Charlie is rescued again

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Following a memorial service Thursday for Mary Beth Pierce-Bowen, her best friend &uot;Charlie&uot; returned to the foster home that had first rescued him in November 2003. It was a bittersweet reunion since he’d lost his beloved owner to debilitating asthma.

Bowen had suffered all of her life with the ailment, and willed her body to UVA Medical School for research into the disease. According to those who knew her, that’s the way she was in life: generous. It was this quality that brought her and Charlie, a rescued Bichon Frise, together in the first place.


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Bowen is remembered by her friends as a sweet person with a &uot;Betty Boop&uot; voice who spent most of her life demonstrating and getting herself arrested for animal rights causes. She came to Suffolk a few years ago from Massachusetts and she would often joke with friends that the Boston &uot;paddy wagons&uot; knew her on a first-name basis.

Most of the residents in the Plummer Plaza retirement center are elderly people, but Bowen, only 54 years old, was allowed to live there because of her physical disability.

Robin Gray, a close friend, said Bowen was always helpful to others at the center and performed many small kindnesses for her neighbors. During the memorial service she was remembered for the many things she gave them and did for them. Gray said many, many tears were shed during Bowen’s memorial service.

Friends also described Bowen as a fun-loving and giving person. In fact, it was because of her caring nature that she was given the gift of Charlie.

One of Bowen’s close friends, Judy Hallenbeck, a resident of Whaleyville, said the little white ball of fluff was the light of Bowen’s life after she adopted him from Robin and Jack Gray’s &uot;Tidewater Bichon Frise Rescue.&uot; Robin said that when she first took Charlie as a rescue animal, he’d been kept in a small cage for the entire two years of his life – his feet had never touched grass until she took him to her Whaleyville home.

Gray said she had taken care of Charlie during one of Bowen’s hospitalizations, and Bowen had later participated in one of their &uot;Bichon Bashes,&uot; events where the little dogs are adopted by their new families.

&uot;She was so happy to be going to the event for the little dogs,&uot; said Hallenbeck. &uot;How little did we know that two weeks later she would be gone. We now have Charlie permanently but it is bittersweet. We love him, but wish he could still be with Mary Beth.&uot;

Those attending the memorial service at the apartments where Bowen lived walked down to where a tree, dogwood, of course, has been planted for Bowen. A plaque will be added to the site in the near future.

Gray, owner of &uot;White Dog Cottage&uot; in Whaleyville, said the Bichon Rescue group never knew the extremity of Bowen’s illness.

&uot;I think Mary Beth knew that she was dying but lived life to the fullest and wasn’t ready to sit down and wait for death to strike,&uot; said Gray. &uot;She had had a very hard life before we knew her. It was like a daytime drama! Jack and I asked each other would we adopt (one of the Bichons) to her again…Yes ,she was so special that I believe we would. Mary Beth &uot;needed&uot; Charlie as much as he needed her and it was love at first sight for the both of them.&uot;

Hallenbeck, one of the rescue’s foster moms, added that the rescue group invests a lot of time into finding the Bichons a loving &uot;forever home.&uot; She added that Charlie now has his home with her and the rest of the Hallenbeck family.

&uot;These dogs have previously been through the trauma of losing their homes,&uot; she said. &uot;An inappropriate placement means the animal will come back to the rescue and again have to make another adjustment. We don’t want Charlie to have to go through that again.&uot;

For details on the Tidewater Bichon Frise Rescue, or to apply for adopting one of the little dogs, call 986-BARK or log onto