“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

“A Boxer’s greeting is a joy to behold. They jump into the air in such a jubilee of delight, it’s as if your return to hearth and home were the most noteworthy event of the century when all you’ve done, say, is walk to the mailbox and back. Return after an hour or more and you’ll get backflips, trumpets and a procession of drum-beating pageantry befitting a king.” —Thom Jones

Last year, when our beloved #HollyTheBoxer turned 13, I penned the following blog that really says more to me right now than I’m capable of saying: https://cassidyscommentary.com/2018/09/04/for-the-love-of-a-dog/

Holly was diagnosed with an unknown kind of cancer just a few days after her fourteenth birthday (14!!!  That’s unheard of for a boxer.)…Her hips and legs had become weaker and weaker, until last week, we finally knew that it was time to say goodbye.

On Friday, I gave her the last bath, and did her nails for the last time. She had trouble standing, and I found myself having to hold her up by one arm while I scrubbed with the other (it’s been rainy, and she had the muddiest paws–I swear, it’s like she packed some in from the outside to save for wallerin’ later on!). I sang her silly songs & used the expensive shampoo for once.  I lifted her out of the tub, and of course, she shook off the displeasure of the watery inconvenience; I couldn’t even complain. I just laughed at her, because at least this time, she waited until AFTER the bath to shake, as opposed to doing it midway through.

I dried her off, clipped her nails, and let her walk out with her usual post-bath annoyance…except this time, it was far more subdued than in her younger days, almost as if she had finally come to terms with the indignity of the fact that she’d had to endure such a scrub-down. That’s one of the things I was always rather proud of: David had trained her to follow commands, but I trained her to let me give her a bath and to do her nails. I always thought of it as our girl-bonding time. 🙂

On Saturday, we did one last photo shoot as a family, at Suson Farm. I know David didn’t want to do it; there’s something really intense about the bond between a man and his dog, and I could see that he was struggling. Also, Holly had lost a good part of her hearing, and did some uncharacteristically-disobedient things that we were not expecting….like, run off and try to get a drink out of the lake…except she couldn’t keep her balance…and David & Holly both almost fell into the lake, on a cold, November morning. I knew we would laugh about it later, but at the time, it was scary and sad. Our girl would NEVER run off like that…then again, she’d also NEVER drink out of the toilet (that started a few months ago) or pee on the floor (that started a year ago….we’re going to deep-clean the house over the next few weeks, yikes) or bark in her crate (that started a few weeks ago). She was declining, and neither David nor I wanted to admit it…until we had to, and Saturday was that day.

74356881_406617786949148_6603160622987214848_n

We took pictures as a family, because that dang dog was a huge part of our family for 14 years. I was NEVER a dog person–I was a confirmed cat person–until David brought her home right before our first Christmas as a married couple. She made me a dog lover, and now I can’t pass one up without scratching its head. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my weekends….Every weekend morning, since I got to sleep in, she’d come around to my side of the bed and put her head under whatever body part I had dangling off (usually my hand, but every now and then, she’d get my foot and I’d jump out of my skin!). Every night, she’d sit at the “L” juncture of our couch, right where I couldn’t get out of my seat without her knowing. I missed her so bad last night that I sat there watching “Great British Bake-Off” and bawled my way through three episodes. I miss my friend.

At our photo shoot, I dressed her up in a pink tutu that I’d bought for the occasion. When I bought it, I didn’t know it would be for the Last Pictures, but it seemed perfect. I dressed her up in my favorite vintage pearls, and a costume jewelry necklace that I’d put on her for her 12th birthday. She looks thrilled in the pictures, LOL, but given how many times I’ve made that poor dog suffer the indignity of girlie accessories, I felt like we had to give it one more go.

