In Praise of Elder Dogs

This blog is created in celebration of the elder dogs, of any breed, who've touched our hearts. You are invited to add your own reflections, or, if you wish, track the progress of your own elder dogs. ("Elder," BTW, is defined here as 10 years or more, except in breeds known for shorter lifespans, such as the Great Dane.) Send your stories and photos to me at branta(at)

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Location: Hunt, Texas, United States

I've been privileged to share my life with five unforgettable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This blog was inspired by Cooper, my first, whose indominatable bright spirit triumphed over his limitations. Every day of his life, till the very end, he woke joyously, happy to greet the day. I would wish the same for all of us!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cooper's at The Rainbow Bridge

Cooper's Last Photo - February 20, 2006.

Cooper passed to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday afternoon at approximately 4:40 p.m. It was the right time, and the veterinary clinic staff, though new to us (our regular vet was out of town), couldn't have been more sensitive or supportive.

To my surprise, just as the vet was about to administer the anesthetic, my husband said, "Wait," and pulled a small plastic box from his pocket. "Give him these," he directed, "let Cooper go to The Rainbow Bridge with cheese on his breath."

Inside the plastic box were three tiny fragments of gorgonzola I'd left with John when, exhausted from lack of sleep, I'd left Cooper in his care. As I dozed, John had has private time with Cooper. He offered the cheese, but Cooper didn't seem to know what to do with it. It was then John knew that today was indeed The Day. He woke me when Cooper stirred, ready to poop for what must have been the fiftieth time since this all began.

We were touched to have with us, at the unfamiliar clinic, the vet tech (Megan) from our regular vet's office, who'd closed her office early to say goodbye to Cooper and be with us at the end. [Tuesday: We have received more e-mail messages of condolences that we are currently able to answer. Please know that if you are one of the many who have extended condolences, or have thought of doing so, we appreciate your kindness very much and will respond when possible.]

The house still smells of the adventures of the past few days -- like poopy towels and fabric softener and dog shampoo from all those baths. Tomorrow it will smell like any other house, and Tessie will be, for the first time in her life, an Only Dog.

We are immensely grateful to all who have written privately and via the Hoflin Cavalier List. Some of the advice was spot-on, and helped immeasurably in making the decision. The rest was more comforting than I can say.

Cooper's blog will continue, honoring his sister and all the other dogs, Cavaliers or not, who have beaten the odds for their breed. For us, his sweet face will remain the logo, the symbol of all that's gentle and forgiving in this breed. Shortly before he died, I filmed him struggling to poop and falling over and into it. This is a video you don't want to see. This is not the image to remember. Tonight, please hold that little face in your heart and know that he and all the dogs we've ever loved is waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge.


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