Monday, July 15, 2013

Coco's now playing in that big pond in the sky

Coco and Annie
Our dog Coco passed today. We had her put to sleep, as the old saying goes. Put out of her misery.

We humans get to make that decision about our pets. Our family has had to make it too many times. A choice between peace and what we perceive as more suffering. Coco was too good a dog to allow her to keep hemorrhaging or suffer seizures as the cancer ate through her brain and into the skull.

She was only 7. Our previous dog, Precious, lived to 14 and, our cat, Diamond, 12. That seems about right for a dog and pretty darn good for a tom cat who spent most of his time outside. We just lost a black-and-white tom, Bubba. One night he didn't come home. He left behind his brother Teddy, who now seems a bit rudderless. 

Today was Coco's fourth trip to the vet for her persistent malady. First it seemed like a dental problem and then an immune system disorder and finally, today, we discovered the grim truth. As the vet explained the shadowy mass in her brain and the missing bone mass, we knew what decision to make. We postponed the end, taking Coco for a walk along the greenway adjacent to Avenues Pet Clinic.

While my wife Chris stayed in the office to put Coco's paperwork in order, our daughter Annie and I walked the dog to a local pond. Coco went right in, scattering the ducks, and then ignoring them. She lifted her paw, smacked it down on the water and tried to gulp the geyser that erupted into the dry Wyoming afternoon. She wasn't really a water dog. She never went farther than leg-deep. We once took her swimming in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The clear water was cool on that cloudless August day. We all got as wet as we could, but Coco halted before her torso touched the surface."This is as far as I go, silly humans."

Coco liked one other form of water. I put the nozzle on the garden hose and turned it on full blast. I let the water jet onto the lawn, and Coco leapt and bit it. She attacked that water, occasionally hacking as a wave of Rocky Mountain runoff clogged her throat. She did this as long as I held the hose. It could have been hours -- she always outlasted me.

Coco despised baths, and she suffered through brushing her thick brindle coat. She liked humans well enough, and she grew up with cats. But she wasn't overly fond of other dogs. She carried on a long-running feud with Tommy the Golden Retriever next door. They shared a fence. Coco would perk up when she heard Tommy moving about. She raced to the stockade fence where she and Tommy faced off separated by an inch of weathered wood. Most contests were declared a draw. As far as I know, she and Tommy never actually had a physical clash. Nobody seems to know what got them started.

Coco was a stray that was caught up in one of the Laramie County Humane Society dragnets. When Annie and I met her, she shared an enclosure with a bigger dog. When Annie approached, Coco moved to the gate, growled at her kennel mate and then jumped up, inviting Annie to pet her. She did. The sign on the kennel said half pit bull, half Labrador. She didn't look like either.

I urged Annie to move along, as had had lots of pups to consider. She wanted a little pup, while Coco's age was listed as six months. We visited all the dogs. While I was busy petting a little German Shepherd mix, Annie disappeared. I found her back at Coco's cage. She wanted to take the pup for a walk at the adjacent dog park. I could tell that she and Coco were a good match. Annie was 13 and she and Coco ran around for an hour. "I want this one," Annie said finally.
Now she's 20 and Coco's no longer with us. After we all arrived home from the vet's, Annie composed a slide show of Coco photos. Coco gamboling through the snow. Coco in a pond. Coco on Annie's lap. Brief moments in our lives.

Annie will finish up at the community college soon and will be off to some university and then will be busy with other things. Coco's memory will fade. She will own other dogs and cats. Her kids may insist, as she did with us, as did her brother before her.

As for me, I may be done with dogs. I have said farewell to too many of them. But one day, I will miss the miss the cold nose pushed into my face too early in the morning. I may miss the feel of a dog's sloping head in my aging palm. I may even miss a bark erupting for no discernible reason. There's nothing for this but to get another dog, as painful as it seems right now.

Farewell, Coco. Enjoy that big pond in the sky. And don't go in too deep.


RobertP said...


Very sorry to hear this. But glad you gave a shelter dog a great life.And I think Annie will remember her always.

My mom was in from Chicago this weekend and somehow the conversation wandered to one of the coolest dogs that ever walked this earth-Bart.She remembered that my older brother Bruce complained about picking up fleas when he came to visit the house in Gainesville. Fleas never bothered me so I figured he was just whining.

One regret I have is that I have no pictures of Bart. You were a good housemate, but Bart was a great housemate. He followed me to the mini-mart one day, walked up to a biker sitting on his very nice bike, and proceeded to pee on his front wheel while we both watched. As I watched my life flash in front of me and mumbled an apology, the biker said "don't worry about it.". That is how cool of a dog Bart was. I still miss him.

So take comfort in knowing you have been a dad to some great dogs. It is a measure of the man and the dog how much it hurts to bid them goodbye.


Michael Shay said...

Bob: I remember that story about Bart. Thanks for reminding me. He was a good housemate, wasn't he? He and Stormy's dog were mortal enemies, though. What was his name? Joe? They got into some fights. I was distraught when Bart disappeared from my parents' house in Daytona. Chris and I had just moved to Denver and were trying to get an apartment or house that allowed pets. Bart's downfall was climbing fences to get out of the backyard. And he would jump right into a car if you invited him to. Never known a dog who loved car rides so much.