I used to have a dog named Barney. He was named after the store, not the dinosaur.
Barney got sick when he was 9 years old. It was summer/2003. Cody and I were engaged at the time, but he was up at camp. The vet informed me that Barney had cancer and presented me with two choices: We can keep him alive for a few more months (for 5000.00) or he will die.
It was a test. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a test–and not from me, from Barney.
Barney was with me from the time I was 25 until I was 32. A girl can go through a lot of things in 7 years: 5 Cars, 2 cities, 9 homes, 539 pieces of cake, 4 jobs, 1 broken engagement, clothes, friends, boyfriends…and he was with me through all of it. It always came down to me and Barney. But now I was about to get married, in just three short months. M.A.R.R.I.E.D.
Barney needed to make sure Cody was the right guy.
And it was going to cost him 5000.00.
Barney hung tough after he got cancer. During that time, we went back and forth downstate for frequent treatments and he enjoyed his last summer at camp. Barney was with me for all the wedding prep, the parties and the big move to the new house. It wasn’t until the night before I got married that he decided to die.
I firmly believe that it was a conscious decision on Barney’s part to pick that night. Everything had been pretty much about him from the moment I rescued him, why wouldn’t he take a night that was supposed to be about me and Cody and make it about him? And it wasn’t like he waited until after we left–he dropped as we were, LITERALLY, walking out the door for Rehearsal Dinner.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Who does that??
It was bad.
I still remember it like it was yesterday and quite honestly, I’m crying right now as I write this.
Damn Dogs. I still can’t believe I got another one after him, but I did, and now he’s gone too.
And here I am again.
Crying and missing him terribly.
A month after Barney died, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was time for a new dog. We started the search. We went to Golden Retriever Rescue.
Golden Retriever Rescue of Michigan has a rule that you have to see three dogs before making a final decision. Floyd was in the first foster home we went to. It was the grossest house. It smelled so bad. There were tons of dogs, all over the place. It was chaotic. And then, out of nowhere, Floyd Coden walked up to me with his big block head and his little stubby tail.
He was The Dog. His name wasn’t Floyd at that time. No one actually knew his real name or his history, outside of the fact that someone docked his tail and he had been to 3 or 4 homes before Golden Retriever Rescue got him. The foster lady was calling him “Bobbie” because of his tail. I thought that was really mean. I needed to get him out of there, but there was that rule, that stupid three-dog-rule. I was scared if I wasted my time going to two more foster homes, someone else would scoop up Floyd.
Cody called Golden Retriever Rescue and explained in no uncertain terms that we would be more than happy to make a nice do-na-tion to their or-gan-i-zation if they could just bend the rules this one time.
And that was that.
Hi, Bobbie! Your new name is Floyd Coden. Welcome to the family. No, the couch is not for peeing. I really wish you wouldn’t do that. OK, well, I wanted a new couch anyway. You are going to have a really great life. Hey, can you not eat that? You will come to work with me every day and you will spend your summers at camp. And check this out! Here’s a super comfy new bed for you. Oh, look at that…you’re humping the bed. That‘s certainly interesting. Oh, and this is Dakota (We had a Siberian Husky at the time, he was Cody‘s dog from before we got married). Dakota is going to be your new brother. Try not to get in his way, OK? He might kill you. Well, I think that’s it! Welcome to your new life!
Adopting a dog is interesting because instead of molding him from the very beginning, he will come to you with behaviors that may need modifying. You can either take the time to re-teach or you can accept and accommodate. (It’s actually not that much different from adopting a child). This is what we were told about Floyd when we got him:
He is 2 years old (He was really 3). He loves car rides. He loves the water.
We soon found out that “He loves car rides” was a bit of an understatement. He was a flat- out maniac. It was like he thought he was in a video game or something. He would chase every car that went by while he was still IN THE CAR. He would thrash around like a fish out of water for entire car rides. He never sat down, except to recover for a moment here and there, and during recovery time he would land with his head right on my shoulder and just breathe. And that was so cute, for 30 seconds. But after that time, his big head would get heavy and his tongue would get really long and it would touch me, and his dog breath would fog up my windows and I would start to get a little nauseous. That’s when I would yell “Back off!” which he would interpret as “Go crazy!” and the routine would start all over again.
