|Copper (2001-February 23, 2016)|
That old Native saying we have been lead to believe is true, struck me on the six hour journey, planned the day before to allow a peaceful passing for our dear, sweet Copper. Words do not do justice to this dog. “Today is a good day to die.” True or not, I pondered a possible meaning.
Growing older myself, and being in a place I have worked very hard to achieve and feeling the utter joy of it all, I find myself thinking that same phrase; not in a somber mood but in one of reflection, peacefulness and fulfillment, on various occasions. For some odd reason, that phrase stuck with me. “Today is a good day to die.” This, to me, means that I have, thus far, lived a life of constant emotional, psychological and spiritual growth whereas, after learning hard lessons, I have been true to myself and shared that truth with others; that I am in a place of contentment and am feeling fulfilled and am aware of my place on this earth. I live more in the moment than I ever have and don’t take things for granted. I am thankful and grateful every single day and, therefore, “Today is a good day to die” with no regrets.
Should I anthropomorphize, I would say that Copper might just have been feeling the same way; the same way on his final day.
Linda found me in the Fall of 2001. I was running along and weaving through traffic in a city neighborhood that isn’t known for being too friendly to those little furry souls found wandering. She was doing an appraisal in the area and stopped immediately when she saw me. I was really scared and cowered to the ground when she reached down to pick me up. She noticed immediately that I had fleas and that my toenails were curled under from neglect. I saw the sad and concerned look in her eyes as she wrapped me in a blanket and put me in the back of her Subaru. It smelled of other dogs and something I would later learn was the country.
We traveled around my neighborhood for a while as she got in and out of the car, making sure to let me know I would be alright and that she would be right back. I guess she needed to finish up some work in the area before we took the long drive back to her house. I had never seen or smelled such things before! Horses! Oh, my goodness, I do love horses!
From that day on, Linda kept me safe. She took me on long walks and I got to run alongside her bike with the other dogs in my new family as she biked down a gravel trail. I had never seen and smelled so many new things in my entire life! The vets told Linda that I was only 6 months old when she found me. I didn’t remember much from those days.
Pretty soon, I was helping to raise sled dog puppies. Boy, were they a challenge but I did my best to keep them in line. Once though, when I was about a year old, I was so happy while playing with them that I did the crazy dog run around Linda’s office and knocked my shoulder into her file cabinet. Ouch, did that hurt! I guess I hurt myself pretty bad and my shoulder never would stay in place so the vet told Linda that it would be best to have my leg removed. I was really confused and depressed for a couple of weeks until Linda showed me that I could do just about everything I did before but in a different way. She wouldn’t let me play so much with the sled dogs any more, though, and, really, I just kept them in line from inside the house and through the window. She also didn’t let me swim any more. I guess it doesn’t work very well with only three legs.
We began to go on winter adventures with the sled dogs and I got to ride on the snowmobile with my coat and booties into the remote cabins miles from plowed roads. On one of the final remote adventures, I was getting a little older so Linda and Neil wrapped me in a heat blanket for that run in. I was nice and cozy in there. I so loved to go along with them.
When we moved up into the woods, I found the rocky ground to be a bit more difficult to walk on but Linda put my booties on and I did well enough. I fended off several Ravens from the play area. I was sure they were up to no good.
I was taking 2 mile hikes with Linda just a year ago. And when I started to slow down, Linda would just pick me up and put me in a front pack that she bought just for me. We would go into town and she would let me walk on the concrete sidewalks, which I loved. We hiked along the rocks in the bay and she would pick me up whenever I needed her to. I would stick my nose up in the air just to sniff in all of the smells from that big beautiful lake. Then we would go for ice cream.
When State Fair time rolled around for the 6th year in a row, I actually got to go with Linda and Neil this time. They worked their Honey booth during the day but got up super early to walk me before they left and took me for a long walk late into the evening when they returned. On the days when they couldn’t get back in the middle of the day to visit me, Hailey came over and took me for a long walk or I went over to her house to spend time with her there. Linda, her mom and I spent lots of time in the park watching the squirrels. I loved squirrels.
Lately, I hadn’t been feeling too well. I was losing a lot of weight and didn’t want to walk too far at all. Linda found a growth on my belly just a couple days ago and she noticed that I began to cough. She also noticed that I really didn’t want to do much at all and my eyes would follow her around the room while I was perched on top of my chair. Since I really didn’t want to move around, Linda would move me from chair to chair throughout the day and then upstairs to look out the window as they all hooked up the sled dogs for a run. It was nice and sunny up there. I really liked looking out the windows.
Oh, Linda always told Neil not to feed me at the table but in the past few months, SHE was feeding me from the table while I sat on her lap! Oh, the luck! She didn’t even seem to mind when I snatched food right off her plate. She would NEVER let the sled dogs do that.
Yesterday morning, Linda loaded my crate into the car. I love car rides but this time, I could barely show it but did manage to give her a tail wag. She popped me in my crate and off we went. Linda tried not to show it, but I could tell something was different. She wasn’t happy. I had actually heard her crying last night for a long time but couldn’t go up to see her. I was just too tired. Half way through the car ride, she let me ride on her lap. She gave me a pill that made me feel really calm and peaceful while she held my head in her hands and stroked my back. I realized later that we were going to the vet. She knew that ever since I lost my leg, I have not liked going to the vet and get frightened so that must have been why she gave me the pill. We even went through the drive thru and I got to eat some vanilla ice cream; one of my favorites. I still felt just so tired.
Neil, Copper and I made the six hour journey from our home in the woods to the big city in what began as a snowstorm turning to and from variations on the theme, all the way down. I peered out the window with Copper on my lap, watching the snow gather on the balsam trees. Oh, how beautiful that was to see! Was this a good day; a good day to die? I would say so. No regrets. Living in the moment. Living every emotion at 100%. That’s what Copper did. Dogs have this gift. The moment; each moment is a gift. Copper was a gift. He taught me to just be me; now and in the moment. Feel, live, love.
We arrived at the vet, having made an appointment the day before. This was the vet we had been to years ago, before the move. This was the vet that knew Copper well and that we knew well. It just seemed fitting that we return for this moment. Neil and I brought Copper back to the exam room and placed Copper’s dog bed, that Neil had tucked under his arm, on the exam table. I placed Copper in the bed, holding his head and stroking his back, while we waited. Copper was relaxed and peaceful. The vet came in and gave Copper something to slip into an even calmer state. I rubbed his ears and spoke quietly to him. Being fortunate to have so many dogs in my life and being so unfortunate to have seen many pass over the years, I knew what was next. I had been trying to prepare myself for this day since he began to slow down a year ago. One can never be prepared for the loss of a life and especially when this life holds so much meaning to you and has touched yours in ways no words can ever describe.
Copper left this earth peacefully yesterday afternoon; February 23, 2016. I love you, Copper. See you later. My heart is heavy. The sadness runs deep. But what is overwhelmingly clear is that there was an overabundance of joy that can never be overshadowed by the pain of his passing. He lived a life the way dogs do; the way humans struggle to live. He lived in the moment; this very moment. And I do believe that Copper would have agreed that it was a good day to die.