The boys in the band were setting up for a show one Sunday late last summer when they noticed their drummer was a little off.
They asked him what was wrong, and he told them about his dog.
The Hilton Head Island reggae group was just minutes away from its 1 p.m. Sunday set at the Tiki Hut and, in the words of bassist and vocalist Jos Vicars, Critchley was “rattled hard, and we were all rattled hard.”
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Their drummer was struggling with the decision many dog owners know they’ll face some day: when is it time to say goodbye?
It would not be today, though, so the band played.
SoundBoy’s first set was “more melancholy reggae,” according to Vicars, but the music had perked up through the late afternoon when the gig ended around 5 p.m.
And after they finished their last set, Critchley’s mates came up with a plan.
Caleb was a fixture in their drummer’s studio and had recorded with band members on several occasions.
“(Caleb) was a mood-setter,” Vicars said. “Sometimes he would literally be wearing sunglasses.”
Critchley would sometimes pose the dog near a keyboard or behind a mic, and he’d put earmuffs on his best friend’s head to dampen the noise. The goldendoodle eased the stress in the studio.
“It drives a (musician) crazy when you’re sitting there (in the studio) thinking about your art and how it’s gonna come out,” Vicars said. “But (Caleb) just melts tension. ... He’s like a little Buddha.”
Caleb had followed Critchley from the West Coast to the East. He was a six-week-old puppy when the drummer and sound engineer picked him up from a San Diego-area breeder in 2006. He would go on to spend studio time with Disney artists and hang out in the sound room with Hilton Head band Cranford Hollow, when it cut its self-titled album in 2013.
Caleb “thought he was a lap dog,” Critchley said.
“He’s the most special non-human I’ve ever had in my life,” Critchley said.
There’s a picture of Caleb wearing headphones, his paw on a keyboard, that, unbeknownst to Critchley, made its way to local painter Janet Lynn Scarbrough.
“It’s a fair amount,” Scarbrough said Friday, when asked how many dogs she’s memorialized, a number she guessed was around 15 in the last year. “It’s a thoughtful gift. People really appreciate them.”
Shortly after its late-summer show, SoundBoy’s members contacted the artist and commissioned a painting of the dog.
Their band had just formed in the last year, but some of its musicians had been close for over a decade.
And they didn’t know how much time their studio mascot had left.
Caleb’s kidneys were failing at the time, according to Critchley. Sometimes he’d pass up food. But soon after a week in a “doggy (intensive care unit)“ — and a terminal diagnosis — he seemed to bounce back.
He got to eat whatever he wanted.
He went for daily swims in a neighbor’s pool.
He lived and loved and was loved on for about four more months, when he again started to weaken.
By then it was time.
Caleb went peacefully with help from a kind veterinarian, Critchley said.
It was just days before another SoundBoy show, Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Tiki Hut.
When Critchley arrived to set up that day, his band mates gave him the painting — one they’d been holding for months.
The band hugged.
“On one level, it’s (a story about) a man and his dog,” Critchley said.
“But on another level, it’s a story about Hilton Head,” he continued. “Or any small town, that knows how to put a warm blanket on someone going through a hard time.”
Today, Caleb — rendered in acrylic paint on stretched canvas — rests in a chair in a nook off Critchley’s kitchen.
He’s surrounded by a houseful of pictures of him in sunglasses, sitting behind mics, hanging out in the studio.
He’s wearing his headphones.
His paw’s on the keyboard.