Things got a little better after Sweet Pea joined our family because I got an SUV. That put a little distance between me and Floyd Coden but when he got tired of running around in circles, he would put his paws over the back seat and eventually end up doing the whole breathing thing next to Sweet Pea. That dog would go entire rides there and back to camp without lying down once. Those trips can last anywhere from 3-½ to 4 hours. He didn’t care.
As soon as we would get to camp, Floyd Coden would jump in the lake. Boom. Lake. And then he would roll around in whatever he could find that was dirty. Then he would knock over every garbage can looking for food, and then he would find me.
If I wasn’t walking around camp, I was probably in Cody’s office. I used to work full-time before I had kids and back then I would work from the camp office. There is a swinging door right by where we sat. When Barney was going to camp, he usually hung with Dakota so he would either slide in when Dakota opened the door, or he would just bark until someone got up to let him in. Cody wasn’t interested in getting up a million times for Floyd Coden like he did for Barney, so he taught him early on how to open the door.
I still haven’t decided if that was a good idea or not.
You see, once Floyd Coden learned to open that swinging door, he put the same skill towards opening ALL the swinging doors at Camp Tanuga.
For 10 freakin’ summers I had kids coming up to me with a variety of complaints about Floyd Coden:
Kid: Floyd Coden broke into our cabin and ate all of my chocolate chip cookies! My grandma sent them!! There were like 2 dozen cookies in there!
Me: I don’t know what to tell you. You should have put them high, high up so he couldn’t get them.
Kid: I did put them up! He must have jumped up on the bed or something. I don’t know. And they were covered. He ate the cover too!
Different kid: Um…there is garbage all over our cabin and all over the front porch. Floyd Coden knocked everything over. Garbage is everywhere.
Me: Well, you must have had something in your garbage that he wanted.
Kid: Well, we did have a G’s pizza party with spears and stuff last night…
Me: Geez, looks like that mystery’s solved.
And that was Floyd Coden at camp. He had total freedom, until he didn’t. He was placed on probation many, many times each day. Sometimes he would break probation and we would have to put him on Double Secret Probation. He was a bad guy.
But such a good boy.
When underprivileged, at-risk or special needs kids would come to camp through the Bear Hug Foundation, I can not tell you how many times kids would get off the bus scared stiff of Floyd Coden. “Is that your dog?? Does your dog bite?? Why‘s he so big? Where‘s his tail? Are you sure he doesn‘t bite?” And then 3 or 4 days later they would leave crying because I wouldn’t let Floyd Coden stay on the bus and go home with them.
Never one to waste his free time before probation would set in, Floyd Coden used to love to leave camp and take a walk down Hidden Harbor Road (a road just outside of camp). We would get calls from the people who lived on that road that Floyd was at their house. No, we didn’t have to come get him, they just wanted us to know that they had him and he was fine.
One morning, a little girl was sitting at her kitchen table, crying and upset because her own dog just died, and lo and behold– in walks Floyd Coden. He walked right into their house and right up to that little girl. Poor kid. She was so excited. She thought he was going to be their new dog, but he was just looking to see what they were having for breakfast.
Luckily for us, that family sent Floyd Coden back because we needed him for our own kids. When we left Floyd to go to China for 17 days, he had no idea that we would be returning with a baby. When they saw each other, they were both like What the…?? What are you supposed to be? Sweet Pea was 11 months old and had never seen a dog before and Floyd Coden was more than a little confused when we walked in with a Chinese baby.
He was so good to us during that crazy time of stress and transition. I will never forget how he would come with me every single time I had to go to Sweet Pea’s room–no matter what time or how many times–he came with me and he stayed with me. He stayed through all the freak-outs and all the tears, mine and hers.
Lovey was the one who was really close with him though. Floyd Coden was her guy. Even if she just walked out of a room and back in, it was like she hadn’t seen Floyd for days. She was so excited. She loved to squeeze his head and give him her own made-up “Buji Buji’s.” “BUJI BUJI BUJI!!!“ She loved that dog so much. And he felt the same, especially if she was holding food.
I used to say that the day I crinkled something in the kitchen and Floyd Coden didn’t come running, that would be the day to say good-bye. Floyd got sick in May, 2013 but we didn‘t see it coming. He wasn’t acting or eating any differently so we had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with him.
