Today, I had to put my wonderful big fluffy dog Cody to sleep. He had a stroke sometime yesterday and there was no other option. I truly appreciate that he took the choice out of my hands. There was no “Is it time?” or “Will he get better?” There was not a decision to be made, and I am grateful for that.
I can’t help but think that an era has ended. I had my first pack at my house in the country: Barry, Ace, Noel, Lewis, Clark, and Cody. I could never have imagined having 6 dogs, but somehow it happened and I have loved every minute of it. Before today, everyone had crossed the rainbow bridge except for Cody. There is a new pack now, but it’ll never be the same.
So it’s time to remember Janet’s #1 Pack. There will never be another one like them.
Barry; aka Fluffadoodle: Barry was a Sheltie, and my first (and last) puppy. He was in a box outside Barry’s Cafe. I was in Eckerd’s Drugstore picking up pictures (remember those days??), and when I came out, my stepchildren were screaming, “JANET!!! PUPPIES!!!!” My then husband said “They are NOT collies,” as he knew I’d always wanted a collie. But by the time he said it, Barry was in my arms, and his battle was lost. We had a dog. Barry was a herder, and that meant young children needed not to run in the yard. So dangerous… they clearly needed to be nipped in the calves and herded back onto the deck. Barry was my first dog, and an “only dog” for awhile. I would never do that again; because once I got Ace, I realized that dogs need other dogs, just like we need other people. Barry went from being a city dog to a farm dog, and he definitely preferred the farm life. One of my favorite Barry moments: We came home one day and he had peed all over the house. He was completely housebroken and never had accidents. It was a weekend and I panicked and took him immediately for an emergency vet call as I knew he must be dying. She did xrays and palpated him, and came back $350 later and said “I think what we have here is a snow problem.” There was snow on the ground and my delicate flower child dog did not want to use the bathroom in it. It was too cold on his parts. She told me to shovel him a path and he should be fine. I said he’d be lucky to live that long, but of course, I shoveled it, and he lived a very long life!
Ace; aka Best Dog Ever: It’s true, Ace was my favorite. Don’t tell the others. Ace was a big goofy black lab mix of some sort. He loved me, the water, tennis balls, and rocks, maybe in that exact order. He came from a farm where he was not cared for, and I eventually convinced the owner to give him to me. My husband and I had recently split, and I really wanted a 2nd dog. He and Barry already knew each other, as I took Barry to the farm with me daily, so that introduction was easy. Ace loved everybody and everybody loved Ace. He had a big goofy grin where he showed every tooth, and people often thought he was going to bite them, but it was just his happy smile. He loved to play in the water, and if you threw a big rock in the shallow part, he would dig and put his head underwater for days until he brought that rock back out and dropped it at your feet. He slept spooned next to me in bed, and was grouchy when tired. I have a million Ace stories, but my all time favorite features 2 of the loves of my life: Ace and my dad. My dad was never a dog person. At least that’s what he would tell you. Ace tore his ACL and had to have surgery one year, and I had a trip to Indiana planned. I told mom I would still come if I could bring Ace. She said ok. I had to have the mattress on the floor because he was not allowed to jump and there was no way to convince him not to sleep with me. I had a baby gate, and when mom and I would shop or if I felt Ace needed to rest, I would lock him in my room with the gate. One day, we went out, and I told dad not to worry about him; he would be fine in my room until we got home. When we got back, Ace was not in my room. My dad was on the front porch hanging Christmas lights, and Ace was laying at his feet. The baby gate had been moved to block the front steps so he could not get off the porch. I said “Ummmmm, was he whining or barking???” Dad said “No. He was LONELY.” I miss them both so much.
Noel; aka guard dog: Noel also came to me through a farm. She wandered out of the woods one day while we were having Horse and Buddy. I said “Does anyone know that dog?” No one did, and she was very timid. It took them several weeks of feeding before someone was able to grab her and lock her in the office. She was there all night until about 9am the next day when I got her. She had not done a thing wrong in the office, and she jumped right in the back of the car. I drove her to the vet, got all her shots, and we went home. She fit right in with Ace and Barry and the 4 of us were inseparable for years. They rode with me everywhere in my little green Dodge Dakota and came to work with me every day. If the weather was nice, they would all sleep in there while I went to dinner or the movies, or anywhere else. Noel was much more protective of me than any dog I’ve had before or since. When all the dogs would bark and run out the doggie door to slay some unknown predator, she would run in to sit by my side. If the zombies got past the first line of defense, she was ready to rip their throats out. Noel loved me, steak, and pasta. She never begged for food, unless she smelled either of the last two, and then she KNEW she was getting some of it. And she was never disappointed. She also loved sticks; the bigger the better. Sometimes she would wander off on our hikes and come back with a branch that seemed more like a tree. My favorite Noel memory is probably when I took her back to Indiana with me, and I stopped in a hotel for the night. Everyone in the lobby took a gigantic step back when we walked in and I thought “Yep, you just keep thinking that!” I never felt as safe as I did with my Noel by my side.
