I was on my morning jog the other day, rolling down Colley Avenue in front of Daniel's Lawn and Garden, when I saw Charles the Monarch galloping toward me.
Unlike the person on the now-famous 911 call who reported a lion running the streets of Norfolk, I knew it was Charles. He doesn't sprint in the way the King of the Jungle sprints across the Serengeti. Instead, Charles lopes the way a labradoodle is supposed to, looking somewhat clumsy and always playful. I figured I was about to be pawed to death, not gnawed to death, by the King of Colley Avenue.
I picked up the pace.
"Hey Radford, wait up!"
It was Charles the Monarch - er, Charles the dog - speaking to me.
I figured I must be having some type of Doctor Doolittle moment. But I didn't want to go all Eddie Murphy - or for the older set, Rex Harrison - so I went Robert De Niro from "Taxi Driver" instead and said, "You talking to me?"
"You're Rich Radford, right?" Charles asked.
"Uh, yeah, guilty as charged."
"Man, I gotta talk to somebody. You got a sec?"
"Uh, I guess. But why me?"
"Because you're the first person who ever wrote about me, way back in the day when I was just a pup."
The dog had a pretty good memory. Years ago I had blogged about Charles and had even run a picture of him in that blog, back when I wrote for The Virginian-Pilot.
"You're a dog guy, right? I've seen you walking that short little thing around the `hood, what's his name?"
"You mean Chester?"
"Yeah, Chester. Well, anyway, I figured since you're a dog guy you'd have a little sympathy for me and could tell my story. I'll give you an exclusive."
"I don't have a notebook with me."
"It's not like I'm going to sue you for misquoting me. Nobody's going to believe you were talking to a dog anyway."
"You got a point. So how are we going to do this? I just ask you questions?"
"Fire away," Charles said as he sat down and started scratching his ear lazily with a back paw.
"Well, first, how was New York?" For those who didn't know, Charles had been an internet and world sensation for the past week. Once it got out that someone has mistaken him for a lion roaming the streets of Norfolk, Va., Charles was the talk of the country as his story went viral and he reached celebrity status.
If you didn't think his story would go viral, you don't know the internet. Three things are sure to go viral on the Internet: Cute babies, cute pets, and any skateboarder stupid enough to land on his private parts while trying to do a stupid skateboarding stunt on some handrail.
Charles went to New York for a host of appearances and was on Good Morning America and Today. He got mad props from Al Roker and Anderson Cooper. He has his own facebook page and it has over 49,000 likes, picking up almost 35,000 likes in the last week alone. Heck, he even made an appearance at the Ted Constant Center the other day before a Lady Monarchs game, posing for pictures for the hour before game time.
"New York was a lot of fun and, oh man, I got to meet Charlie Sheen."
"Charlie Sheen? You mean the guy you had your picture taken with in the elevator? The picture that's made it around the Internet? I hate to be the one to tell you, but that wasn't Charlie Sheen. That was Rob Lowe."
"What? Rob Lowe? Aw man, you have got to be kidding me. I thought that was Charlie Sheen. Rob Lowe is grade-B material. I really wanted to meet Charlie Sheen."
"Because I hear he's a dog!" Charles started rolling in the grass, laughing at himself. "He's a dog, get it?"
I rolled my eyes and Charles rolled back over and shook his head, his ears flopping all over the place.
"Next question: Do you like being groomed to look like a lion?" For those who don't know. Charles' owners decided a few years ago to grow the hair on his neck longer and dye it a darker color, making his scruff look like a lion's mane. That's, pretty much, what has caused this furor.
"Great question. Yes and no."
"It's awesome on game day when everybody wants to treat me like a celebrity. But on normal days it's...well... let's just say it's killing my love life. Like just the other day there's this really cute standard poodle walking down the street and I'm like, `Hey baby, how you doing?' And she just looks at me and says, `What's with the Just For Men?' "
"Tell me about it. I'm like, `Hey baby, it's just for show. My owner does it for the fun of it, to make me look like a lion, ya know?' She put her nose in the air like someone had served her dry food."
"But it's good on game days, right?"
"It's awesome on game days. I eat like a horse on game days."
"You seem to be confused there, Charles. You're a dog groomed to look like a lion who wants to eat like a horse. By the way, I've seen you actually put your front paws onto tables at tailgate parties and steal food."
"What do you want me to do, beg for it? I got places to be and people to see."
"You also seem to not mind relieving yourself at tailgates."
"Like I said, places to be and people to see. Plus, it would look a little strange if I rolled into a port-a-potty, don't you think?"
"Look Charles, I'm talking to a dog. I don't know what to think at the moment."
"How long do you think your 15 minutes of fame will actually last?"
"Well, in dog years...What's 15 times seven? I grew up in a litter, not a school." Charles was again on his back, rolling in laughter.
"You obviously haven't been to obedience school either."
"Hey buddy, tact is for people who aren't witty enough to be sarcastic."
"Good point. To answer your question 15 times seven would be 105 minutes. But Charles, I think you have the equation backwards. For every human year, you are seven years old. So your fame should have lasted about two minutes and 14 seconds."
"Charles, did you hear me?"
Alas, Charles' eyes had glazed over, he had lost concentration on our conversation.
He would say only one more word to me: "Squirrel!"
And like that, our conversation was over.
Oh well, it's a dog's life...Unless you are Charles the Monarch.