I woke up with a heavy heart, wiggling my toes, feeling so strange without the familiar weight on my feet, the absence of that soft tongue licking my toes, the thumping tail when it was clear that the humans were awake. (Breakfast!!)
It’s hard to believe still that the day before yesterday we lost Cooper. I can be perfectly fine, feeling strong and in control of my emotions, and then suddenly I am a weeping mess as a wave of grief crashes over me. It’s still surreal, still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that we lost our seemingly healthy and vivacious girl in the space of just over an hour; everything was fine…and then it went horribly wrong in a heartbeat. The scenes keep playing in my mind over and over, that sense of dread and fear that I felt knowing without a doubt my dog was dying. The helplessness and the sorrow.
Nighttime and mealtime are the most difficult…one foodbowl instead of two, Sophie next to me, but no heavy weight of Coops snoring on my feet or tap dancing on the footboard. As Dan said, she was such a larger-than-life presence in our home, often too smart for her own good. We started spelling to try to outwit her, and then she learned how to spell. We could tell her a specific toy to bring us from her large stash of toys, and she never failed to bring it. When I first gave her a bath as a puppy, she wouldn’t look at me or listen to me for three days. Three days! All of that time she continued to lavish Dan with love and affection. I have never in my life known a dog to have an attitude or hold a grudge. She had us well-trained; she waited until she heard me open the treat jar before she would conveniently decide to answer my call to come inside. (That’s where she earned the nickname ‘Little Sh*t’). She was a mess, but the most wonderful kind of mess.
A good friend of ours told Dan that people and dogs like Cooper don’t live long because they cram so much life into the years they have with us; they burn out like a super nova, expending their life force in a vibrant and beautiful display. I see that so clearly in Coops; she was incredibly full of life and personality from the first moment I found her in the alley. She brought character and humor and life into our home, and that void will be hard to fill. Our hearts are aching and it feels like we are living in black and white instead of technicolor now.
I had just pulled into a parking place at the grocery store when a reply text from Dan came (I had asked if he needed anything)…
Leave it to Dan to know we needed something special, something outside the box, to help us escape the heavy cloak of sadness for a little while. I love being home always, but a break from so many reminders of our loss was just what the doctor ordered. We went to a late matinee showing of the movie (loved it!), and then headed to our favorite restaurant to enjoy a cocktail and nice dinner, thanks to the kindness of dear friends who had given us an Ocean gift certificate a while back. What a lovely evening from beginning to end, and soul-medicinal, as well.
It began raining again after Coops died, so I wasn’t able to walk Sophie yesterday. I was determined to get her out this morning and waited for a break in the showers that were forecast to keep passing over us throughout the day. I don’t know why I felt so driven to go for that first solo walk- perhaps it was like falling off of a horse; they say if you don’t get right back on, you’ll develop a fear of riding. I have walked hundreds and hundreds of miles with my dogs over many years, and I never want to lose the love of that shared bonding activity, that connection, with them. I don’t want to forever see Cooper collapsed and dying on the sidewalk in my mind, either.
Dan suggested that I take a different route, and I agreed- I am just not ready yet to walk down that sidewalk for a bit. Sophie and I headed out and I let myself walk where it felt right. We passed several homes with dogs who barked at us through windows and doors, inside, I’m sure, because of the threat of inclement weather. We’ll develop our own special route, learning where the dogs are and the best streets for looking at old houses.
As I walked, I thought about Coops, remembering so many happy and fun times with our goofy girl. I imagined her running free wherever Heaven is, smiling as I thought of her with my mom, eating whatever she wanted…she was always such a huge chowhound. My heart swelled as I realized yet again what a great life we gave a little puppy who had been thrown away- and what a great addition she was to the fabric of our sense of home- I think of her as rich gold and red colors in the tapestry of our life at Chez Gainey. She brought so much heart to everything she did. It felt so strange and sad to feel the joy of just one dog at the end of the leash instead of two as we walked on the not as familiar sidewalks. On second thought, though, maybe I felt that joy of two black dogs at the end of the leash after all.
**Several people have urged us to adopt another dog right away. After a lot of thought, we’ve made the decision to give ourselves time to heal and to focus on Sophie right now. When we feel ready, we will look forward to opening our home to a new dog and cat.