Remember Charlie
Saline's Famed Canine Dies of Cancer at Age 9
ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 19, 1999

SALINE -- One of Saline's most famous faces didn't look like a typical celebrity -- but his job at a local gas station earned him national fame. This week, the Golden Retriever named Charlie died of cancer at age 9.
Charlie was a standby at Harry's Service, cheerfully trotting up to cars at the gas station and grabbing motorists' money in his mouth to take back to the cashier. His gentle nature won the trust of patrons.
"I got people coming in this morning with tears in their eyes," Rick Parsons, Charlie's owner and the station's manager, told the Ann Arbor News. "He was pretty special."
Parsons learned the dog had lymphoma a month ago and tried chemotherapy. It worked temporarily, but Charlie took a turn for the worse Monday morning. Parsons tried to drive him to a veterinarian in Ann Arbor.
"Going through town in Saline he stuck his head up, but by the time we got to Ann Arbor-Saline Road he was dead," Parsons said.
Charlie would have turned 10 in October.
"He sure stole our hearts," said Emily Miller, a regular visitor from Ann Arbor. "Whenever I'd go into the store, there'd always be people there fussing over Charlie."
Charlie's local fame spread in 1996 when he was the subject of several news stories. CNN, "Inside Edition" and dozens of newspapers and TV and radio stations featured Charlie. He also earned a spot as grand marshal of the Saline Celtic Festival parade in 1996 and rode on a miniature gas station float in the city's Christmas parade.
Marathon Gas shot a video of Charlie at work for its corporate office and built him a dog house. And the cable channel Animal Planet filmed Charlie for a show about working dogs to air this fall.
Parsons bought Charlie in 1989 when he was a puppy. Charlie learned his trade by imitating Parsons' other dog, Shawn, who would plop her paws on the counter in the station. He soon expanded his efforts to retrieving bills -- with lots of petting and treats as incentive to keep up his work.
Cindy Plumley said she almost ran out of gas many times because she wanted to make it to Harry's to see Charlie. Plumley adopted one of Charlie's puppies 18 months ago. "I never knew I loved dogs so much until I met Charlie," she said.
Charlie's legacy will live on in the three dozen puppies he fathered. Parsons kept one -- Benjamin -- who also hangs around the station. Parsons says Benjamin is still too young to take over the family business.



Book Further Immortalizes Saline Canine
By Paul Tull, Publisher Emeritus, The Saline Reporter, December 2, 1999
Charlie the Dog was a remarkable Salinian. When he passed away last summer, the friendly Golden Retriever had already become a world-class celebrity. His face smiles from the pages of countless newspapers, magazines, and on TV screens. He got bales of fan letters in the mail or in person, from almost everywhere. People traveled miles out of their way to gas up at his and Harry's and Rick's service station.
And now, as we approach the millennial holidays, Charlie seems about to achieve immortality as an author. As an author? Yes! Of a best seller? Possibly!
His very own book, titled Gas Station Charlie, has just come off the press. Since Charlie spent most of his career years at Harry's pumps, serving drivers and autos, his book could appropriately be called an - autobiography.
And the very first words of his autobiography seem to come right out of Charlie's mouth. Telling about his choice of careers, he says: "It was before my fourth birthday. I felt sad because I had nothing to do. . . I decided I had do something to make myself useful."
THAT SOUNDS pretty autobiographical, doesn't it? But by a dog? Well, not exactly. So let's let Charlie's ghost-writer explain all of this, in the dog's own words. Says Charlie:
"As I said on the first page my book, I wanted to make myself useful. So I became a gas pump jockey at Harry's and Rick's gas station. In mid-career, I had gained a lot of friends on the job. Some of them would scratch me. Some would hug or kiss me. And some would take my picture. All this fuss was part of the job routine, I guess. But early-on, I noticed one friendly lady wasn't routine. Again and again, she kept coming back with her camera. She would pump gas, and pay me, and then she would take my picture. She took lots of pictures. Other people did that, but this lady was different. She came back time after time, and every time, she would take more pictures of me.
I asked my partners, Harry and Rick, 'Who's this woman with the camera?' "They said, 'She's Doris, Don Kraushaar's wife. She must like to take dog pics.' "I could understand that. Dog pictures are prettier than people pictures.
"So from then on, when she'd ask me to pose a certain way, with a certain expression on my face, and would ask me to do it over and over, I would try really hard to cooperate. Dome people are wacky about dogs, and it's not nice to cross them.
"Then one day Doris brought another lady with her. She called her Karen. They both had cameras. They both took pictures of me. When they'd finished shooting, and were about to leave, I heard Karen say, "Let's do a book.' And, that's how my autobiography, Gas Station Charlie, began.
"Will the book make me immortal, like Shakespeare, Lassie, Hemingway, Rin-tin-tin, Peanuts or Dostoyevsky? Doris and Karen hope so, and so do all of my four-legged friends. Because the proceeds from the sale of my book will help support the programs of the Huron Valley Humane Society."

*   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *

AS YOU, the reader may already suspect, Charlie didn't exactly write his autobiography. He just inspired it. Karen Grassmuck Kraushaar, Doris's daughter-in-law -- an award-winning author, became Charlie's ghost-writer. Doris, whose earlier book -- Vibrant Ann Arbor -- has become increasingly popular, did most of the shooting. She also worked closely with Ron Fraker, graphic artist, and with White Pine Printers of Ann Arbor, to transform pictures and manuscript into a a very attractive book.
Doris, a singer and Saline Schools music teacher for 20 years, has developed her former photo hobby into an artistic profession, especially since her "retirement". The University of Michigan, and an M.A. from EMU. Now she haunts the darkrooms at Washtenaw Community College, sharpening her photo skills, and keeps in shape vocally as choir member at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor. Plus JazzElegance, a trio doing music of the '40's with piano and saxophone/clarinet.
IN A RECENT Q? & A! interview, Doris shared ideas with Reporter readers:
Q:  How do you compare your two careers, as music teacher and photographer?
A:  They're apples and oranges. Very different, but both very fulfilling and fun.

Q:  Which of your books is your favorite?
A:  Always the one I'm working on. That's especially true of Charlie's book. Karen has caught Charlie's wonderful personality with the words she has put in his mouth. She is an outstanding writer, formerly a reporter with The Ann Arbor News, with many career credits and honors since she earned a B.A. at Brown University and an M.A. in journalism from The U-M. Just as Charlie said, the decision to do his book came after Karen and I paid him one brief visit together at Harry's Service last year.

Q:  Did you both have a special relationship with Charlie?
A:  No. He just loved everyone he met.

Q:  Do you have a special relationship with Benjamin, Charlie's replacement?
A:  It's developing. He's coming along, trying hard.

Q:  What's next?
A:  I'll think of something.

Q:  How do you find time for work in the kitchen?
A:  Kitchen? What's that?

Q:  Anything else?
A:  I want to thank Harry and Rick Parsons for the encouragement and cooperation; Marathon Oil Co.; Bob Webber at White Pine; cartoonist Daniel Fenech; everyone else who've helped in so many ways; and especially Karen for the idea and the inspiration and her wonderful writing, all of which brought this book to life. Charlie agrees with that.

Your choice — turn off music or keep on.