It has been a year since I had to put down my dog. Cobb, named after the infamous baseball player Ty Cobb, was fourteen years old. He was a Boxer/Labrador mix. Cobb lived up to his namesake’s rough and rowdy reputation.
From the beginning, Cobb was a challenge. Snow in July? Upon closer inspection, it was the shredded remains of the foam insulation in our hot tub cover. Several $200 replacement covers later, he finally grew tired of that giant chew toy and moved on to other challenges. He chased the chickens he was supposed to protect. He dug up the garden despite the fence we built around it. And barked EVERY morning for 14 years at 5 am when the morning paper hit the front porch.
The only redeeming quality about old Cobb was his genuine love of camping. We would chant “Cobb, Cobb the camping dog” and he’d leap into the van, anxious to get on the road. Oddly enough, this Labrador mix hated the water. My son pushed Cobb off a floating pontoon and for the remainder of the trip, Cobb moped in the tent keeping his distance from my son. I am not sure Cobb ever forgave him for that chilling experience.
But what is really odd is the big hole Cobb has left in my life. I hear him. I call him. I look for him everyday. I wake at 5 am to silence. I set down leftovers after dinner but he isn’t there to clean the plate. I go to the door to let him in or let him out. He was always underfoot. I find myself watching my footsteps to avoid stepping on him.
I have had three dogs in my life. All very different personalities and although Cobb was probably the least lovable, they each found a way to own me. Bruno, was our first dog. We chose the name because we thought he would grow into his remarkably large feet. Bruno remained a small dog with big feet.
Bruno was, however the smartest of the three. Each morning Bruno would wait by the back door for me to load the baby in the stroller, put on shoes and jackets and walk down the block. After walking about half way, he would take my 5 year old daughter the rest of the way to school on his own, nudging her to keep up when she stopped to pick flowers along the way. He waited as the crossing guard took her across the street, turned and ran proudly back. If the baby got within 3 feet of the gate, he would grab her diaper and pull her carefully onto the patio. Unlike Cobb, Bruno loved the water, especially snow. He would leap through the snow with only his little head visible. We promised him that someday we would live on a farm. He died from cancer just a month before we moved to Oregon.
Then there was a yellow Labrador named Babe, after Babe Ruth. This big lug was good-natured and loved to please. We had a duck that imprinted on Babe and followed him everywhere. The duck would nibble Babe’s ears, jump on his back and waddle between his legs avoiding the swing of his hefty tail. Babe never seemed to mind and gingerly walked to avoid stepping on this pesky duck. Babe would swim out so far in the lake we would lose sight of him. He had epilepsy and suffered miserably with arthritis. Toward the end, I would carry him in and out of the house. It was a very dark day when he passed away.
How is it that these creatures, whether good or bad, become imprinted upon our very being until it is difficult to imagine our lives without them and painful when that inevitable day arrives. It should have been easy to let Cobb go and often, when he was at his worst I would remark how his passing would not be a day of mourning. He knew better. And so should I. The grandkids are already after me to get a puppy. I think it will be a long time before I even consider raising another dog. An outdoor cat, perhaps. Oh, I have had many adventures with cats, but that is another column. That is what a wise grandma would do.