We took the dogs out into the woods near the stream where I had taken pictures of Cozy in the snow. Cozy threw her Kong into the water and stirred up the mud looking for it, determined to cause trouble even when she was so sick. I could see the glint in her eye as I managed to find the Kong with a stick. I had managed to protect the Kong from the mower for all these years and there was no way I was letting it get lost in the mud now!
Still, it was hard to stay upbeat. Lauren and I both knew that Cozy might die any day, or worse, we would have to put her to sleep. We had talked about it a little, and neither of us really knew what to do. Cozy seemed fine on days like this and how could we possibly take that away from her? On a more selfish level, I certainly didn’t want to let my Cozy go, and I know Lauren felt the same way.
We started asking friends and people on Newf Net when we would know the time was right. The universal answer was that Cozy would let us know when it was time, which sounded ridiculous to me. All Cozy ever wanted in life was to be with me. Was I to expect her to tell me that she didn’t want that any more?
Cozy had been my friend, my confidant, and my companion. She and I shared a bond that I had not felt with anyone else. The thought of it being my choice to let her die before nature had run its course seemed tantamount to murder. How could I kill my beloved Cozy? For that day at least, the question was only academic, but I knew it wouldn’t be for long.
Owning my own consulting company had its perks, and I decided to work from home all week so I could spend more time with my Cozy. My clients gave their blessing as they understood what was happening in our lives and appreciated my love for Cozy, a fact for which I was extremely grateful.
When I woke up on Monday, I could tell right away that Cozy was feeling sick again. She was a bit droopy, and when she’d look at me she just seemed to be saying I’m sick, Daddy. She was nowhere as bad as she had been that first day when we had rushed her to the vet clinic, but she wasn’t as bouncy as she had been in the woods, either.
I could feel that her belly was big again, which meant bleeding tumors. Her nose felt warm too, so we gave her an Ascriptin in a piece of Newfie cookie. Ascriptin is buffered aspirin designed to be released into her intestines and not her stomach. Dogs will break down aspirin in their stomachs where it won’t do them any good, so coating it allows it to pass into their intestines where it can help.
The vet called to see how she was doing. When Lauren told him about the Ascriptin he told us to take it easy because it could also prevent clotting and we wanted the tumors to clot in order to make her feel better. This was proving to be a delicate and frustrating balance. We spent the day lying on the floor with Cozy and letting her do whatever she wanted to do. The vet seemed to agree with our plan, his advice being to keep her as quiet as possible in order to let the tumors heal.
One of the pictures in particular struck me as Cozy seemed silhouetted against the barren landscape of the winter forest. It made me feel as if she was on a journey towards death in a place where I couldn’t follow. Other people saw hope in the image as if she was exhibiting life in the face of death. Such was my state of mind that I only saw the impending end, I suppose.
Cozy walked with me into the woods. We didn’t go far – she was too tired. We got to the stream that she had played in only a few days before, but this time she only got her feet wet. She stood in the water quietly and looked up at me. Thank you Daddy. Standing in the stream made my water-dog happy. Her tired smile as she looked at me was heart-wrenching, but I was happy to help her enjoy her last few days however I could.
Cozy looked fabulous, though, and with her energy level back up she was very photogenic. We have a grass-covered hump in our front yard that covers the leech field in the septic system which makes a wonderful spot for pictures. We all went up to the hump where Cozy proceeded to entertain us.
I took many portrait shots of Cozy that day. Some serious shots with her noble profile filling the frame, and many less serious shots where Cozy had her head back and you could almost hear her deep voice as she exclaimed, Woooo woooo wooo! Cozy was happy to be alive and her enthusiasm was infectious.
Next it was my turn to pose while Lauren took the pictures. The first picture that Lauren took is of me hugging my Cozy with both of us looking right into the camera. When Lauren first saw the picture on my computer her first reaction was, “That should be on the cover of a book.” Everyone who has seen it since has said the same thing. It is one of my favorite photos of all time, and as you may have guessed, I have a lot of photos.
That night as I sat with Cozy, I could hear her belly gurgling. Something was happening. It sounded terrible, but she showed no obvious signs of distress. After a day of fun with my Cozy, I was reminded that she would not be with me much longer. Still, it wasn’t time. She hadn’t told me it was time.
Thursday came as a sharp contrast to the wonderful day before as it was very clear that my Cozy didn’t feel well. She wasn’t wagging, and she wasn’t excited about anything, not even food or her Kong. She would lift her head up when I walked nearby and she would still groan her happy groan when I scritched her ears, but she was favoring the cool tile floor. She didn’t seem to have a fever, but we guessed that her belly felt uncomfortable after the previous night’s rumblings.
It pained me to see her like this. My Cozy was normally so full of life. Cozy, who would come up to me and nudge the Kong into my hand because she wanted to play, was suddenly not interested. How many times had I told her to “go lie down” because I was too busy or too annoyed about something else? How many times did she huff at me and then go lie down like a good girl? How many times had I pushed her away? Why must our priorities be so skewed?
I was now at a point where there was nothing that I could do. I could make her comfortable and as happy as possible, but the light in her eyes was fading. I hoped that it might come back like it had in the past few days, but I knew that it might not. The best thing for her was to let her rest. The tumors needed to heal. I knew it was a vicious cycle, though, because being active could cause the tumors to bleed again. Happiness and vigor meant pain and suffering. How cruel.
I was not yet ready to let my Cozy go. How completely unfair that such a smart vibrant soul should be crippled by a failing body. All I could do was sit with her, pet her, and tell her that I was there for her. That’s all she ever wanted, and though I felt that I had taken our time together for granted, I promised her that I would stay with her now.
In the late night I would sit with her and cry. I started to tell her that she shouldn’t stay for me if she was in pain. I told her that she had been a good girl, and I told her that she was the best dog ever. I meant every word.
On Thursday Cozy perked up again. It seemed that treating the symptoms, or at least reacting to them made her rebound every time. The liver and Ascriptin seemed to do wonders for her, though we couldn’t know how much of her rebound was due simply to reabsorbing the blood in her belly.
It had miraculously warmed up to a balmy 70 degrees, and winter finally seemed to be relenting. I opened the door with the Kong in my hand and Cozy ran outside ready to play. This roller coaster of emotions was exhausting. I spent a good half hour outside with Cozy throwing the Kong. She would fetch it and retrieve is and push it back onto my lap as I sat on the bench on the patio. After the night before, this felt like a dream.
On Saturday I was confident that my Cozy was feeling better, so I set out to finally buy an HD camcorder. I had decided on a specific Sony model, and since this was very new technology, I had to travel over an hour to get it. I had called every electronics store within 50 miles and found only one that had it in stock.
I loaded the car with a small power inverter that allowed me to plug AC devices into the DC cigarette lighter plug. This would allow me to charge the battery on my trip home so I could use it right away. When I arrived home from my electronics purchasing expedition, I had the camera ready and pulled into the driveway with the camera rolling. I captured my Cozy running out to greet me with happy wags and enthusiastic woo woos. I captured Cozy on the deck with her Kong and some late night movies of her sleeping. The one of Cozy greeting me really captured Cozy’s spirit, though. She was bouncy and joyful and so happy to see me that I felt all the time and money spent on the camera had been well worth it.
My first HD video also happened to be the last video ever taken of Cozy.
Her tale was drawing to an end.