Cookie died today. It was a safe and peaceful death, in the arms of her loving mama and at the hands of a compassionate vet.
I will miss her joyful grin and the way she wagged her whole body when I arrived at her home. I love how she would wiggle her substantial butt frantically while also hop-hop-hopping with her front paws. She had a lovely friendly wide head and the tips of her ears flopped down. When she gnawed on a bone, her powerful jaws flexed and you could see the Rottie in her.
Cookie’s fur was short and black and deceptively thick. She loved a good butt scritch, and if I got it just right, she would wriggle around ecstatically, waving all four legs in the air, curling to the left, to the right, to the left, to the right, always astonished that the scritches stopped when my arm was trapped under her back.
I first really noticed Cookie when I was checking out an obedience class at the Fluffy Dog’s daycare. All the owners were lined up on folding chairs, with their dogs sitting next to them in various degrees of compliance. Cookie was big and black, a shepherd-Rottweiler cross, with an easy smile and a relaxed sit–until the pup by the next chair got too close. Then she bared her teeth and growled quick, a three-second lesson for the pup in canine boundaries and personal space. I fell a little bit in love with her right there. Those sleek black females with attitude have always drawn me. I am a sucker for their short fur and short tempers.
Flash forward five years, in which I saw Cookie on a casual basis–group dog walks at Kilcona Park, running into each other on our way in or out of doggie daycare–to the day I happened to see her picture on facebook with a bandaged leg. “What happened to Cookie’s leg?” I posted, and Cookie’s mama messaged me privately to let me know her sweet dog had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma four months earlier. One thing led to another, and a “goodbye visit” to Cookie turned into seven months of nearly weekly visits where the Fluffy Dog and I would hang out with Cookie and her two canine siblings and her mama.
Cookie always knew she was the star of the show, the reason for the visit, the empress of the pack. At first she’d cuddle with me on the couch, alternately gnawing her rawhide with great seriousness, and flailing like a fool when I scritched her. As time passed and her tumour grew, I’d sit with her on the floor or by her dog bed while her mama and I visited and drank coffee. The other three dogs would circle and plot and negotiate for the toys and bones and rawhides, but Cookie’s mama and I always took the best resources and gave them to Cookie, who wagged happily but also seemed to accept this as her due.
Four days ago was the last time I saw Cookie. When the Fluffy Dog and I walked up to the house, she was hopping and wagging, but stiffly, carefully. I hadn’t seen her for three weeks because I’d been on vacation, and her mama had texted me that morning to warn me Cookie had deteriorated. She had indeed, although she rallied well for our visit. Her mama and I talked again about how hard it is to make the final decision, the practicalities of getting to the vet, the pros and cons of driving home in tears versus having someone go along. And meanwhile Cookie hopped up on the couch with me for one last time, and I scritched her big ol’ butt, and kissed her many times on her sweet nose and between her eyes and on the lovely top of her broad head.
And I tried really hard not to cry–and I succeeded–because this was hard enough for Cookie’s mama without her also having to deal with my feelings. But I stroked Cookie’s grey muzzle and gently petted the hot, hot tumour on her leg, and ran my hands along her lovely, solid, strong body for the last time, and wished her a very good trip.
This isn’t a story about how Cookie saved my life or changed my life or admirably overcame outrageous odds to do some heroic thing. This is just a story about a good dog, a dear dog, a dog with a wonderful smile, whom I was always happy to see and who was always happy to see me. Cookie was well-loved, and her mama was generous enough to welcome me into her home almost weekly for months on end. So now she and I are friends, which is lovely (thanks, Cookie). And the Fluffy Dog and I will keep visiting, and I will drink coffee with Cookie’s mama while the Fluffy Dog plays with the rest of Cookie’s pack. And we will remember Cookie and we will probably cry but mostly we will smile because she was such a good and happy and delightful old dog, and I feel lucky to have known her.
But I am crying now, just on and off, remembering Cookie and writing about her. Every time a good dog dies, it’s the end of the world. And in the end, every dog is a good dog. But Cookie? She was one of the best.