It was a late autumn day when we took the (what felt like a trip) to go see three husky puppies. Chuck and I had barely been dating, but we knew that we were a forever. I knew that he loved the Siberian Husky breed and I had a friend who had a relative that had three pups ready to come home, bred from blue ribbon parents. None of that mattered to us at all. We sat on the floor as two reds and one gray came running to us and we knew that the little puppy with the black mask was going to join our family. His markings beautiful, but his tail was nipped a bit shorter accidently by his mom so he wasn’t show quality, which made every part of Robinett quality.
On our way home he was so excited and nervous that he made a mistake right in one of our kid’s shoes. Instead of getting mad, we laughed thinking that this just added to the already crazy blended family we were creating. Because he had the black mask on, and Chuck’s love for Alice Cooper, it was a no brainer that he would be named Cooper. Sometimes called Super Duper Cooper. Other times Super Duper Pooper Cooper. Most of the times he was just Coop.
was a great puppy, loving all of the other animals from Howard the Turtle, to Ginger the Rabbit, to all of the cats, and especially loved his sister Lucy (Shiba) and Guinness (our Aussie). He never made a mistake in the house. Rarely got into the trash. Never went after an animal, except for the time he tried to make friends with a skunk (and was sprayed in the mouth) and the baby opossum that he tried to bring in to the house, concerned it was dead – it was just playing opossum. He wasn’t perfect, though. He tore up our couch trying to play with one of the kittens who climbed into the couch (he said he was trying to save her). Or the many times he jumped 6 foot fences and was caught by the animal PoPo and put into the clinker. He loved to run, but would run away so he had to be kept on a leash after that. Everyone that came to the house was given love, and left with a lot of hair. Kids were afraid to come to the door because they thought he was a wolf. He just wanted to love on everyone. His ears were velvety soft to the touch, and he loved them pet. He would grab your arm to force you to pet his belly. He didn’t really know how to play, or just didn’t want to, but pettings and singing Happy Birthday was his favorite things to do.
Thirteen years goes by like a blink. Over the years we noticed that his mask was disappearing from his face, turning his fur all white. He was slower, not really interested in running. It was easier to lay in his dog bed than climb on to the couch. And his eye sight and hearing diminished. Instead of the friendly howl or running in circles in excitement, he whimpered in pain during his naps and at night. The veterinarian said he had issues with his kidneys and was put on new food and bottled water, antibiotics, and daily pain pills. It was over 6 months of constant mistakes in the house. He was foggy most days, not caring about food or even pets. Instead of greeting us, he would lift his head just a bit.Last week Chuck and I had a feeling. The night before his veterinarian appointment I heard him crying in his sleep, got up from the bed and laid next to him. “Just go, Cooper,” I cried. “Don’t make me make a decision,” I begged. But he was acting perky the next morning. More perky than we’d seen him in awhile. Our Guinness had done the same. “Maybe the vet will say he’s fine,” I said to Chuck, knowing all too well that wouldn’t be the case, but hopeful anyhow.
I worked that day and Chuck met me with Coop at the office. “If it’s his last day, we didn’t even give him a last day,” I cried. “He didn’t get his ice cream, or McDonald’s burger. He didn’t get a special rawhide bone. He didn’t get his goodbye with everyone, especially Connor who won’t be home for another couple months. We could’ve had a going away party for him!” I sobbed, as Chuck just stared at me, asking me with his eyes to stop because he was trying so hard to hold it together.
The prognosis was dire. Sure they could put him through more testing, and we could try more pills, but he was not well and so we made the hard decision to let him journey home.
Chuck and I laid on the floor with him as they gave him the sedative. Cooper wasn’t a licker, but that day, and during his passing, all he did was lick our faces, as if thanking us for loving him. He snuggled up against us and even before they gave him the next shot I saw his spirit leave. He was ready. We weren’t. I’m still not.
“You get to run without fences and be with Guinness,” I told him. “You get to run free,” I cried as our veterinarian took me in her arms and held me, crying with me.
It’s only been a couple days and I’m still finding Cooper’s hair everywhere. I used to get annoyed, and now I find it endearing. Yesterday someone asked me if I was over it. I looked at her with a side glance, a million snarky remarks swirling in my head, but I simply chose – “No”, and I walked away.
Grief, whether a person or a pet, isn’t instant. You don’t ever get over it, and certainly not just two days later. Maybe it’s because I’m sensitive. Or because my days are filled with helping those with their grieving. Or because it’s me, but I don’t let go of the things that I loved just because they aren’t right here with me. Cooper was with us for 13 short years, experiencing losses, tears, arguments, laughter, and celebrations right along with us. It’s a love that lasts furever.