These are my memories of my beloved dog, Cody, who my wife and I had to put down after having him for 13 wonderful years.
We almost didn’t adopt Cody. When we met him, we weren’t impressed at all. We found Cody on Petfinder.com where we have found all of our dogs.
He was being fostered by a woman named Patty and her husband in South Jersey. We went to visit them on a sunny day in June. Patty already had another dog, “Murphy”, and her husband was not interested in adopting another. However, it was clear that Patty had bonded with Cody and we got the impression she wasn’t that serious about adopting out Cody, she seemed to be placating her husband.
We walked in and Cody came over and jumped up on us. Patty apologized, and said he only seemed to do that when people first came in and Cody would settle down. He did, and Patty was absolutely correct. It was a habit Cody had, and we were never able to break him of it. Old age and hip dysplasia finally cured him of this. If he really liked you, he might also “bop” you on the nose with his nose when he jumped up on you. I tried to tell people this was an honor, but most of them didn’t really appreciate being hit square in the nose, go figure.
We chose to take Cody for a walk to get him away from Patty and see how he was. We put a choke chain on him, attached the leash and went outside…
…and I almost lost my arm at the shoulder. Cody was a strong dog, and clearly was not leashed trained. He pulled and did not let up. The dog was straining and straining on the leash, choking himself in the process. He would not relent. We walked him for maybe 2 blocks, and then I turned to my wife and said “Let’s take this dog back. This is ridiculous.”
We went back to Patty’s house. She asked us about Cody and we told her how he just pulled and pulled and choked himself. “Oh well he’s never been on a leash before”, was her answer.
Ok, well that certainly explained that. I watched Cody for a bit. He went over to Patty, and sat right in front of her. She started petting him, and I could see that he was happy, content, and clearly had bonded with Patty. He seemed like a cool dog. Perhaps he just needed some better owners who would work with him and train him.
I asked about where he came from and was given his history. He was found along with his litter mates, by the side of the road in a cardboard box in March 2001. He was adopted by a young woman who lived with her Mom and had several dogs already. They all lived in a fenced in pen. The young woman apparently moved out, and since this was “her” dog the mom didn’t want Cody anymore. She then gave him up to a rescue organization. I noted he was healthy and had his shots. I also noticed his name used to be “Harley” before Patty or the rescue group renamed him Cody.
After this we left. I spent a few moments thinking about it, and then turned to my wife in the car and said, “I think we should adopt him. The signs are all good.” “Signs?”, my wife asked me. “Yes”, I said.
I went on to explain to her that my Grandmother’s last dog was named “Cody”, and that I always LOVED the name “Harley” for a dog, and would love to name my dog that. I felt that this was too strong of a coincidence to ignore. So my wife thought about it, and we decided to adopt Cody.
While his official name was “Cody”, he earned a variety of nick names throughout his life. Some of those included “Squishy Dog”, “The Big Squish”, “Cody-Fabody”, “Cody-Bodes”, “The Bodester”, and when he got older I used to call him “Old Man Squishy”, or just “The Old Man”.
At the time, we had a giant, but unfenced back yard. We decided to purchase a run and wrap it around a large chestnut tree in the backyard. We attached Cody to it. We thought all would be well.
However, as we discovered, Cody had a strong case of wanderlust. If he saw a rabbit, or squirrel, or cat, or possum, he would go after it like a shot. He just took off running without a care. The first time I saw this happen, I braced myself for what would happen when he reached the end of his run.
Shockingly, the run broke. He took off running and it took us hours to find him and bring him back. This unfortunately, was a pattern for Cody. We went through increasingly stronger and thicker chains, harnesses, collars and runs for Cody. None held him. He broke almost all of them, usually at whatever weak point the harness had.
He escaped again and again. He earned the nickname “Houdini” he was so clever and skilled at escaping. We finally put a 6 foot PVC fence around the backyard. There was no way he could get over it or through it.
However, he could tunneled underneath it. We found that Cody had yet another surprising skill, he was a furious digger. He dug under the fence multiple times. He assisted my wife and mother in law in planting a tree. Within 5 minutes he had dug a hole big enough to plant the small maple tree we had purchased.
He dug out multiple times. We had to line the fence with rocks and chicken wire to prevent him from digging out. He still did it once in awhile.
He finally stopped when we got our second dog, “Harley”. He did dig out once while he and Harley were alone in the back yard. I found this out when I went back there and found Harley all alone crying next to a small hole in the ground beneath the fence.
We eventually found Cody and brought him back. He never did it again that I recall. I don’t know why, but like to think that he felt bad that he left Harley behind and Harley was upset about it….
We almost lost him on vacation in the Poconos. We were staying at a small cabin and he was yet again attached to a run, and he took off after something(it didn’t always break, but seemed to at the worst times). He got away, and we wandered and drove around for hours looking for him. Unfortunately, we had no cell phone service, and I worried that someone found him and was trying to call us.
We decided to drive to a location that had cell service and wait. As we were driving, my wife suddenly exclaimed “There he is!”
Sure enough, we saw him bounding along a creek, tongue hanging out, prancing along happily. My wife jumped out of the car and started shouting “Cody!” “Cody!”. For once, he actually listened. He came over and we were able to scoop him up and get him back in the car.
