Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Cooper

This is my goodbye letter to my best friend.  I wanted to put down into words a lot of my good memories with him, so I don't forget them as time passes by.


You were by far the BEST dog I have ever had or known in my life.  You were so full of life and love.  I still remember you as a pup staring up at me in the bathroom while I put on my makeup.  You were so small and sweet.  Growing up I always loved having puppies, but I knew that as they got bigger and turned into dogs they weren't quite as much fun or quite as cute.  That was NEVER true with you.  You were even more fun and still pretty cute as you turned into a beautiful and majestic dog. 

Back in 2004, after we had been married a year, we knew we wanted to add to our family, but we certainly weren't ready for any human babies.  I had always had larger dogs growing up (English Springer Spaniels and Chocolate Labs), so I knew I wanted a somewhat larger dog.  Daddy had only ever had dachshunds, but he was up for a challenge.  After researching different dog breeds Daddy suggested getting a Vizsla or a Weimareiner.  We chose a Vizsla because the breed was uncommon and beautiful and just the right size.  We liked the idea of having a dog that people would stop and ask us about (which by the way happened quite frequently).  I also liked the idea of having a dog that matched me.  Kind of like in the beginning of 101 Dalmatians where you see various dogs and their humans and they all seem to match.  Cooper, you always matched me, with your beautiful coat of red hair.

You were born in August in Beeville, TX.  I never met your "real" Mom or Dad.  Daddy picked you up from your first home and took you to Sugar Land to meet your extended family before driving you home to Abilene to meet me.  I remember being so mad that I had to work and couldn't go with Daddy to pick you up.  Daddy said you rode in his lap the whole way home.  You were so tiny.  When Daddy took you to meet your Grandparents and Aunt the little dachshunds ganged up on you and attacked!  Dashy was going straight for the jugular (as Daddy put it).  She would go into convulsions and shake uncontrollably every time you came to visit.  That was especially true once you got to be 3 or 4 times her size.  Frank got used to you, but he mostly kept to himself.

I fell in love with you the minute I saw you.  You were just perfect.  Daddy always reminds me that I really wanted a girl puppy.  He thinks it is funny now that I prefer boy dogs.  You changed my mindset about that for sure.  Of course I got my girls later on once Autumn and Olivia arrived, but we'll get to that later.

I have so many good and crazy memories of our first two years together in Abilene.  Daddy and I had moved from a 2 bedroom duplex close to school into a 1 bedroom apartment across town, just so we could be somewhere that allowed pets.  I remember your "devil runs" before we took you to training.  Every night around the same time you would run as fast as you could in circles around our tiny apartment.  It was like you had all of this energy you just had to get out.  I also remember the first day we left you at home while we went to class.  We left you in your crate and when we came home you were hoarse from crying so much while we were gone.  You would "bark" but nothing would come out.  It was so sad and cute at the same time.

You were sent to a special training camp to learn some basic training commands (in German).  Our good friend Matt (you knew him as Uncle Matt), took Kody there, so we decided we would take you there as well.  I had a hard time sending you off to training because you were so small and cute and I hated to miss out on that puppy time with you, but it was a great decision.  You did great in training.  You learned how to sit, lay down, stay, heel, and eat on command.  You even earned your CGC (Canine Good Citizen).  You stayed at the training camp for 2 or 3 weeks with no visits from us (it wasn't allowed) and then you came home and we began weekly training for several months.  While you stayed at the training camp you were diagnosed with a tapeworm.  They were feeding you and you kept eating more and more and more, but you weren't really gaining much weight, so they suspected you had a tapeworm, and they treated you for it.  They quickly realized that they were in fact right about the tapeworm and you got better and began to gain weight.  You were always slightly food aggressive after that.  I always say that you were starving for the first few months of you life, so it makes sense that you wouldn't want anyone in your way when you were eating.  As you got older and were fed VERY well you began to lose your food aggression.

I remember playing with you out in the small open area next to our apartment building.  You and daddy would play fetch, although you never really retrieved very well.  You just loved to run and jump and play.  I remember playing with you in the snow.  You looked so beautiful in the white snow with your beautiful red coat.  You seemed to enjoy it.

After we finished college we moved back "home" to the Houston area.  We bought our first house and you got your first backyard.  You loved the open space, the doggy door, and barking constantly at the golfers and squirrels.  Those squirrels loved to taunt you.  They would run back and forth along the telephone wires in the backyard and shake their tails at you.  You also loved to go visit Grandma and Grandpa's and swim swim swim.  You knew as soon as I took off your collar that it was swimming time.  You loved it so much.  You would even sneak out the dachshund sized doggy door and jump in the pool when no one was watching.  We would find you back inside and soaking wet.  While you swam you would splash the water and then try to "eat" the water that you had just splashed into the air.  It was the funniest thing I had ever seen a dog do.

