August 5, 1998 to July 3, 2004
Cosine is the first dog who completely and wholly belongs to me. Mutt, my family dog growing up, didn't count as "my" dog because she was really my mom's dog. Just like my son can never really call Cosine "his" dog, because she's really mine. Mutt was a mutt and Cosine is a springer spaniel. She's a bitch. She barks too much because she's stone deaf and doesn't realize she's making such hellacious noise. Recently she's decided she doesn't like to jump up onto the bed where she really wants to be, so she whines and barks until we lift her up to join us. Yeah. I'm whipped. So what? She's very sweet and dear, and I love her with all my heart. I must, otherwise I'd never put up with her barking.
And while she is, like the rest of us, moving closer and closer with each passing day toward the end of her life and her grave, she's not the one for whom this tribute is written. Her brother Detail went more actively about the business of dying. Quite successfully, I may add.
Cosine has been part of our family since she was about nine weeks old. She and Detail were from the same litter, but Detail initially lived with some other family. Some stupid non-dog-loving family (SNDLF) adopted Detail, even though four out of the six family members didn't like dogs. They hired a professional dog trainer, took him to the vet as needed, groomed him regularly. But did they love him like he needed to be loved? I think not because after about a year, the SNDLF decided they didn't want him any more. WTF?? So he came to live with us. Despite his "professional" training, he did have a few bad-dog habits. Like running willy-nilly out any exterior door that happened to open. It took but a bit of patient instruction to help him realize doing that was just a really bad idea. He was a bright dog. And I can't fault him for wanting to do it. The SNDLF didn't have a fenced yard. With the exception of those occasional front door oh-my-god-let-me-out-I-NEED-to-run-and-play-and-explore escapes, Detail had NEVER been outside except on a leash. And he just was not that fond of being on the leash. Imagine.
Fortunately for him and because we are smart dog loving people, we had a fenced yard. A big yard. Crappy fence, but good enough. Lots of room to run around. Plenty of native wildlife to chase. Trees to pee on. Suburban passers-by at whom to bark. Warm sunshine in which to nap. Sticks to fetch and chew. All the good stuff dogs deserve.
Our kitchen door led to a small deck with stairs going down to the backyard. Since we had been working on the "just because the door is open doesn't mean you should run out" training, when I opened that door he sat politely yet quivering anticipatorily nearby watching me intently. I will never forget the look of disbelief transforming into unadulterated joy as I waved an invitation for him to proceed out the door unrestrained by a leash. He bounded past me, down the stairs and into the yard where he did free-doggie things to his heart's content.
Detail quickly developed a routine. Rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine. Out the door, down the stairs, through the right side of the wooded area to the back fence, looping around to race up the left side of the wooded area to the front fence, surveying his domain. Soon his path was worn and visible and rarely did he deviate. He'd sit outside for hours on the deck, watching over his home and soaking up the sunshine… or sleet… or snow…. or rain… He just liked being outside.
Sometimes when he was out alone he would eventually bark to come in, but typically he only raised his voice when there was really something to raise it about, like a child riding his bike down the street. "Alarm alarm! They are coming to kill us all!", he'd proclaim lustily and loudly in his rich deep baritone voice.
When they were younger, I, along with my son who was also younger, would take them hiking in the woods of a nearby park. We'd let them off their leashes and they would take off running through the forest, circling back every so often to make sure we were still on the right trail. The path led near a reservoir and the dogs would swim. Detail and Cosine both loved to swim. They would chase sticks out into the water and bring them merrily back to shore to do it all over again. Detail, as seemed his nature, would sometimes ignore the stick and just swim randomly around. He always was an independent fellow, almost a loner yet truly enjoying the comfort of his pack.
Cosine and Detail were middle-aged when Dudley joined the family. We didn’t live near the reservoir any more and Dudley has never been swimming. What a hoot that would be. Dudley is a basset hound. I should probably use a capital “B” and “H” because of the impact he has had on our lives. The pleasure of belonging to a basset hound is an experience not to be missed. He had not been part of a pack before and seemed to take special joy in his new family, immediately bonding with the springers and blossoming under their more experienced doggie tutelage while passing along to them a few tricks of his own. Dudley became Detail's hanging-out-in-the-yard companion. He likes being outside too.
Detail was the only one not intimidated by the cat. Figero used to play a game with the dogs, stretching out full length on the middle stair and daring the dogs to pass him. He'd swat with his sharp claws at any dog audacious enough to try. Cosi would dance around and bark, wanting to climb those stairs but definitely not wanting to pass the cat to do so. Dudley would whine, also unwilling to challenge Figero and risk a scratch. Detail, however, would just bull right on up the stairs undaunted. He was bold like that.
So here we are today. Older and perhaps wiser. Aged even. Well, some of us feel that way at times. Like now. Detail was diagnosed with Cushing's disease about ten months ago. In a nutshell, he had a tumor on either his adrenal or his pituitary gland that caused an overabundance of cortisone in his body. He was on meds, but we are still unsure of their therapeutic value. There is a more aggressive treatment than the one he was on, but it is a harsh road and would have been too hard on such an old fellow. His muscle mass wasted away. Skin and bones he became. His nickname used to be Fat Boy, but no longer. He couldn’t go down the stairs by himself and often his legs slipped out from underneath him. His coat, once the most beautiful thick soft and shiny fur around, was but thin and wispy. His wonderful rich bark sounded more like a mouse squeaking. He seemed embarrassed at the change in his voice because near the end he used it even less frequently than before.
He would have been sixteen next month. I owed him a cake.