74209755_2424068124471895_8157863278614151168_n

Our vet was amazing…I (for some stupid reason) didn’t think our son would be as upset as he was. He was DEVASTATED, and let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than a kid that’s about to say goodbye to the dog they’ve known their entire life. He didn’t know what to do with himself; one minute, he was crying and scared; the next minute, he was telling the vet a cow joke out of a book he’s reading. He made all of us laugh at the worst possible time, but again, that’s something we’ll laugh about later. I’m glad he did it.

Our vet (who was amazing) took the time to tell Jericho that dogs are a creation of God…and that He loves all of His creation. I firmly believe there are dogs in Heaven (I mean, why not–there’s horses, right? That’s what my Mama pointed out to me many years ago, and it makes perfect sense). I also believe that Hannah-girl has her dog back.  David told her that Holly would be “her” dog, and now they’re together.

It still hurts, though.

Just 6 days ago, we celebrated (weird term, loose interpretation) Hannah’s 13th birthday. 4 days after that, we lost our dog. This is a difficult season, and I’m struggling with feeling overwhelmed with everything…work, grief, loss, social requirements, parenthood…I feel like I failed my son by not giving him enough credit to understand the loss of our dog.  I feel like I failed my husband because I’m the one that made the veterinary appointment. I feel like I failed my dog because we had to let her go…it’s the second time in my life that I’ve had to make the decision to let someone I love go, and I know it’s different when one is your child and the other is a dog, but those decisions are incredibly, intensely, intimately painful and foreign, yet familiar…Holly was family, and now she’s gone. I’ve never lost a pet like this before. I’m alternating between feeling cried out, and chastising myself for not having it together. It’s hardly the worst thing I’ve been through, but dang…

We loved that dog.

As she was getting sleepy from the first shot, I picked her up and put her head on my shoulder, and held her like a baby (like I’d done until she got too heavy for my old-lady back). When we laid her on the table, I put my head on her head, and whispered to her…The last thing she heard us say was that we loved her, and that she was a good dog. I hope that she understood…I believe (I want to believe) that she did.

I read a blog where a guy wrote from his dog’s perspective, as his dog was declining…it broke my heart all over again, but it’s so beautiful that I’m linking it. Don’t read it if you don’t want a good cry…

This will take some time to heal.

“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.” – Robert Wagner

 

“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us, and make our lives a little brighter, and they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” – Dan Gemeinhart

 

 

 

 