In 2007 I got a crazy idea to train you to be a therapy dog.  We drove all the way up to Huntsville and took a test, which you passed fairly easily.  The only part that tripped you up was the other dogs.  You just wanted to play with them.  Because of your reactions to other dogs we were given "limited" status as a therapy team.  We visited sick patients at Shriner's Hospital and various hospice care centers.  You would let the kids pet you and you would even lay on the laps of some patients.  I really enjoyed sharing that experience with you.

For Christmas 2007 we got a family beach house in POC.  You loved it there.  You would just run out into the water and keep going and going and going.  We'd have to call for you to come back.  You would drink so much saltwater that you would be sick for hours after swimming, but you'd be right back at it the next day.  You never seemed to learn your lesson.

In 2008 I began to run and run and run.  I trained for my first marathon and you helped me.  You would frequently join me on short or long runs.  I think the longest run you ever did with me was either 15 or 18 miles.  It was a piece of cake for you.  I loved having you as my running partner.  I felt safer with you, even though you were scared of your own shadow.  I distinctly remember a run down Commonwealth Blvd one night.  When we started it was light, but it got dark on us.  You were constantly looking over your shoulder and "jumping" as if someone scared you or was after you.  You were literally scared of your own shadow.

In October 2008 we took our first "family vacation."  Daddy and I took you with us to the Ozarks in Arkansas for a week long camping trip.  We ate by the camp fire, hiked, went fly fishing, and generally had a great time.  You loved it!  You even got to go swimming in Lake Ouachita and the White River.  I have some great memories (and pictures) from that trip.

In 2010 you started to notice something different about Mommy.  I was getting "fat".  So, you started to help me.  I think you gained about 5-10 lbs with each of my pregnancies.  We quit running together and we layed on the couch and watched TV.  You were a great couch buddy.  Finally in October 2010 we brought home your little sister, Autumn.  You were not sure what to think about her.  You mostly ignored her and occasionally licked her.  I think you kept thinking she would go away someday, but she never did.  Slowly, she got bigger and bigger.  She started to look like a little version of Mommy.  When she started eating solid foods you enjoyed eating all of the food she threw on the floor.  Occasionally you and I would run together again, but not as often as before.  There was also less room for you in the backseat now that Autumn's car seat took up so much room.  On the positive side, Mimi watched Autumn a couple of days a week and she would always bring you a sausage biscuit from McDonald's when she came over.

In 2012 you experienced deja vu when you noticed Mommy getting fat again.  You gained more weight with me, and this time you had an idea of what to expect when we brought your second little sister home.  You seemed to like Olivia much better than Autumn (not that you didn't like Autumn, because I know you did).  You loved to lick Baby O and you would frequently sit as a guard to her bedroom door as I sat in the glider in the corner nursing her.  You did that just this week.  Olivia would light up when she saw you and you could make her laugh.  I was convinced that her first word would be bubba (sorry bud - it was Mama).

You really settled into family life with the little girls.  You still got in the way and made a lot of noise, but you also chilled out and sat back while we did our nightly routine and then you'd quietly slip into bed with Mommy and Daddy at night.

In May 2013 you started acting funny one night.  You would stand and stare into space, you wouldn't eat, you wouldn't move much and once you layed down I couldn't get you back up.  Also, the inside of your ears and your gums were very white.  We took you to the doctor and quickly realized that you were very sick.  The doctor had to do an emergency splenectemy to remove your ruptured spleen.  You made it through surgery fine, but for some reason you wouldn't use one of your back legs.  You hobbled around on 3 legs for weeks.  Finally in late June after a weekend stay with Grandma you began to walk on all four legs again.

After your emergency surgery the doctor sent your spleen off to pathology to test the tumor on it.  The results that came back were heartbreaking.  You had hemangiosarcoma, a very aggressive form of cancer.  We knew that our days left with you were limited.  Daddy and I made plans to take you down to the bay several times.  We spent lots of time cuddling with you and we told you we loved you every chance we got. 

We knew what signs to look for when the time came - signs of internal bleeding similar to when your spleen ruptured.  On Monday morning I was standing at the kitchen sink doing some dishes and hurrying up trying to get myself and the girls ready for work and school.  I noticed you laying down on the wood floor a couple of feet from me.  You never lay down on the wood floor.  You always lay down on the rug or your bed or the couch or your favorite black chairs, but rarely just on the wood floor.  I knew something was up, so I told Daddy that something was wrong with you.  We called you over and looked at your ears and gums.  They were very pale, not completely white, but definitely not your normal pink.  We knew your time was probably coming to an end.  Daddy and I got the girls off to school and then we came home to you.  We cooked you up some scrambled eggs with cheese, but you barely touched them.  You took a sip or two of water, but you were pretty lethargic.  You pretty much just layed on your bed. 

