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Remembering Charlie

Lake Oswego chiropracter's beloved therapy dog is killed by a car, prompting tears and an outpouring of affection

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Charlie the labradoodle sits on Dr. Tim Saruk's lap during a photo session in June. The therapy dog was killed Aug. 15 after being hit by a car near his home.Charlie, the lovable labradoodle who comforted Dr. Tim Saruk’s patients at his chiropractic clinic in Lake Oswego, was hit by a car and killed Aug. 15 on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Portland, just a couple of blocks from his home.

“It was devastating,” says Saruk, who works out of Trainer’s Club on State Street. “One of my neighbors came into my other clinic in Portland. He said, ‘There’s no easy way to tell you this.’ I was in shock. I couldn’t believe the whole situation.”

Charlie was just a year old, but his skills as a therapy dog were obvious. If patients didn’t like dogs, Charlie would go off in a corner to take a nap. If they liked dogs, they could scratch Charlie’s fleecy head. And if they loved dogs, well, Charlie was known to sit on more than a few laps.

“Charlie does everything a therapy dog should do,” Saruk told The Review for a story that appeared in the June 9 Neighbors section. “Charlie is a born comforter. He can still be a puppy, but he has the makeup to be calm and soothing.”

Charlie was in his kennel at home on Aug. 15, waiting for Saruk to take him to the clinic, when a latch on the kennel door apparently came undone. Charlie got out, jumped out a first-floor window, crawled under a fence and almost immediately was hit by a car.

“Maybe he thought he was going to work,” Saruk says.

The hardest part, Saruk says, was breaking the news to his wife Lauren and their young sons, Lincoln and Finley.

“Charlie is gone,” he told them.

The death of a family pet is always an occasion for great mourning, but Charlie had assumed a lot of responsibility in his short life. He was acquired during what Saruk says was “probably the most difficult time of our lives.”

Tim and Lauren’s 7-year-old son Lincoln is a special needs child, and the family found itself going through a terribly difficult period of adjustment. When the bad times came, Saruk says, “It was all hands on deck.”

Charlie proved to be a great source of comfort for the entire family, but especially for 5-year-old Finley.

“When I walked into Finley’s room, Charlie was usually on the bed, and Finley was reading to him,” Saruk says.

Charlie wasn’t just a peacemaker at home; he was also a big part of Saruk’s business. Even when Charlie was a puppy, Saruk could tell how incredibly gentle he was and how his presence had a calming effect on others. Saruk’s patients would often sink their fingers into Charlie’s curly, furry head during treatment, and the result was instant tranquility.

“The reaction to Charlie’s death has been overwhelming,” Saruk says. “People told me, ‘That dog has a special place in my heart,’ and ‘I’m not even a dog person and I am feeling a loss.’“

When Saruk’s wife posted Charlie’s story on their Facebook site, there was an immediate outpouring of emotions, and readers immediately took up a campaign to buy another dog for the Saruk family. Charlie had been a breeder dog for a couple litters of puppies, and the first batch are expected to arrive in September.

Until then, the Saruks are holding on to memories of Charlie and taking comfort in his last gift to them. When the news of Charlie’s death was announced, there was an outburst of tears — except from young Finley. He set his jaw and didn’t shed a tear. That stunned his parents, until Saruk realized that Finley was trying to be a source of stability as chaos was breaking out all around him.

“No 5-year-old should have a burden like that,” Saruk says. “The last gift Charlie gave us was this insight into Finley. I told him there’s a big ball of hurt inside your heart, but each time you cry, it will get smaller.”

The burden is sure to get lighter for all of the Saruks when one of Charlie’s puppies joins the family later this year. Its name has already been chosen: Huck, after Huck Finn. It’s a name that goes well with Finley.

“We’re going to train it to be another Charlie,” Saruk says.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..