For the Love of a Dog…

DSC06347

Once upon a time, in late November of 2005, a fluffy, shy, drooly cuddlebug came to be a part of our family. David had told me from as early in our dating life as I can remember, that he’d always wanted a boxer…so, he found one that was much smaller than most boxers, and she became ours.
I’d only had a cat (which I adored) and a dog (which my dad adored), and birds (which were never mine). I didn’t know what to do with an indoor dog, or such a “fancy” dog (She’s AKC registered, I mean, c’mon!!!). I didn’t know anything about walking them or training them, & I wasn’t even sure I wanted a dog, but I figured she’d be good practice for whenever we decided to try to have children (we had no idea how THAT was going to work out).
I fell in love.
DavidWCooley Photography 024
David studied The Dog Whisperer (Cesar Millan) religiously. Our house was filled with too much dog hair, too much slobber, and the sound of “tschhhht!” reverberating off of the walls.
She ate my cookbooks, my shoes, and had separation anxiety issues that we weren’t counting on…but we made it work.
She ate the bottom out of more kennels than I can count…which gets expensive.
She chewed every dog toy I bought her into tiny crumbs (except for the black Kong. Get it.).
She stayed on my lap or laid on my stomach every day…until one day, my stomach started to kick her…and eventually, she didn’t have any room to lay down…
And then Mommy disappeared for a few weeks.
When we brought our daughter home, she didn’t know what to think of the tiny, hairless being that Mommy & Daddy loved so much…but she knew how Mommy cried when that little person didn’t come home anymore…and she stayed with me through countless tears and breakdowns.
DSC00500 (My family hates this picture. I was pretty mad about it…but I’m so glad I have it. Thanks, David.)
Holly was definitely impacted by Hannah’s death…her separation anxiety worsened, and her need to be directly under my feet became problematic. I got annoyed…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Boxers tend to live around 7-10 years.  When Holly hit the 7-year mark, she gained a bunch of weight, and then her hips went out. We found out that first of all, she had a thyroid problem…which in retrospect, I find hilarious.
IMG_20170704_115621_620
We knew things were off, so we visited a few vets, and found out that our girl needed a ridiculously-expensive surgery: Bilateral TPLO. I don’t remember all of the ins-&-outs, but she basically needed her legs cut open and the bones reworked, along with a bunch of screws, pins, and other such things, to the tune of around $7,000-10,000 that we. Did. Not. Have.
Because of her temperament, we were able to find a surgeon that did both surgeries for both legs, at the same time. That’s unheard of, in a bully breed or in a dog of her size. She made it through the procedure without complications; I was scared to death, and brought her chicken from Qdoba almost every night that she was in the hospital. 🙂
And then we found out that Holly was about to have a brother!!!
10151644908713070
It took Holly a solid 6 months to warm up to Jericho, and to be honest, she wasn’t terribly fond of him. Granted, we were terrible dog-parents; we were working full-time, and still hadn’t gotten into a routine of making sure she had her thyroid medicine. Speaking from a different place of understanding, now I KNOW how important that medication is!! Once we had her in a regular routine, she began to tolerate Jericho quite nicely. 🙂 He makes her nervous…but he sure does love her!
Capture
Holly followed me around incessantly…I had absolutely no personal space, and I was really starting to get aggravated with her….but then came my diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Once my surgery and my medication started doing their jobs, her need to be in my face and under my feet seemed to decrease. I’m pretty convinced she knew I was sick, before I or anyone else knew. She’s pretty darn smart.
When David isn’t home, Holly will go ballistic on anyone who comes to the door. She’s been a fierce defender for Jericho & I, and even though I’ve only had to “sic” her on someone once or twice, I know that no matter how old she gets, SHE WILL TEAR SOMEONE APART on cue. 🙂 I like that about her. I didn’t train her to be a security dog…but I didn’t have to.
Our girl is quite old…we’re reminded of that every time someone asks how old she is, and we tell them, and they look at us like we’re crazy: “She’s REALLY OLD for a BOXER, isn’t she?!?!?!?”
Well, yes.
Yes, she’s old.
She’s losing her hearing and control of her bladder (that sucks, BTW. I’m going to buy stock in Resolve.). She’s crabbier, but she still defends me to the teeth (not that she has many left), and she still likes to “hug” me when I try to go upstairs (she runs one step ahead, and gets on her hind legs to put her paws on my shoulders). She still lets me do her nails, and she misses being allowed to get on the couch (it’s a new couch).
She loves her Daddy.
Japanese Garden and Georgetown 020
And she definitely, definitely, loves ME.

IMG_20171111_173544_710

She’s an amazing dog, and an amazing soul…I believe all dogs go to Heaven. I mean, how could something love you like that…and I do believe it’s love…and not be allowed to return to their Maker? God blessed us when He gave us animals to love…

She’s been my very, very best friend…she’s been a dog I needed, even though I never knew just how much I’d need someone like her.

Holly pictures 001

She’s in my heart, and I am forever grateful for the day David called me and said, “I got a dog.”

Officially, she’s “Christmas’ Holly Golightly.”

Unofficially, she’s “Miss Stink,” “OooohGetOffaMeYou’reGross,” “$%&*%$&!!!!,” and a few other unmentionable names. 🙂

10151644916128070

She’s a Good Dog, and I wish she could read…I wish she could know just how grateful we are for her….and how we are changed for the better, because of the Love of a Dog.

Screenshot_20170904-095428

Happy 13th birthday, Holly. You’re a Very Good Dog, and we love you!

IMG_20180903_163745_418