Gone but not forgotten

5 Jul

The other day, as Lucy and I were playing in her room, I heard a familiar jingling noise. I looked up to see that Lucy had discovered Cooper’s old dog collar hanging from her toy shelf. The sound transported me back to a time, pre-Lucy, when Cooper, our loyal and stubborn pup, was my only baby – his wagging tail and jingling tags waiting to greet me at the door at the end of a long day.

The sound made me nostalgic for the dog days of Cooper and I longed for the opportunity to introduce him to Lucy. Cooper was a beautiful, kind, sweet (and occasionally neurotic) dog who would have been fiercely protective of Lucy had they the occasion to meet.  It’s been more than a year since our loyal pup passed away. So much has happened in that year.

Cooper was a part of my life even before Justin and long before Lucy. Not permitted to have a dog as a kid, I jumped at the opportunity to have a dog when my college roommates suggested that we adopt one together. Cooper came home to live with us when he was just 6 weeks old and stayed by my side for the next twelve years. New to pet-ownership, I was unaware of just how much space Cooper would, one day, occupy in my heart.

Always a little suspicious (and terribly jealous) of Justin, Cooper would insert himself between our legs when we hugged to prevent us from getting too close. Given the choice, Cooper would regularly choose to sit closer to me, walk nearer to me, and sleep next to me. Yet in his final days, Cooper all but ignored me, sticking close to Justin’s side. Later, Justin would assert that Cooper was finally giving Justin the okay, as if after all those years, he finally passed muster.

The evening that Cooper passed away, Kelly and Rob, our neighbors from down below, and Stephanie and Eric (new neighbors who we’d barely had a chance to know yet), joined us on our front stoop for a final farewell to Cooper. We toasted Cooper with shots of Flor de Caña and shared stories about his Nicaraguan adventures. Then Justin, Eric and the cuidador set about the task of digging Cooper’s final resting place on the hill just above our house.

The following day, with swollen eyes and a face splotchy from tears, we moved into a new apartment in our neighborhood. The distraction was good for us, we reasoned, and after two years in the same tiny bungalow, we felt it was time for an upgrade, naively unaware of just how prescient our move was to be.

One week later, two positive home pregnancy tests revealed that Lucy was already planning her entrance into the world.

A few months later, safely into the 2nd trimester, we began to tell friends our good news. When we shared the news of my pregnancy with our neighbor, Kelly, she smiled a quiet smile and told me that she already knew. The day that Cooper passed away, “the energy was different,” she told me. “Though the evening was wrought with sadness,” she explained, “I felt joy, too.”

And while Lucy never had a chance to meet Cooper, I do believe that he held on just long enough to see us thru to the next phase of our lives.


12 Responses to “Gone but not forgotten”

  1. Mariah July 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Sarah- Wow. What a powerful story about Cooper/Lucy. Definitely made me teary but also made me smile, too. They are both so lucky to have you as their mom.

    • Sarah July 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      Thanks, Maria! I was/am lucky to be their mom 🙂

  2. Kelly Ann Thomas July 6, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    Your beautiful sharing brought tears to my eyes. I am honored that I met Cooper in his old age. Old dogs have a special aura, a wisdom that humans will never understand. It was difficult seeing him move around the last month of his life, knowing that he was hanging on because he loved you so much. The night he passed on will always be special in my heart. A lot of people think that animals do not have feelings, but we know that isn’t true. Cooper passed away knowing that he had a beautiful life. When I look back upon it, the tears were not so much from his passing as they were for the love I felt from Cooper and the humans that held him in his final moments in this dimension.

    Thank you for sharing your memories. Lucy might not know him as a dog, but I bet she feels his presence as a guardian angel.

    • Sarah July 6, 2011 at 1:54 am #

      Kelly – thank you so much for your love of Cooper and for your understanding of the role animals play in our lives. Cooper loved his final days hanging with you (and enjoying steak)! I do believe that Lucy is aware of Cooper somehow – I see her smiling at the photo that I have framed of him, next to my bed. I always wonder at the “conversations” they might have had together. Much love to you.

  3. Stew July 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Tears!! Oh Coops. I am big on the transfer of life…his spirit is certainly in Lucy!

  4. Smem July 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I’m crying. Cooper was so great. And I feel the same way about my mom passing and my pregnancy. I feel they connected on the other side but just missing each other in this world.

    • Sarah July 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

      Well, now you have me crying! The circle of life is pretty amazing, isn’t it? And you know that you were always a favorite of Cooper’s! xoxo Sares

  5. Elisha MacKay September 16, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    Thanks for sharing such a touching story. Our American Bulldog, Levi is 12.5 years old and we plan to bring him to Nicaragua with us when we move in December.

    I’m concerned about the air travel at his age. May I ask, Was it very stressful on your pup Cooper? Did he have a difficult time adjusting to the heat?

    Any insight you would like to share is much appreciated!


    • Sarah October 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Elisha,

      How exciting that you are making the move! Cooper managed the flight quite well – I think I was much more anxious than he ever was. He was 10 at the time of our move. I would be sure to check out the airlines’ pet policy, as many have breed restrictions on snub nose dogs. http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/specialAssistance/travelingWithPets.jsp?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=pets#TypesofPetsAllowed

      As for the heat, I think it actually improved his health. He was quite arthritic when we left the States and I think that the heat helped to loosen his joints and made him more comfortable. He shed quite a bit of fur in his first few weeks, but then did well once he acclimated. I think that the consistent weather might have even been easier for him, as he didn’t need to adjust his coat for winter each year.

      Best of luck to you and Levi on your travels!

      • Elisha MacKay October 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

        Hi Sarah,

        Thanks for your reply. It is with sadness that I write to tell you that Levi will not be making the trip to Nicaragua with us; we made the extremely difficult decision to put him down 3 weeks ago today.

        We are grateful for the full life he lived and will cherish our memories of him always and look forward to starting the next chapter of our lives together in Nicaragua.


      • Sarah November 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

        Dear Elisha,

        I am so sorry to learn of the passing of Levi. As a fellow dog lover, I know how painful losing a pet can be. Though not with you, physically, during your move, I am sure he will be with you always in spirit.
        All the best,


  1. The bread of life « Mom's the Word - January 16, 2012

    […] to their second daughter last week.  Upon their return from the hospital, our wise friend, Kelly (whom I’ve quoted more than once in this blog), said to Stephanie and Eric, “do you guys realize that you moved here with each other and a […]

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