Always Real, Sometimes Sweet

A Bucket of Tears for an Ocean of Joy

Heaven goes by grace.
If it went by merit
you would stay out
and your dog would go in.
~ Mark Twain

Long before I had a child, someone who knows me very well and knows how much I loved my dog, once posed this question: If your dog and your child were both drowning, who would you save? Without answering that question, let me just say that Sean is really coming along with those swimming lessons.

I come from a long line of dog lovers. Most people I know who have dogs are crazy about them. But my people are stupid crazy when it comes to dogs.  Very few are the days in my life that I have not been owned by a dog.

One year ago today, we gave the gift of mercy to our 13-year-old Schipperke, Cooper Ann. She was suffering beyond measure with acute kidney and liver failure. When we last saw her, the shell of her beautiful black form remained, but her spirit had fled. There was nothing but suffering behind the eyes that once were so piercingly bright and alert.

Contrary to what you might think, and what I have always thought, the decision to let her go was not a hard one. After pursuing and exhausting every medical treatment, there was nothing that could be done. When Sean asks why he has to go to college on scholarship, we’ll just show him the little cedar box with Coop’s ashes and the vet bill. It was one of those things that no amount of money could fix and I really hate that.

From the day we brought Sean home from the hospital, Cooper Ann viewed him as another member of her staff to supervise. In those early days, when Sean slept in our room and had to be fed every two hours, Cooper (who slept under our bed) would get up with me and help make the formula. She was nice enough to lick it up when I spilled it, which was about half the time. She would then sit by the changing table as I changed him and then by the rocker while I fed him. Only after Sean was again asleep and I was back in bed would she resume her post under the bed.

In her mind, Cooper Ann was the ferocious protector of the house and it’s occupants, but in reality, she wasn’t capable of harming a ladybug. As Sean learned to pull up on the sofa where Cooper was usually spread out on her back in the dead cockroach position, he’d pull at her feet and she’d snarl and show her teeth. But usually her lip would get stuck on her tooth and she just looked more psychotic than threatening. A dog with its lip stuck on its tooth is universally funny, even to a baby, so Sean didn’t get that he was supposed to afraid. And so he’d pull at her feet again. And she’d give another snarl to indicate, “Hey, I’m a dog. I could bite you. Really. I could bite… if I wanted to. But lucky for you, it’s naptime.” And Sean would throw his head back and make one of those gurgle-y baby squeals of delight and grab her feet again. Cooper would then give a big “What-EV-uur ”sigh and move to the other end of the sofa.

I acquired Cooper Ann in a rescue situation in 1993 – not a horrible rescue situation, but she belonged to someone who couldn’t care for her in the manner to which Schipperke’s like to become accustomed — constant petting, suitable transportation (car, stroller, bicycle basket, red wagon, shopping cart, limo, yacht), bay windows from which to survey the kingdom, at least two walks a day, a steady stream of new toys, a management position in the household with a full staff and rights to open all presents and packages. Little did I know that a year later she would rescue me.

I remember very clearly after I was widowed in 1994 feeling that I would never laugh or find joy in anything ever again. But it wasn’t long before Cooper did some funny little Schipperke thing and I heard the sound of my own laughter. It seemed to pierce the shroud of grief, and if only for a moment, let a stream of sunlight into the darkness that had become my being. I knew then that I must still be alive and somehow or another I would eventually be okay.

After the funeral everyone went back to their lives, but Cooper Ann stuck around and made it her mission to make me laugh at least once a day. She required that I not merely exist, but that I live. And so eventually I did, because Schipperke’s do not take no for an answer. If not for her, I might still be laying on the sofa with the curtains drawn.

A full year after her death, I still find dog hair in the scotch tape. I still hear her toe nails click-click-clicking on the hardwoods. I still expect her to greet me at the door to inspect my purchases. I still hear her in the night issuing muffled barks from beneath the bed where she chases squirrels in the land that lies between sleep and slumber. My arms still ache to hold her and I still long to bury my face in her fabulous black ruff of mink-like fur. I know the only medicine for what ails me is another dog.

So many people have told me that after losing a dog they loved, they could never get another one; that they could never endure the heartbreak. If not for the thought of potty training a dog and a boy at the same time, we would have another dog by now. Anyone who has ever brought a dog home and into their heart, knows that someday there will be a price to be paid. For Cooper Ann, I paid a bucket of tears for an ocean of joy.

And I would do it all over again.

10 thoughts on “A Bucket of Tears for an Ocean of Joy

  1. I am also owned by a Vizsla………they are really sweet dogs with so much personality…really trainable…..and GREAT with kids!!! I vote that you get a Vizsla when you are ready for a puppy!

  2. Sorry for the looooong comment here, didn’t know if you’ve seen this poem by Kipling or not:

    There is sorrow enough in the natural way
    From men and women to fill our day;
    But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
    Why do we always arrange for more?
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your hearts to a dog to tear.

    Buy a pup and your money will buy
    Love unflinching that cannot lie –
    Perfect passion and worship fed
    By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
    Nevertheless it is hardly fair
    To risk you heart for a dog to tear.