Daddy and I packed you up and took you to the doctor's office.  The doctor performed an ultrasound and confirmed that you had loose fluid in your abdomen, near your bladder.  She took a small sample and it appeared to be blood, meaning that you were bleeding internally.  Daddy and I knew that surgery was not an option this time.  Your cancer was very aggressive and surgery would only buy us days or weeks at most and then we'd be right back at the same place we were at then.  We didn't want you to suffer through the pain of a surgery that would be a fishing expedition to find a tumor or tumors.  We knew we had to say goodbye to you.

Cooper, saying goodbye to you, has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Everywhere I look in our home there are constant reminders that you aren't there.  I feel like I keep hearing your nails scratching the floor or your collar jingling down the hall.  The hardest part for me is when I get into bed at night, on the nights when daddy isn't home or when he is still working or watching TV in the other room.  I slip into bed and reach for you, but you're not there.  At nights, when the girls are in bed, and Daddy isn't home yet, I feel so lonely and scared.  Our home is way too quiet without you.  I miss my watch dog.  I don't know how much of a protector you would have been if needed, but I always felt safer with you around. 

Last night Autumn dropped some of her food on the floor and she called for you to come eat it.  "Bubba, bubba, come here" she said.  I had to remind her of where you are.  She says you are "with Jesus and Pops."  I know she is right. 

Cooper, Daddy and I are already talking and thinking about when to bring a new Vizsla into our home.  I want you to know that no matter when or who we bring into our home, you will never be replaced.  You will always be our "Bubba".  Because of the joy and companionship you brought to our family we know that we cannot go long without a dog (or really a Vizsla) in our home.

Cooper I will always love you and I will miss you until I see you again.



I'll always remember you like this Buddy.
Note: We will be spreading Cooper's ashes over the bay water in POC, so that we can always remember him at his favorite place.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Disneyland Part 1

Last weekend we went to Disneyland!  You may remember that last summer my Mom and I took Autumn to Disney World, because I had a work seminar in Orlando.  This summer Andrew and I took both girls to California to visit Andrew's little sister, Aunt Alli.  Since she lives in Bakersfield and there is pretty much nothing to do in Bakersfield we decided to have her help us take the girls to Disneyland.  We had a blast.  Autumn has been completely obsessed with all things Disney since last summer.  She loves Minnie Mouse, all of the princesses (her favorite one changes daily), Sofia and Doc.  I was so glad that Andrew got to experience the Disney magic with us this year and I was also extremely appreciative of the extra help Aunt Alli was to us. 

Our trip pretty much consisted of meeting all of the princesses and getting pics with them and their autographs.  We also rode a few rides and enjoyed the nighttime fireworks and water shows.  Autumn was at such a fun age this year.  She is so talkative and opinionated.  Both girls really did very well considering the heat, lines, lack of naps, etc.  There were few fits (I can't say none) and generally lots of smiles. 

We stayed at the Doubletree Suites about a 30 minute walk from the parks.  It was a great location and I highly recommend it.  We walked to the park every day and it was very convenient.

I do have to mention that our trip home was absolutely horrible.  Our flight got delayed by 5 hours and then Andrew and I both got sick (like barfing sick) on the plane ride home.  We were taking turns barfing and holding Olivia.  So NOT FUN.  Other than the horrific flight home we had a great trip.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  I only have half of the pics because Andrew has the other half on his computer.  I'll do another post soon with some of those pics.
Chip or Dale (I can never tell them apart) grabbed Autumn's hand and led her to the Main Street Parade. 
We had to run after them.  It was such a fun experience. 
Autumn got to experience the "Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique".  She was in awe!

About to begin the princess makeover.

When is it my turn?

Do you see how much gel they put in her hair?

Perfectly Pink Princess Nails.

Air drying her nails.

Little sis having some fun at the salon.

Uh oh, makeup!

Lipgloss too!

The magic mirror even lit up.  Autumn was coached on how to pose,
but she was still in awe, soher poses were a little funny.

Autumn and her "fairy godmother in training" Perla.

Happiest baby EVER!

These fair ladies fawned over Autumn.  They gave her special attention in the Tangled Show.  It helps to have a beautiful princess come with you to Disneyland.  You get lots of special treatment.

Meeting Princess "Rora" as Autumn calls her.

Autumn and Snow White

Autumn and Cinderella (her "Derella" as Autumn calls her)

Apparently Baby O was very happy to meet Derella too.
Another fair lady who thought Autumn was too cute!

Daisy was my favorite.  She made fun of Andrew because
he had glitter all over his arms from carrying Autumn.

The highlight of our trip - meeting Ariel Under the Sea
(Autumn always calls her "Ariel Under the Sea", never just Ariel).

"Whole New World" with Autumn.  I love Autumn's names for the princesses.

Practicing some royal behavior with Aunt Alli.

Kisses for Aunt Alli.

Hugs for Daddy.

Meeting Jake from the Neverland Pirates.

Hanging out in a tea cup with Mommy.

Mommy with her girls and Mommy's favorite princess. 
See any resemblance?

Saying Good Bye to Aunt Alli.

Daddy, Aunt Alli and the girls.