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How A Neutered Dog Started A Family
For a dog that never stopped barking when his owners had sex, Cody sure was good at creating life. Of course, he lacked the equipment to produce canine offspring, but that didn't stop him from forming a family – and a legacy.
My wife, Jordana, adopted Cody when he was three years old. Abused as a puppy, he was an anxious, skittish, and generally defensive mess of a dog. He barked when visitors arrived. He lashed out at the UPS man. There was the seemingly racist period that was uncomfortable for everyone involved. But helovedhis human mother. With her, he cuddled, even if he didn't play. Not with toys, not with other dogs.
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Fast forward five years, and the story of Cody's ability to create life begins. At a dog park in the East Village of New York City (a strange place for an anti-social dog with no hobbies), Cody met Max. I was dog-sitting Max while two of my friends were on their honeymoon. Cody played with Max. My wife and I still argue over who initiated the ensuing conversation, but we agree on this: The one and only time that Cody wanted to interact with a dog was the moment that our life together began.
We talked for an hour that morning. We went on our first date that night.
Cody was wary of me at first. After all, I was a man and I was in his space. The first time I stayed overnight, he peed in the hallway. A few months later, however, my wife (then my girlfriend) went on a business trip and Cody stayed with me. We bonded. He trusted me. He was my dog, too.
Shortly thereafter, I adopted another dog. It made sense since I was now in a serious relationship with someone who also loved animals. Heath was the energetic, playful little brother that Cody never wanted. Despite Heath's best efforts, Cody would not play with him. But when young Heath bothered a larger dog at the park, Cody was always quick to diffuse the situation. He knew Heath was a brat, but he washisbrat.
Jordana and I got engaged in that same dog park – with Cody wearing the engagement ring on his collar – two years later. Cody and Heath couldn't attend the festivities, as we had a destination wedding. We displayed life-sized cutouts of them instead.
Over the years, Cody showed the normal signs of aging. His muzzle turned grey. Then white. His hearing worsened. Then disappeared. His eyes clouded over. In many ways, aging was a blessing. He mellowed around visitors. He barked less when the UPS guy came because he couldn't hear him approaching. He seemed to finally have found peace.
Then Jordana got pregnant. And we bought a house. Change was afoot, and Cody struggled. Dementia had set in, and he was confused. Anxious. He paced. He destroyed doors while we were out. When we were home, he'd take deep naps to fight off the exhaustion brought on by his fears.
Our son was born in October. Winter came early, which was tough for Cody. The cold made him stiff. Despite his hardships, he welcomed Calvin into the family. He licked the baby's face and napped in the nursery, understanding that he had a new life to protect.
When he hit his head on the table, we knew it was likely time. He had lost 15 pounds (a quarter of his body weight) in less than three months. He was constantly confused. His balance was unreliable and stairs were treacherous. He was 14 years old and withering away, both physically and mentally. The vet uttered the word that we had always dreaded: suffering.
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We said goodbye to Cody on a blustery Saturday morning. My wife and I held each other and cried. Calvin, in his car seat a few feet away, sucked silently on his pacifier.
When we got home, we laid in bed with Heath and looked at our son, now asleep. This was the family that Cody had created. He introduced us. He watched over Heath. Without him, there would never have been a Calvin. He had given us so much and we were overwhelmed not just by sadness, but with gratitude.
Then Heath farted. Our dogs never did allow us to enjoy a quiet moment in bed.
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