Lewis and Clark; aka Lulu and Monkey Dog: I can’t possibly talk about these two separately, because they arrived together and were best friends for their entire lives with me. Once I got Noel, I had a couple of vets tell me they could feel the scar from where she was spayed. Ummmm WRONG. Lewis and Clark showed up when Noel went into heat. I still can’t imagine those basset/shepherd puppies! I got her spayed and swore I was not taking in these 2 dogs, but somehow they stayed. Lewis actually belonged to a neighbor, but the neighbor did not want him, so I kept him. Clark had a collar, but no number. After I’d had him about 6 months, and had him neutered, his elderly owners showed up at my door. They took him home, but by midnight the next evening, he had walked many miles back to me (or maybe to Lewis!!), rolling in every dead or stinky thing between our 2 houses. The owners came back the next day with a 50lb bag of dog food and said “He clearly wants to live here.” Lewis and Clark got their names because they loved to explore (I found out later their former names were Duke and Spot. I like mine better!). They would go off on adventures every day until I finally got a fence to keep them all contained. My favorite Lewis story may be the time my boyfriend and I had walked down to the old barn behind my house. Lewis came out about 10 minutes later. Somehow he made it through the doggie door, down the stairs, across the yard, through the walk through gate into the pasture and halfway to us before we looked over and realized he had the potato chip bag completely stuck over his head! At least he knew where to come get help! My favorite Clark story is definitely the night he came back home, but I’ll not tell that here to save the public embarrassment of my former boyfriend! So my 2nd favorite Clark story is when the DSS folks were coming for my very first home visit to see if I was suitable to adopt a child or children. Clark had been off on an adventure, but about 10 minutes before DSS was due to arrive, I saw him coming down the road dragging something very large behind him. I went outside and it was an entire deer leg. He growled if I came near him to take it, so I finally shooed him back into the woods so at least he wasn’t gnawing on it in the driveway when they pulled in!
Cody; aka Cody Bear: My heart hurts munchkin (another aka). This dog… where to even start. He showed up out in the back pasture with my horses and took up residence there. He was terrified of human beings, and would bolt the second he saw me, even if I was hundreds of feet away. It took me 2 years to be able to touch him, even though I left food out for him daily. We would play a game where he would run as fast as he could past me, just close enough that I could touch him as he ran past. Then he’d whirl around and grin at me and do it all over again. One night, he was hit by a car, and I drug him to the truck and then to the vet. He was on antibiotics and house arrest for 2 weeks, but he went a solid week without eating. Nothing could tempt him. I waved steak and chicken in front of him, but he was on a hunger strike as long as I kept him in the house. I finally relented after a week and let him back out with the horses he loved. The SECOND time he got hit by a car, and tore his ACL and had surgery, I told him he had to sleep inside the fence at night, but could be out during the day. We did that for several years, until eventually he settled into the house life. Although he never settled in 100%; he usually slept outside on a dog bed in the shed. He adored me and loved to be held and scratched and especially loved being brushed. He lived for many years longer than I thought he would; I have no idea of his exact age, but at least 15, maybe much older. He was full grown the first time I laid eyes on him, and that was 13 years ago. My favorite Cody story: Every time he looked at me with that undying devotion in his eyes. I have never worked so hard to earn a dog’s trust, but once I had it, it was forever. Right back at you munchkin. Say hi to all my loves and I promise I will see you again one day. I love you all madly.
I can’t really close this out without saying a huge Thank You to Jennifer Derby. She was my vet; then my friend; then my person. Every one of these dogs lived a longer, fuller, and more pain free life with her help. Today, she drove for 8 hours to help Cody cross peacefully to the other side in his safe place – home. We love you Dr. Derby.