Cody tried to explain Floyd’s kidney disease but I couldn’t concentrate, so when the girls and I were up at camp visiting Cody over Memorial Day weekend, Floyd and I went for a walk to one of the campsites and I called the vet. He explained that Floyd’s condition was very serious and he had about two weeks to live.
I’m sorry. That’s unacceptable.
I looked at Floyd and he wagged his stub and we both decided that two weeks was just stupid.
We told the girls early on in his illness that we needed to appreciate each day with Floyd because he was sick. We told them that he could die soon and to be extra nice to him–all the time. They knew he was sick; they knew he was dying, but he seemed so healthy and he was still so handsome!
It was all very surreal. In fact, we all had trouble taking it seriously. If you had met Floyd Coden over the summer, you would never have known that he was sick. He was moving a little slower and his hearing was going, but you wouldn’t have known he was sick. Whenever someone would come up to him at camp and remark about how cute he was, Little Lovey would walk right up to them–hand on hip–and say “You know, he’s DYING. He’s DYING.” It wasn’t funny, but it was because he so wasn’t dying.
But he was.
Cody got the brunt of it. I will never forget all he did to keep our family together. He worked with a great vet up north who taught him how to give Floyd Coden IV’s every other day. In addition, he put Floyd on a very high maintenance diet that sent anyone who might be coming up to camp on a quick trip to the vet to pick up the food Floyd needed. It was a lot of work, but it kept Floyd Coden alive for an unbelievable 5-½ months more than what the doctor predicted.
Even when we got home from camp, Floyd was hanging in there. His back legs were giving out more and more so he fell down a lot, but he still managed to come into the kitchen every time he heard something, he still rolled around and went crazy after a full meal, and he still put his leash in his mouth and walked himself to the bus stop every day.
But then one day, he was done. Cody knew it and I knew it. We could see it in his eyes. I didn’t want to let go but it wouldn’t have been fair not to.
It was time to say good-bye to our very handsome, dumpster-diving, stubby-tail guy. Little Lovey said it perfectly when she said “Saying good-bye is hard, mommy. I wish Floydie could come back to life like princesses, but this is real life.”
And now this is our life, life without Floyd Coden. And there is a hole. A huge, gaping hole. I feel it every morning when Cody and the girls leave and he’s not in the kitchen, hoping something is for him. I feel it every minute when I’m at my desk and he’s not next to me. I feel it every time I walk in the house and he’s not at the door.
I feel that he’s gone and it hurts. Bad.
But as any dog lover will tell you, the hardest part about loving a dog is losing him. It’s a pain like no other. You think you’ll never have another dog as smart or as funny or as perfect as this one, and though you know there will come a time when you will look back and smile instead of cry, that doesn’t ease the hurt you feel now.
I think it was Ernest Hemingway that said “The end of something is always the beginning of something else.” Or something like that. I should check, but I’m just too tired. At this time, the end of Floyd Coden, I have also decided that I’m also going to close up shop with “Dim Sum and Doughnuts.” This blog, for me, was about our life as a family, and Floyd Coden was as much a part of that life and this family as Cody or Sweet Pea or Lovey.
My first blog www.codenbaby.blogspot.com was all about adopting Sweet Pea. (Not a plug, just an explanation). Floyd Coden was a major player in our adoption adventures and clueless parenting. After that, www.dimsumanddoughnuts.com was born because I wanted to include Lovey in the fun. It was only natural to start a new blog that included her.
Thank you so much to Will Porter at Porter One Design who made the awesome DS&D logo for me. Will does amazing logo and print work and he is hilarious. Ushka Shaknis, I love you for taking the “profile” photo of me when I wasn’t paying attention. To make me look good, you must be an amazing photographer. (I feel like I just won an award and this is my acceptance speech–but this is the end of my little blog and I have things to say!! Don’t be a hater!) Also, to Demoree and Ellen at EPK Design: You made a beautiful site for me. I’m sorry I didn’t do more with it. I feel in some ways I wasted it, but I have a lot of memories for my girls and my husband. And to the people who “liked” my posts and left comments…you don’t know. Writing takes time and although I’m doing this for my family, the feedback was what kept me going. I can’t thank you enough for making me feel validated.
Please don’t forget us. You know we’ll be back! (I can’t go very long without having something to say…I try, but I can’t).
In the meantime, go buy Eminem’s new CD, eat lots of cake and Go Buckeyes.
Thanks for everything.
I love you guys and I’ve loved these days.