    When the fourteen years that nature permits,
    Are closing in asthma, or tumor, or fits,
    And the Vet’s unspoken prescription runs
    to lethal chambers or loaded guns,
    Then you will find – it’s your own affair
    But – you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

    We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way
    When it comes to burying Christian clay.
    Our loves are not given, but only lent
    At compound interest of cent per cent,
    For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
    A short time loan is as bad as a long –
    So why in Heaven (before we are there)
    Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

    When the body that lived at your single will,
    When the whimper of welcome is stilled
    (HOW STILL!)
    When the spirit that answered your every mood
    Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,
    You soon discover how much you care,
    And give your heart to a NEW dog to tear.


  3. I just wanted to let you know that I thought this post was so exceptionally beautiful. I had a beautiful dog as well – a golden retriever(Ranger – we named him after his father) I loved that dog because he got me through one of the most terrifying times of my life. I was in labour with our first child. My husband, who has sleep apnea, was totally unable to stay up with me during my “drug free” labour at home. I don’t know what I was thinking. I spent 6 hours in the jacuzzi tub and that dog did not once leave my side. I was so grateful to have someone with me.
    Four and a half years ago we did have to give him away(we moved up to Northern Ontario and knew he would not be able to survive in a small apartment – luckily it was a family we knew and he is still doing wonderfully. But I still miss him.

    We now have a large old home and have just rescued an 8 year old Black lab named Max. It is amazing how much I need a dog even with 2 wonderful children and a husband, make that 3 wonderful children.

    Take care

  4. How did I miss this post? I’m in tears. I knwo for a fact that after my divorce, had it not been for the dogs, I would have wasted away in my bed. What a lovely tribute!

  5. You know what’s really spooky? I’m checking out your site via BooMama’s Christmas tour – and I’m a sucker for “dog” links.. I had this eerie feeling.. what IF she had a schipperke… you could have heard my gasp as I saw that beautiful little black devil gazing across in that photo…( I mean, really – how many schip owners do you just randomly run into??) I too, lost my precious Bonnie aka “Byron’s Ebonette Storm” when she was 15 1/2. Three dogs later, and I STILL miss that dog. I’ve not the heart to get another schip – I get pound doggies now. Once those schipperke’s grab your heart… they never let go do they? …. some day… some day I will.

  6. I am a big fan of the Kipling poem, but a bigger fan of my furry brothers. It’s not fair that their lives are not longer. I have buried many a good dog in my life. They are all very different, all special, leaving many cherished memories. I have spent years in between a dog’s death and a new puppy, mourning the last. Now we are graced, blessed with six dogs. Never will I ever be without a dog in my life again. I think all of you who mourn a lost loved one, should think again what your dog would want. I know mine would be thinking that they had failed, leaving me unguarded. If you were once owned by a dog, and the love in your heart still grows, you need to give it to another dog. There are so many pets deserving of that love. And your lost love well rest in peace, knowing their beloved master is safe again. “Dogs re not our whole life, but they make our life Whole. ~Roger Caras

  7. This is such a touching, sad, yet hopeful story. It is funny that a posting above shows the poem by Rudyard Kipling. There’s a book out called _We Give Our Hearts to Dogs to Tear_ (a quote from the Kipling poem!) that you would like – it touches on all of your thoughts and emotions about losing your dog, finding another, but never being able to replace the original dog in your heart. It’s by Alston Chase, and you can find it on Amazon.

  8. I “accidentally” came across this and hope you are still accepting post replies. I lost my love, my schipperke, Leibchen, to renal failure in 2006. What else can I say? You know how irreplaceable these little animals are. Once you have had one, nothing else will come close. My family owned one when I was a child. Leibchen was a surprise Mother’s Day gift, the best I ever received, in 1994 as a 9wk pup. She was my friend, confidant, and was, still is and will always be my “little daughter”. She developed renal failure of an unknown cause and succumbed after a valiant 2wk battle that just could not be won, even with two different vet clinics and hospitalizations. She passed on her own, in my lap, at home, as I held her for the last time. I wish to God she could have heard me tell her it was alright to go, how much I loved her, and would meet her on the other side, but she had lost her hearing long before. She was cremated in a private service just hours later and rests on my nightstand. I also keep a small bit of cremains in my car so she always rides with me and I’m never alone. My sincere condolences to you for your loss of Cooper Ann. I can truly say I do understand. Once a schipperke walks on your heart you are never the same. I did get another schip though, seven months after Lei-Lei passed. I wasn’t ready and didn’t think I could ever consider another, but this pup was born on what should have been Lei’s 13th birthday. Being intrigued, I went to “just look”. That pup is now 2yrs old. I named her Echo and she is soooo much like Leibchen, too much sometimes. Having her with me has helped in so many ways in dealing with this journey of grief, as it’s hard to stay down with Echo around. I don’t know if you have heard of or ? I post at these sites as leileismom and you may search me there, if you’d like to. These places have really helped. Even though it’s been over two years since she left me I still go there when I feel the need. Best to you and yours. Peace
    Not goodbye…..just until
    Marmy always comes back for you
    Leibchen March 12,1994 – November 15,2006

  9. I adopted an 8 year old deaf schip who was the love and center of my life. That was a year ago. Because of kidney failure and after many infusions at home, her kidneys gave way and we had to let her go this morning. Her name was Prudence.

    I’m empty inside but I know it will pass.

    You wrote a beautiful tribute Cooper Ann.

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