About 13 years ago, my wife brought home a blue heeler that had been abandoned at a local barn. Since then, Cooper has been a part of our lives swimming with us, running with us and even herding our son when he came into the picture about nine years ago.
If you are good at math, you'll notice our son hasn't known life without Cooper. Until now.
After spending Friday morning with our son riding, visiting the Fort Worth Zoo and eating at his favorite pizza place, we returned home for a swim. Once we got in, so did Cooper, however not in the normal way. He fell into the pool due to sudden blindness and extreme loss of coordination.
We immediately knew something was wrong and I messaged our friend and vet that I was coming to see him with Cooper. Due to our dog's age and other systemic issues, I didn't think I'd be bringing Cooper back home.
And I didn't.
Before I left with Cooper, my wife and I talked with our son. Since Cooper hasn't been doing well this summer (well the past couple actually) we'd made small steps toward this conversation. I told him, "If I take Cooper to the vet, he may not come back home with me." Our son looked back at me as if he didn't fully understand so I decided now is the time to be kind, but blunt. So I restated it, "If I take Cooper to the vet and he doesn't come back home with me, it means that he died."
That sunk in a bit more.
Since Cooper couldn't see, was so confused and nervous, I made the difficult decision to be with him as he was put down. One thing I always did, that Cooper loved, was to simply hold his muzzle in my palm and stroke his nose with my thumb. And that is how he passed – peacefully and with a familiar scent.
Late Friday evening, our son came out to me while I was picking up the dog bed, food and water bowls and said, "Dad, I don't think I want another dog. Cooper was the nicest." Him saying this helped me understand that he knows the magnitude of what happened several hours earlier that day.
His Saturday morning chores were one fewer.
After spending the morning noticing the obviously less active backyard, our son apparently had a change of heart. When I returned home from some errands Saturday, I found my wife and son huddled around the computer browsing GSP puppies. I had to ask too, what's a GSP and the answer is a German Shorthair Pointer.
Sunday during church Evan sat with us and continued to write down puppy names as they came to him. Some I'd never name a dog, some I'd never name anything and some were quite good.
Family pets help us learn responsibility, love, how to care for a living creature and about death. Dealing with death, even with knowledge that it's the best option, is still difficult.
Perhaps in a month or so, I'll have a new puppy picture and story to share with you.