The party was held at a local business built solely for the purpose of hosting children’s birthday parties, and Colleen enjoyed her party. As usual, Lauren was busy running the show while I took pictures. The break from the drama in our lives was welcome, but Lauren and I both wanted to get back to Cozy. We felt guilty for leaving her, but Colleen deserved to have her special day.
Cozy continued having good days and bad. On Monday she and I sat on the deck all day. She slept at my feet while I worked with my laptop on the patio table. The days were starting to melt together as I spent all day and night with her.
On Tuesday she was a little down, but seemed otherwise the same. She ate some rice and some liver, and some horrible green tripe from a can. I have never in my life smelled anything more disgusting than that foul tripe, but someone on Newf Net said that this stuff was wonderful, so we tried it. Luckily they had also warned us to open it outside. Wow! That night, Lauren got Cozy to eat some dinner one handful at a time. We were both happy that she had eaten because when Cozy ate it usually meant that the next day would be a good one.
About 15 minutes after Cozy finished her dinner I was sitting in the office and Cozy was around the corner in the Family room on the cool tile. Suddenly, I heard a horrible retching sound from the family room, followed by what sounded like someone throwing a bucket of raw fish on the tile floor. As I ran in to check on my Cozy, I found her looking sad, confused and maybe a little upset that she had made a mess. She was sitting in front of a large pile of frighteningly bloody vomit that looked like she had just thrown up her dinner along with a couple of vital organs. It was a horrifying but very telling sight. In an instant I knew clearly that it was time. Cozy had told me in no uncertain terms that it was time for her to go. She had to be in horrible pain.
After cleaning it up, we sat with her and told her it was OK. We petted her and comforted her, and I think she understood us, but she was clearly not feeling well. She decided to go lie outside where it was cooler, and we of course let her lay wherever she wanted. This too was a sad sight, since she would normally choose to be wherever I was, especially after such a scene. I sat with her for a while but she seemed to have no interest in coming back inside. I sat with my Cozy and told her once more that she shouldn’t stay for me. I told her that I knew she has always waited for me, and that I knew she would wait for me wherever she ended up. I told her that she was a good girl, and that she did not have to endure any more pain for me, and that I would help her on her journey if she needed my help.
Perhaps the worst part for me was seeing that her mind was still active. I could see the spark in her eyes still when she had the Kong but her body was failing her. How dreadfully unfair that such a wonderful mind should be failed by her own body at such a young age. She laid her head on my lap and closed her eyes.
My Cozy would be leaving me soon, and it was breaking my heart. I went inside and told Lauren that it was time, but that I couldn’t make the appointment. She said she would take care of it and we both sat together and cried. That night Cozy lay out in the yard for hours, well into the morning. She had never done that before.
Knowing that this would be Cozy’s last night with us, I set about taking a final picture, and trying to get a cast of her paw with the kits I had bought with the kids that day in the mall. Since Cozy was so big I mixed two kits together and went to work. I carefully placed her paw into the mix and made a perfect deep impression. After a few hours I took it out of the mold and put it on a sheet of aluminum foil to dry in the office. It was perfect and would make an excellent memorial to my Cozy. I was very happy with the outcome, though it still had to sit for 24 hours before it was done.
The next day I picked up Cozy and put her into the back of the Pathfinder since she was too weak to get in on her own. We made the trip to the vet’s office with the kids but Daisy stayed at home. We brought along Cozy’s Kong since it had brought her so much joy over the years.
Dr. Fritz and the staff at the vet clinic were all there, and since they all knew Cozy they came in one by one to give Cozy some love one last time. Dr. Fritz was a wonderful man and he was very supportive, very gentle, and very understanding. If ever there was a perfect vet, it was Dr. Harry Fritz.
Cozy walked into the exam room, and Dr. Fritz and I lifted her up onto the stainless steel table after putting down a blanket that would help move her later on. Cozy lay on the table without a fuss, clearly exhausted. She was resting her head over her left paw. We had the kids come in and say their goodbyes. They were so little that they didn’t really understand, but they knew something big was happening. They both gave Cozy kisses and the vet tech took them into the lobby to color.
Dr. Fritz explained the procedure to us, and told us what he was doing. He told us that she would just gently fall asleep and then she would be gone. As he set to work shaving a small part of her arm, I kneeled in front of my Cozy for the last time, held her face in my hands and looked into her eyes. She looked back at me and I could tell she was ready to go. I think she was in a lot of pain though she never admitted it. She looked so tired, but she still knew who I was. I wanted her to know that I was with her, and that I loved her. There was absolutely no fear in her eyes. Lauren knelt right beside me with one hand on Cozy and another on me.
