Yesterday, I said goodbye to a very dear friend, my dog Cody. I decided that, although totally off topic, to dedicate this blog to him, to share some of his story with you, in hopes that he will live on in cyberspace; that you will scratch your pet a little bit more tonight, take the “long” walk, give that extra treat.
I first found out Cody was sick about 2 months ago. He started limping on his front “driver’s side” leg, as my dad would call it. The vets, who also offer outpatient, or virtual vet visits, said it was bone cancer, and I think the word he used was “devastating”. Devastating. I hate that word. I said it over and over in my head until it made me sick to my stomach. Which is not totally unusual, as I am always sick to my stomach. There was nothing we could do. It was just a matter of months, and we would lose our happy, slobbery, best dog in the world. To say that I haven’t cried everyday since I found out would be a lie. I was devastated, to say the least.
I contemplated tattooing his name on my wrist. That way it would be the first thing I saw, and thought about each morning. A little drastic, right? I mean, he is just a dog. But all you dog lovers know exactly what I’m talking about. That “need” for them to live on in your thoughts forever. Those of you who aren’t, well, probably think I’m nuts. If you’ve ever had a dog that’s been a member of the family, and hopefully you have, then you know just how hard it is to lose them. Dog’s are more than just pets – they are companions, best friends, therapists, and teachers. Although my dad always claimed that dogs don’t really love, I never believed him. After all, isn’t it from dogs that we learn to love someone completely, flaws and all? Cody taught me what it meant to be brave. Not once during those last two months did he whimper or whine. He sure did beg, but he never whined. Even down to his last hours, when he could barely walk, he still managed to greet us at the door, tail wagging, with his favorite stuffed duck.
Cody hated celery. He craved chocolate like a diabetic. He hated the ground. He preferred to sit in chairs and be with his humans. The “No dogs on the couch rule” my dad had instated upon adopting Cody lasted maybe 3 minutes. He wanted to be up off that floor, as close to us as he could be. Who could resist those baby paws, that puppy whimper? The answer to that was none of us; not myself, my mom, my brother, especially not my dad could resist those bright puppy eyes.
Cody lived an amazing 8 years; an ideal dog’s life. He had a family who loved him, and treated him as such. He was more than a dog – he was just as much a member of the family as anyone else. His happiness was shown through his smiles and laughter (yes, dogs do both, but their laughter sounds more like a “pant’), his slobbery kisses, and the frequent toys that he brought you each day. He was awarded for being the best dog in the world with furniture privileges and treats; sleeping in between my parents each night, and frequently getting the last of any meal. Some of his favorites were Starbucks and french fries.
All of the neighbors knew Cody, as he tended to wander down the block into their yards whenever he felt like it. The electric fence we had installed never seemed to faze him much. He loved car rides almost as much as he loved chocolate. At times, I could swear he literally asked to go with for a car ride. I would frequently hear this conversation between my mom and Cody, all the while watching Cody give mom his sad puppy eyes.
Mom: “You don’t really want to go for a car ride, it’s too hot, Code.” Then there would be a stare off between my mom and Cody. “Do you really want to come with, Code? It’s so hot.” One last stare down. “OK. Lets go for a car ride.” Then Cody would get very excited – whining, jumping, wagging his tail. Cody was a very smart dog.
Inevitably, in your lifetime, whether you are a parent or a teacher, you will experience the death of a pet, or have a child who has experienced the death of a pet. I have found a few great children’s books that may help explain to your child what happened to your beloved pet, or provide some sense of why it happened.
Everyone who has ever lost a pet needs to pick up Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant because of the simple quote: “When dogs go to heaven, they don’t need wings because God knows that dogs love running best.” It is a great way to remember, and say goodbye, to your faithful friend.
Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker is a sweet story of a family’s love and respect for a dog they certainly viewed as a member of the family.
Last, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is an excellent springboard for families of every religious persuasion to discuss what they feel happens after we die. The book helps children put into words many questions that they might be too young to articulate, and helps parents answer them for him as best you can. The writing is excellent, and perfectly captures the voice of a young boy.
Today, the house feels quiet and empty. Tears stream down my face as I write this story. At least I know he will always live on in my memory, and now this blog. They say that blood is thicker than water. Well in this case, I believe it’s slobber that’s thicker than water.
Until we meet again, Cody. Rest in peace…