I had this whole other blog post drafted up and ready for release this week. Then life happened. I've always found writing to be healing and cathartic. I can look back in my journals from the time I was a small child and find tear stained pages. Some pages filled with tears over a disappointment like my parents saying no or not getting chosen for something. Some pages filled with heartbreak like a breakup or even 9/11. This will be a tear filled one---so get out now if you can't handle it.
When I first met my husband we were much like the owners in 101 Dalmations. Chuck came with Cooper, our chocolate lab, and I brought Sidda, our boxer. Cooper was about 9 months old when we went on our first date. Our dogs were actually our first date. Chuck picked me and Sidda-girl up and we went to the park. In that first meeting, Sidda immediately jumped up and bit Cooper. That's her style. Cooper didn't even flinch. He was such a gentleman. His eyes were only on that ball. He's always been a good boy, wise seeming for his soul. He's been our guard dog and our life guard. In Texas we had a pool in our backyard. Cooper couldn't stand for anyone to swim without him. He would constantly jump in and try to drag you out. On more than one occasion he almost drowned Sidda in his attempts to rescue her. In fairness, her swimming skills do look like she needs to be rescued.
Once, when I was out of town, Chuck had taken the dogs with him down to Port O'Connor for some guy time. He was fishing at The Sanctuary. There is a large inlet of water so that people can dock their boats inside the neighborhood. Who knows what Sidda was thinking but she ran and jumped right off the bulkhead (I think that's what they are called). She fell a good 6 or more feet down into the water below. Cooper went right over after her. He was trying to save her by biting her head which only pushed her under the water. Chuck's friends had to hold his legs while he dangled over the side and caught hold of their harnesses and pulled them back out of the water. It's true...kids survive because of their momma's and have fun because of their daddy's (even for pets).
Cooper has loved the beach. He loved our years living at Seabrook Island where we would walk down to the beach and throw the ball or just step out onto the golf course. He was also a great runner. Both dogs use to run 5-6 miles with us until just a few years ago when kids came into the picture. Once Cooper and I even competed in a K9-5K. He was a rockstar. Speaking of rockstars, I once dressed Cooper up as Elvis for Halloween while Chuck was out of town. Another time when Chuck was traveling, Cooper became Santa.
A few years ago, Cooper tore the dog equivalent of an ACL. First he did it in one back leg, then the other. He was completely lame. I called every veterinary hospital I could until I found one that could perform the TPLO surgery we needed to repair at least one. Our family chipped in to help cover the cost of the surgery. Chuck drove him 2 hours away for the surgery, stayed in a hotel and brought him home the next day. I would wake up 30 minutes early every morning so that I could complete his physical therapy.
I say all this to show our love and devotion for this sweet boy.
Cooper was anxious when we brought E home. He didn't like all the crying and bustling people. He grew accustomed to her and was very patient as she chased him in her walker, piled blocks on him and slightly tortured him. He sat quietly in the last year, while she read to him. When he E began to talk, she named him Pooker. It's what we've called him ever since. He's been a good dog.
About 9 months ago, Cooper started peeing in the house. At first we chalked it up to old age. Then he started drinking tons of water. I thought maybe a kidney infection. We tried antibiotics. They didn't help. Chuck started reading and said, "I think he has Cushings Disease." Sure enough. A blood test later and we had an answer. By this time, he was starting to lose muscle tone in his back legs making it hard for him to get up, looking thin along his back, starving all the time, drinking a ton of water, and peeing in the house. He panted a lot and seemed uneasy. The vet told us that we could try some medication, but it would be hard on him and ran the risk of putting his levels too far in the other direction. BUT we were hopeful it would buy us more time because we loved him and you could still see HIM in his eyes.
Then we noticed a hygroma on his front elbow. It's like a swollen place dogs get from laying on the hard floor. I took him in to have it looked at. The vet, Dr. Patrick, took a fluid sample and gave us some antibiotics and something to help relieve the inflammation. One of the downsides to Cushings is that it makes their skin super thin. Each place that the vet had pricked ended up opening up. It was good then because it drained out the fluid. It was bad later because one of the spots just continued to open. We tried taking him and having it packed and wrapped for about 2 weeks. That wasn't bringing about healing. Next, we had it sutured. The day the sutures were removed, it reopened. We took him back in and resutured it with metal sutures and the plan was to leave them in for a month. In about a week his thin skin and ripped through them. Next we tried cold laser treatments. These were helping, but a vet finally broke down and told us that the wound would never heal. Since then we've been keeping it wrapped, changing the bandage every few days. All this time, we were taking him to the vet twice a week. L and I would take him in the morning after E went to school and sit there for an hour and a half.
Finally, his skin got an infection. I had noticed it at one of our cold laser treatments. I went to pet him and could feel a thick layer of crust under his fur. Soon, all his hair started falling out in patches. He still had the most gentle and sweet eyes. He's been a good boy.
This all sounds miserable, but through it we could still see our sweet boy. He would still beg for food under the babies seat. He wouldn't chase the ball, but his eyes would light up when he saw it. One thing Cooper has always done is take care of Sidda. He grooms her face for her. This week she pestered him to do it, but he wouldn't. I tried to take him on a short walk this weekend and he made it to the mailbox before begging to go home. And so home we will let him go.
I'm broken into a million, tiny, little pieces. I'm devastated. I've been preparing E for saying good-bye, but I'm not ready myself. Man, that dog is going to be missed. There will be a Pooker shaped hole in our family for quite sometime if not forever. We've tried to be good pet parents, loving him unconditionally during his life.
What a good boy, Pooker. You've done good.