Eventually Cody grew out of his wanderlust. He settled in, and became the sweet, loyal, protective, independent but also strong, spirited, and bratty dog that makes up the vast majority of the memories I have of him.
Cody was not happy when we introduced our second dog, “Harley” to the household. Cody had a bit of a Napoleonic complex. He seemed threatened by dogs bigger than him, and would react by barking and lunging at them. Harley was a big St. Bernard mix, but he was the sweetest, easiest going, most gentle giant dog I ever had. That was a good thing as Cody was very nasty to Harley for the first few weeks we had him. Eventually Harley snarled and snapped back at Cody and that seemed to settle it. From then on, they were buddies and we felt we finally had the “pack” we wanted.
For awhile, Cody seemed timeless. He got chronologically older, but didn’t seem to age much physically. At 10, 11, even 12 years old, he remained spry and energetic, enjoying his time with us and happy to be alive. Even at 13 or 14, he still had the energy to join us in long walks at Tinicum. I remember watching him trot through the tall grass, tongue hanging to his side, eyes narrowed, and nose sniffing the air. In that moment, I could imagine him as a wolf, searching for his prey.
Once Cody hit 15, he really started to age. The small bumps on him grew to enormous fatty tumors. He sort of looked like a float in a parade. He developed cataracts and his hearing started to fail. He got very grey and grizzled and his teeth, never his best feature, turned completely black and smelled like garbage.
Most distressingly, he started to become lame and had difficulty walking. First he started having problems getting up the stairs to our second floor. A couple of times, he slipped and fell down the stairs, to the dismay of myself and my wife. If I heard him struggling, I would go down and help him up the stairs. Finally, I just started picking him up and carrying him up the stairs.
Then he had problems going down the stairs. His lameness and his cataracts combined to make him scared and tentative going down. I don’t think he could see the stairs and no longer trusted himself to just go for it. It was heartbreaking to watch. Sometimes he would cry. It was further compounded by his tumors which made it hard to pick him up. He would yelp in pain sometimes when I picked him up and I didn’t want to hurt him.
Sadly his inability to get down the stairs and the stress caused by it forced him to pee while he was trying to get down the stairs. Finally, he just stopped trying to go down the stairs and peed all over the upstairs.
This was the point where we couldn’t bring him upstairs anymore. It was distressing, but we could not wake up to him whizzing on our bedroom floor.
I thought this would be the end for Cody. He was initially unhappy with the change. We would hear him downstairs pacing endlessly. We felt terrible. We missed him upstairs with us. But we didn’t know what else to do.
Eventually Cody the stoic and Cody the survivor did what he did best. He dealt with it, and adjusted accordingly.
We started talking about putting him down then. But it didn’t seem right. He was a mess, but he was still interactive, engaged and happy to see us. We all adjusted to the new reality.
My last really good memories of Cody are when we had to pack up the entire house and live in a hotel for 2 weeks while we had our floors refinished. We were able to stay in a Residence Inn with both dogs. It was a comfort to have Cody with us. He struggled mightily, had multiple accidents, and fell down many times. But he was there with us, and I really appreciated his company while we lived in a boring hotel room, homesick and impatient to get back to our house.
Within a few weeks of returning, Cody became incontinent. He had been having accidents for awhile, but now he started leaking urine, drip by drip all over the house. We put him in diapers(breaking my heart, but he was a good boy and wore them without complaint), but the diapers only revealed the extent of the problem. It was bad. Cody reeked of urine and consequently, so did our house.
I recall one of my wife’s work mates coming in the house to use our bathroom. I was mortified as I knew the house smelled. We couldn’t entertain at our home anymore, I couldn’t let people come over as I knew they would smell it, and while I was sure they would understand, we weren’t comfortable doing that.
It was at this point that I realized we would have to put Cody down. I realized I had been kind of avoiding him and being downstairs because it was so gross and unsanitary. My wife and I talked and we agreed on a date that we would put him down. I spent the next 3 weeks trying to avoid thinking of that, and spending whatever time I could with Cody.
Putting him down was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Right before we did it, I felt we had waited too long. I couldn’t wait to take the house back, clean it, and get rid of the smell.
Immediately after I regretted it, and was consumed with guilt and sorrow. I felt I hadn’t done enough. We could have lived with the smell. I should have walked him more. I should have just carried him up and down the steps, fatty tumors be damned.
I’ve told myself that I would have felt this way no matter when we put him down. He was a strong, stoic, independent dog and snuffing his spirit was going to suck no matter when we did it. I also told myself we ran the risk of something really bad happening like him falling down the stairs and breaking a bone, or puncturing his tumors and bleeding out. It really doesn’t help, but as I stated before, there is never a good time put down your loyal and loving dog. It hurts no matter what.
As part of our mourning, my wife and I decided to create a memorial for both Cody and Harley. We found and blew up several of our favorite photos of both dogs and framed them and put them on the wall. Right below will be a table with the 2 boxes containing the remains of our beloved dogs.
Such is the cost of owning dogs. They don’t live nearly as long as humans, and eventually every dog owner is faced with this issue. It’s incredibly painful but doesn’t take away from the 13 wonderful years I had with this dog. I lost a good friend and companion, but learned about life and lived it through owning my Cody.
I will miss him forever…..