I love how much pets are a part of our human families. I love how they often know what we need, a warm snuggle, a little bit of excitement, an evening run… They are our fur-babies, our human children’s fur-brothers or sisters. They make our lives that much better.
I know there are a lot of you out there who know what I mean – am I right Anne? Wouldn’t life be a little less sweet without that face?!
Scrolling through facebook posts a couple of day ago I noticed that a college friend’s longtime family dog had passed away. These posts are, unfortunately, all too common. And they absolutely break my heart. While we’ve not lost one of our “original” Brian-and-Courtney-Daniel-Family pets yet (although, trust me, there have been near multiple misses), I could feel the pain of Marci and Aaron’s family having lost my childhood family dog a few years ago.
To Marci, Aaron and the girls: A fur sibling/baby is as much a part of our families as the human members. They give us joy, companionship, excitement, heartburn, high blood-pressure, at times, and most of all the unconditional love that they know we all deserve. Your Riley will be missed, but never far from your hearts, and all dogs go to Heaven.
I said before that Riley’s passing caused me to reflect on the passing of my own family dog, and then, more happily, on his mischievous life.
Copper, the 15 inch beagle, was intended to be a gift for my sister. She had been asking for a dog for a while, and while my dad was out-of-town on business, she worked up a small “research paper” on beagles and pet care. She delivered this to my mom along with an ad from the paper indicating the sale of beagle pups on some farm in the stix (Julia Rupp, I think you ad something to do with this…).
My mom, thrilled that my sister was actually reading, followed by the writing of a real research work, decided that my dad would be stuck taking Claratin for the next 14 years and that my sister should be rewarded with a puppy.
I’m sure, at times, my dad wished he would’ve stayed on that business trip.
Elbee and dad drove out to the farm where the beagles were being sold and brought home the cutest little puppy – complete with terrified look and, as we would learn at 2am that night, beagle howl. His name, while I voted for Snoopy, was Copper from the Fox and the Hound, although my mom likes to say it stood for ‘Copper of the Fields’ since my parents lived in the Copperfield development…
My sister was to be the ultimate caretaker, but it was raining that first night, and the puppy was scared and missed his mother, and my sister was a better sleeper, so I took care of Copper. I remember being out in the rain asking, no begging him to go potty so that I could return to my bed. Elbee did take him to puppy kindergarten and I know she loved Copper, but for all the research that went into his acquisition her interest was a bit short-lived.
I, on the other hand developed a special bond with Copper. He was, as my mother called him, my brother (just in case she needed a reminder I would always correct her and say, “Mom, he’s just a dog, not my brother”). A bit reluctantly I walked him, fed him, and eventually taught him numerous tricks, all of which he eagerly did when promised a treat for performance (he usually just sat there and stared at me unless I waved a treat in front of him).
As I’ve taught my children to respond “Me!” when I ask them “Who’s my good boy?” I first taught Copper to bark when I waived a treat and said to him in baby talk, “Who’s my good boy? Who’s my good boy?!”
He was also good for laughs. He had a penchant for human legs. Although neutered, he never quite figured out that humping a nearby leg was going to get him nowhere, fast. Once, while I was still in high-school I had a party while my parents were away (sorry guys) and Copper took it upon himself to latch on to one of the attendees and not let go – literally all night. He hung on to his leg as this poor kid walked from room to room and conversation to conversation. It was quite the sight, and I am sure Copper enjoyed every minute.
One Easter my parents got me a rabbit. He as a darling little Netherland’s Dwarf named Thumper after the bunny in Bambi. I kept him in a cage on the wet bar in our lower level. In case you didn’t know, Beagles are hunting dogs, and they typically hunt rabbits. My parents should have referenced my sister’s research paper before purchasing the bunny. Instinct took over and Copper “hunted” that bunny every time he was able to navigate the baby-gate blocking him from the lower level. He’d point relentlessly at the cage while the terrified bunny squeezed against the farthest corner. Poor Thumper. I’m sure he was relieved when I went away to college and he was given to a neighbor with young girls and no dog.
Copper’s favorite thing to do? Steal food. He developed quite a jump for a smallish dog. In my parent’s house my bedroom was directly under the kitchen. If food was being prepared it was hard not to hear feet walking around. But if the sound of human feel quieted and the “click click click” of canine paws and nails on the wood floor were heard above they would soon be followed by the “shuffle, thump, shuffle, thump” of dog jumping. “MOM the dogs getting dinner off the counter!” It happened at least once a week. Raw meat, loaves of bread, butter, anything he could bounce to reach. “Judy, what did you do with the pork chops?” Copper.
Copper also had a thing with pottying on stuff. Generally he would do it to mark his territory like most normal dogs, but he also did it when he was mad. Mad at you. He didn’t like it when my parents went out-of-town and he’d usually blame whomever was “babysitting” him. Once, while I was in college I house sat for my parents while they were away. They had left Copper at the Silver Dog Bed and Biscuit for the weekend and I was to pick him up and watch him over the week at their house. I did a ton of laundry before going to get him and left it in piles (my mini Mt NeverRest) in my bedroom.
After picking him up and bringing him home I realized that I’d left the baby-gate blocking him from the lower level open and he’d taken off towards the bedrooms – jerk! I ran after him and found him in my room, leg lifted to the laundry. He looked at me. I looked at him. He looked back at me and peed, long and good all over my freshly washed clothing. Bad dog!
While Brian and I were dating or engaged my parents went out-of-town again and asked us to watch the house and “my brother”. Brian had brought along a huge bag of chocolates, all wrapped in shiny foil, which he planned to consume after dinner. Copper jumped for the bag on the kitchen counter a few times and was promptly scolded. The bag was pushed father back on the counter. He laid off. A bit later Brian asked, “Where’s the dog?” “Oh my God! He’s gone downstairs!” I’m sure, dear readers, you’ve figured out Copper and the lower level were never a good match.
We flew down the stairs and there he was, leg lifted on my bedroom door. He looked at us. We looked at him. He looked at us and peed all over the door. “Catch him! Catch him,” I hollered at Brian. Brian went for paper towels and Anti-Icky Poo instead.
As we dealt with the dog urine on the floor the unmistakable “click click click” of canine paws and nails, followed by the “shuffle thump” of counter foraging filled the hallway. “Chocolate!”
We arrived to find Copper, a ripped plastic bag and one or two remaining chocolates in the front hallway. He ate them all, foil wrappers included. He distracted us with pee and stole the candy. He knew what he was doing. And so did I when I fed him hydrogen peroxide. He vomited foil and chocolate for the better part of two hours that night. He never stole chocolate again.
When Copper passed away in my arms at the age of 14 it was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through in my adult life. Maybe it was because he was so connected to my youth, so much a part of my growing up – always there when I needed a friend, able to make my blood boil, but able to make it melt all the same. Or maybe it was because he truly was a member of my family. Maybe my mom was right all along. Copper was my baby brother.
Here’s to happy memories of all the furry family members we have loved over the years! Cheers, Copper! May you be making as much mischief in dog Heaven as you did in dog life.