I told my Cozy that I loved her, and that she had always been a good girl. I told her that she was the best dog that had ever lived, and that she had helped me more than she could ever know. Dr. Fritz asked us if we were ready and we said yes. As he pushed the plunger in the syringe, my Cozy simply closed her eyes and gently lay down her head as if falling asleep. As she drifted off and became limp I broke down sobbing, as did Lauren by my side. For the first time in weeks Cozy didn’t look like she was hurting, or sad, or trying to be brave. She looked peaceful. She looked like she was sleeping. Cozy’s head relaxed just a little bit more than it did when she was sleeping and then it was obvious that she was gone.
Dr. Fritz took out his stethoscope and listened for a heartbeat. He then laid a hand on both Lauren and me and said simply “It’s over.”
Dr. Fritz left us alone with Cozy and said quietly “Take all the time you need” as he closed the door.
Lauren and I held tightly to each other and sobbed for what seemed like hours. Knowing that I needed to be alone with my Cozy one last time, Lauren stood up, kissed Cozy on the nose and said through her tears “Goodbye, Cozy Bear” and left us.
As my Cozy lay at peace, I gently took from her the collar she had worn for many years. I placed her collar in my pocket, careful to keep the loop intact the same way that I had with Brandy’s collar so many years before. Cozy was free. I had set her free. The chains binding her to this world, and her pain, were now mine. Her collar, used by me so many times to make her sit, heel, or behave, was a symbol to me of that freedom. No longer would I have any control over her path or her destiny.
I sat and sobbed with my face buried in her neck. I had no more words: only grief.
After some time I got up and left the room, and told the kids that they could come in and say goodbye. Being only five and seven, they had many innocent questions.
“Is she dead?”
“Is that why her tongue is hanging out like that?”
“Why is it still dripping?”, and so-on.
Lauren took care of the bill and we left, the two of us in a daze, the kids seemingly unfazed. We drove over to the local convenience store and Lauren went in to get some beer. Lord knows we both could have used some. Meghan, her childlike innocence in full force asked “What would happen if Cozy comes back as a zombie?”
My children, it would seem, shared both my warped sense of humor, and the knowledge that you should always be on the lookout for the unholy legions of the walking dead. With all its inappropriate innocence, Meghan’s question made me smile when I thought that I never again would.
“Cozy is being cremated, so there will be no body to come back to life.”, I calmly explained.
“Oh” she said. Apparently that settled the zombie question for her. Lauren came back into the car with the beer and we went home.
When we got home, Daisy was visibly confused. After we all walked into the family room she stood at the door waiting for her Alpha. I pulled Cozy’s collar out of my pocket and she sniffed it very intently. I think she knew what had transpired. Her buddy was gone.
My Cozy was gone.
I posted the following On Newf Net that afternoon:
For the first time in weeks I feel a little better. My baby girl isn’t suffering any more. She has always waited for me, and I know she’s waiting for me somewhere now, free from pain and full of mischief.
I have a little clear box. In it I have some of her fur including some from the white blaze on her chest, the fur they shaved off of her arm, and her baby teeth that my wife had saved all those years ago. Also in the box is her blue yarn collar that she wore as a puppy before she had a name. Sitting with the box is her Kong. Both the Kong and the box are waiting for her ashes, which will be put in a place of honor in our home.
I miss my Cozy and I am sad beyond words that she is gone, but I am glad I could ease her suffering. It was the least I could do for all she has given me.
Goodbye, my Cozy. I look forward to hearing you bark and seeing you wag once more. Thank you for sharing your life with me.
As the day wore on, I remembered to check Cozy’s paw print cast. As I looked at the cast I was horrified to see that something had gone wrong. My one chance to get the cast had been wasted and now she was gone. I felt utterly crushed.
The cast had split completely down the middle from top to bottom. The two pieces were also cracked and dried like mud in the desert after the rain has been baked off by the sun. It was if the paw print had cracked when Cozy died, breaking in the same moment as my heart.
As I stared at the broken cast, I realized that it was not a mistake, and it was not a wasted chance. This broken cast, torn asunder by who knows what force, perfectly symbolized how I felt. Today that paw print cast is in a shadow box frame, hanging over my desk at home where I can see it any time I miss my Cozy. I miss her every day.