A song for Cy

Nearly one week after Cy’s 13th birthday, he left us. 

“Did he go to heaven, mom, since he was such a good dog?” Maria asked as I drove her home from the grocery tonight. 

After we turned off the tv last night and got ready to read some Berenstein books, Mario turned a sullen face my way.  “I really miss Cy and Duke, mom.” Duke was a dog owned by my dad and stepmom who died about a year ago.  I shook my head and held him tight and told him I missed Cy, too.  Maria joined in the embrace.  We huddled together for a few moments putting our collective energy together to shoot up to the moon and stars for Cy.  When we let go, we smiled at each other and told stories about our pup – the dog who had been in Maria’s and Mario’s lives since birth.  I told them how he stood guard over them as babies; how he refused to let anyone near them until they passed a hard-core smell test; how he barked so loud at every person or thing at our front door and Maria and Mario would just sit in their bouncy and stare at him knowing he would keep them safe; how they could pull his tail or grab his ear and he would lick their hands and feet as if they were gods; how they rubbed his belly and made him feel like a king.

I miss him.

I woke the next morning and rushed downstairs to let him out and he was no more.  His bowls were still in the pantry, remnants of spaghetti on the sides of them.  His plush toy lodged under one bowl.  I see how our love for him blinded us for a time prior to his passing.  He could barely get up off his bed, and when he did, it was merely to hobble outside to go to the bathroom and then hobble back in (many times with us helping him) to get back into bed.  We knew he was arthritic in his back legs and he was turning 13 but he still had those baby brown eyes and those soft wavy ears and that wet cold nose and that is all we could see when we looked at him.  We didn’t want to see him go; he was a part of our family who belonged next to us always. 

He never left my side when I was in the house.  Jon was definitely the “alpha” dog and I was Cy’s playmate and consoler and “mama.” He cuddled up beside me as a pup and laid next to me as an adult propping his arms on me to massage them.  He looked to Jon for the alpha pat on the head, which would sustain him for a week.  He looked to me to put on his leash daily and take him for a 6 mile run to the river and throw him the tennis ball and rest by his side while reading the paper.  If I went in the kitchen, he followed.  If I went upstairs to bed at night, he followed.  If I was sick at night and had to lay downstairs, I could count on him picking his tired self up and coming with me.  He loved me well.

When we laid with him at the vet’s office, I smelled him. He smelled of Cy, the Cy I picked up and squeezed as an eight week old pup.  He scooted his paw close to my hand and I rubbed it with tears gathering heavy in my eyes.  I kissed that cold wet nose and breathed in his doggy breath as he gave me one last lick on the chin.  Jon sat by my side and wept.  Cy was as much his baby as mine and even though scared to death of a gun shot as a pup, Cy was determined to be close to his master in the field and stood by Jon on many a hunting trip.

We are still pondering a song for which to remember him.  I ran across a friend of mine on the day of his death and she told me that she always found a song that her and the kids could play to remember their dog who passed away.  I liked that idea very much.

Happy Birthday Cy!

Our pup turned 13 today. 

Cy with the kids last year

I remember driving with Jon to the farm in Alexandria, Ohio to look at puppy Chesapeake Bay Retrievers in 1998.  They were all so cute and playful.  But Cy stood out to me.  I still don’t know why in particular.  He was not more cuddly than the others, or more playful, or more distinguishing.  He just felt right to me.  A connection between him and I from the start.  We purchased him and drove him back to his new home in Columbus.  He laid his body on my chest the entire ride home.  My first taste of pure motherly love. 

We did everything together for the first 7 years of his life.  We walked every single day and on the weekends, we ran to the river and Cy got to swim.  I threw sticks to him and he excitedly retrieved them all.  He loved the water and looked like a dog pharaoh sitting chest-high in the water with his reddish-brown fur shining in the sun.  We would run farther down the trail to hit the 6 mile mark and then stop on the way back for another dip in the river.  Once home, I would give him a bath outside in the yard and lather him with love and affection.  We’d lay on the floor together watching tv or reading the paper.  He’d lie his face in my lap and beg me to rub under his chin.  He’d re-position himself to allow me to rub his belly.  We refused to go out some nights because we couldn’t stand the sight of seeing him lonely at the door.  We spoiled him.  He deserved it.

Cy on his 13th b-day!

I remember being pregnant with Maria and thinking “How can I ever love this baby as much as I love Cy?”  When we brought her home from the hospital, we were concerned that Cy would become protective over me and shun Maria.  The first few days we watched his every move with her to make sure that he acted friendly and did not growl or nip.  To our relief, Cy was protective over Maria and watched her every move.  If she began to cry, he trotted into the other room to find us.  He laid next to her when she sat in her bouncy seat.  And he always helped clean her toes with his big wet tongue.  He engaged in the same rituals with Mario after his birth (and Mario tried his patience a lot more by pulling his tail and hitting his head with his favorite toys). 

After Maria’s birth, I still walked Cy a good amount around the neighborhood.  We didn’t get to the river as much as pre-Maria but the walks around the neighborhood provided good exercise.  After Mario came home, there was a lot less time for long walks.  We still managed to get walks around the block several times a day but nothing like the mega runs to the river.  Not too long after Mario started walking, Cy decided he had enough of walking long distances and when we would take him out on his leash, he would not even walk 50 feet without stopping and wrenching his neck back refusing to walk farther.  He would go out back and fetch the stick or run around the house, but he did not want to walk outside.  I respected his wishes but it was difficult to let go of that routine with him. 

The kid crew enjoying the cupcakes!

Within the last year, it has been harder for him to rise in the morning and harder for him to manuever steps.  At our new house, we can only let him out in the front yard because he can’t handle the narrow and greater number of steps out back.  But even though he is having trouble with getting up in the morning and maneuvering steps, he is still the sweetest, gentlest dog ever.  He still nuzzles into your side when you get close to him to pet him.  He still turns on his back to beg for a tummy rub.  He still stares at you with his big brown eyes as if to try to tell you how cool he thinks you are.  He still provides comfort when you walk in the door and see him waiting for you.  I think this quote sums up our relationships with dogs well: “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

Giving Cy his b-day lovin'!

The kids and I decided that Cy needed a birthday cake and birthday bones to celebrate his big 13th birthday.  We bought mini cupcakes at Kroger’s (Maria made sure that we got small vanilla cupcakes because Cy can’t eat chocolate and because Cy would get sick with too much sugar).  We invited Maria’s friends over to celebrate.  We lit up four cupcakes (one for each kid to blow out) and put bones in two of them.  We tried to get Cy to wear a b-day hat but he quickly tore it off and chewed it up (after all, it was a princess pink hat).  We sang “Happy Birthday” to him and blew out the candles.  Maria took the time to peel off the wrapper from one of the cupcakes to feed to Cy before she ate her cupcake (Mario just ripped into his without any thought to the b-day dog).  The cupcakes were devoured in record time and Cy ate what crumbs remained on the floor.  Mario fed him the two bones, and the kids ran back upstairs to play fort.  Cy and I sat downstairs together looking at the deep blue sky out the window.  He looked pleased with his birthday treats and birthday lovin’.