My Dog Smiles (Press play on both at the same time for maximum emotional impact.)
Nothing good is ever wasted. Good things are good things no matter how long they last. Sweet times are still sweet memories even when they are over. Beloved are still beloved, even after they die. Good things don’t have to last forever to be good things forever.
So it is true and accepted with sweet things like dogs. Whose purity and devotion and simple pleasure make losing them all the more painful. Our Cody, our happy, gentle, pleasing, easy soul of a dog, has died. Her greatest purpose in life, to please all those around her, to make happy and content all souls in her presence, achieved, she succumbed to cancer on Friday and left us all bereft of her companionship but not of her love.
I think about her and feel a combination of sadness at the ending of such a sweet story and gladness that I got to live it. She taught me many things. The value of gentleness. The simple joy in being seen and cherished. That long looks in the eyes of another are communication more than words. That bringing joy into the world, laughter, connection, contentment, is the work of love. And here now I am learning something new from her in her death. Things being over does not take away the joy of their existence. She is not removed from our picture. She is still part of who we are. Good things ending does not take away from their goodness.
Cody joined our family at Christmastime in such a storybook way. It is fitting that she end her life in this season as well. Let me tell the story from the beginning.
One Christmas Eve my children and I were making Christmas punch in the kitchen when we heard a knock at the door. Not expecting anyone who would knock, we all went to answer and opened the door to find no one there but a letter there on the threshold addressed to all of us in a very fancy hand. Lizzie picked up the letter and wondered aloud what it could be. What could it say?
Together we all sat on the couch in the living room together to open it. The rest of the family gathered too to hear it read aloud. I opened the letter with Mallory and Evan on my lap and my sweet Lizzie reading over my shoulder. The letter was for the family, but in particular to Evan, our sweet boy of just four. When he heard that the letter was especially for him, his eyes grew serious, and he listened so carefully.
The letter, it turned out, was from Santa. He had a very special gift for Evan, though the gift was to be shared with the whole family. The gift was very fragile and as it was cold in the sleigh, Santa wondered if just this once, he might deliver this gift early. The girls gasped and Evan’s eyes grew wide. The letter continued that if it was okay to deliver the gift early, would Evan go to the window and nod “yes.” Our little boy crawled off my lap and across the couch to the window, leaning over the arm with his little face to the glass, he nodded his head and said aloud very slowly, “Yes!”.
Having done as instructed, Evan climbed back in my lap to hear the rest of the letter. Santa must have known that it would be okay because the next thing the letter said was “Good!” Our next instructions were for the whole family, we all must close our eyes and count to ten all together. We were so excited, it was difficult to close our eyes and sit still, but we did. And together the little voices of my children counted together. We opened our eyes expecting something to appear, but the letter said next, “Now, go and find your gift!”
Smiling and excited the kids climbed down and began to look around the house. Just a few seconds later they found her. A beautiful little golden puppy. A red ribbon round her neck. In a little blue basket by the fireplace. Her huge brown eyes looking out at her new family for the first time. The children cried with happiness and surprise. “A puppy! A real puppy! For Christmas!”
We never had a Christmas as magical. Never one as much fun. We played and cuddled and passed her around the circle to smell and pet and get kisses. Her sweetness and happiness and utter contentment apparent from the first moment she joined our family.
That night as I tucked little Evan into his bed, with his new little puppy sleeping next to him, he hugged me tight. His little arms reaching up around my neck, he said, “Mommy, I love Santa.” He was so sweetly grateful for the gift he had been given. A friend, a playmate, a listener, a snuggler. And for all these years that’s what she has been. For all of us. The best dog ever.
My little son now towers over me. And when I hug him, it is me who must reach up to put my arms around his neck. I did so on Friday when I told him we must go and make the hardest choice. In brave and heartbroken tears, he lifted his dog up in his young man’s arms. She was no longer little, no longer easy to lift, and carried her to the car and into the vet’s office, determined to care for her bravely, be with her loyally, right up to the end of her life.
All of us said our goodbyes and too weak to lift her head, instead she looked at us all in the eyes as she always has done, letting you know you are seen and valued by her, loved beyond measure. And without even a whimper, she died.
It is sad that she should die just before Christmas, but it is also fitting and right. And we are reminded again of the gift we were given in being her family. There will never be another Cody. I am certain her kind of loving soul is too rare to encounter again. Her sad death this Christmas does not take away the sweet joy of her arrival at her first. Her leaving does not sadden her life. Her goodness is goodness forever.
For us too, my sweet children I remind you especially, there is more goodness ahead. New joys to be had. New sweet memories to make. New letters to open. New little ones to surprise. New puppies to cuddle. More happy moments to be lived. More gifts to be treasured. More chances to be seen. More of those held dear to become beloved.