Loving big means letting go hurts—it hurts a lot. A little over 15 years ago, Santa brought our son a little poppet we named Cooper. He was tiny; smaller than a can of soda pop. Small things don’t usually fare well in our house. Frankly, we are rough on furniture, walls, and flooring. Our clan isn’t outfitted for fragile of any sort. If the first few weeks as a member of our family was any indication of his chances of surviving the rambunctious chaos he was adopted into, odds were heavily stacked that the poor little guy was doomed. Right out of the gate Sophi stepped on him, resulting in a seizure and a long lethargic night. This incident was followed shortly by an emergency vet visit for a collapsed trachea. He was accidentally dropped, inadvertently kicked and he took a serious tumble down the stairs, which left him terrified to descend the stairs. Fortunately, Evan provided intense bologna therapy. The therapy worked, although he suffered with the bloat for several days.
Cooper is over 100 years old in human years and the last year we have watched as his health has declined significantly. This week the magnitude that our resilient little buddy was undoubtedly living out his last days settled in like an uninvited guest. Kevin took him to the vet on Monday and I threatened him sternly not to return without him and returning with him in a tiny urn wasn’t acceptable. I wasn’t ready. I am not ready. Instead he returned with our faithful little guy with his breathing labored and his desire to eat or drink diminished to almost null. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a severely enlarged heart. Kevin had a little bag of medicine and I eagerly asked if it would help. Kevin said it might help, but I knew he was just trying to soften the rough edges of reality. The bag wasn’t big enough to hold much hope.
The medicine did make him feel better for a little over a day. He ate, he went outside and he even growled at Evan. I was beginning to believe the little bag contained more hope that I had first thought. But his rally didn’t last long. I had to leave town to accompany my mom for a surgical procedure and I got the call that Cooper wasn’t doing well again. He was having trouble breathing and refused to eat or drink. I felt my heart break a little bit more. Before I left I held him, petted him, told him countless times how much I love him and gave him a zillion pooch smooches, it didn’t seem enough. I wasn’t ready. I am not ready.
I know that he is a dog. I do. I mean deep down in my logical mind I know he is a dog, but in my heart and in our lives, he is so much more. I might not make it back home in time to tell him goodbye. I am hoping that Kevin will read this to him so he knows how much space his tiny 8 pounds takes up in my heart. I want him to know that he was never just a dog to us and I hope that being part of our rowdy crew has given him a fraction of the joy he has given us.
This is for you Cooper:
Thank you for being the hero in all of our wild (though mostly imaginary) adventures together. You are the only dog I know who has been on Dancing with the Stars, worked deep cover missions for the FBI, and made friends with a pigeon that smoked cigarettes.
Thank you for believing in Big Foot. One day the world will know we are right.
Thank you for accompanying me to the bathroom each and every time I go. This speaks volumes about your loyalty and let’s face it, your tolerance for unpleasant circumstances.
Thank you for limping around for an entire evening after Evan “shot” you with a banana.
Thank you for letting me vent to you and never judging my craziness. You are a rock.
Thank you for taking such good care of your beaver. That is one lucky beaver.
Thank you for tolerating you little sister. I know she has driven you crazy over the years with her demanding so much attention and usually getting it. You have always been the main man. Your patience with sharing us with her is to be commended.
Thank you for being my buddy.
Thank you for making me belly laugh with you nonsense.
Thank you for letting me give you really bad haircuts.
Thank you for claiming that tiny space between us in the bed. I know it is going to be like a cavern when you are gone.
Thank you for letting me call you Mr. Conniption, even when you thought it was stupid.
Thank you for letting me put you in a Rubbermaid container strapped to the handlebars to go on bike rides. That literally must have been terrifying for you.
Thanks for swimming with us at the lake, even though water isn’t your thing.
Thank you for letting us be your people…your imperfect quirky people.
Thank you for hanging on so long and so hard, because I wasn’t ready. I am not ready. You are my soldier.
Before you go, just know you gave us your best life. I shouldn’t ask for more. You have been…are…and always will be so loved.
I wasn’t ready.
I am not ready.
But when you are ready, I will be brave for you my faithful friend. Thank you for a life well lived.