heartwarming, too. Overwhelming in a great way, because it’s made me feel like my grief is shared, and it’s just so cool that so many people are getting to know Charlie.”
Hammett, 30, named Charlie after the character Charlie Conway from the film “The Mighty Ducks” — her favorite movie franchise growing up — when he was just 8 weeks old. Throughout his life, he lived up to his namesake’s heart, soul and leadership qualities.
“He was just the best dog right from the get-go, and I knew that he was meant to be my buddy,” she said.
Charlie was Hammett’s constant companion. She was 23 years old, single and starting a new job in a new city: Greenville, South Carolina. The advertising agency where she worked was pet-friendly, so Charlie came with her to the office. In their downtime, they traveled, hiked in the mountains, played on the beach and tailgated at her alma mater, Clemson University.
“He was an adventurous dog, and he was happy anywhere we would go and see people. You should have seen him tailgating in Clemson — he thought all 40,000 of those people were there to see him,” she said. “He loved people and loved adventure.”
When Hammett married her husband, David, this past May, Charlie sat in the front row. The 7-year-old dog had been diagnosed with lymphoma the previous month, and his life expectancy was just a month or two, so she was grateful that he made it to the special day.
Hammett appreciated every extra moment with Charlie, which is why she suggested dog lovers honor his death by giving extra love to their pets.
Ultimately, she hopes his life helps inspires people to live more like Charlie. As she wrote in his obituary, “He was good at a lot of things, but he was best at unconditional love.”
“I would love for his legacy to be inspiring people to reach for that unconditional love,” she said. “I hope people could learn to love each other and be kinder to each other like a dog would.”