My mother brought my dog Cody home when I was 2 years old. She was all black except for a white chest and Dalmatian paws, and had one brown eye and one blue. No one at my mom’s job wanted her because she was the runt, and apparently “ugly”. My mom and aunt Debbie named her Cody, because they called her “Kodiak Alaskan bear” because of her fuzzy appearance, and thus the name Cody stuck. She was to be kept at my grandma’s house, since my grandma babysat me on weekdays anyway, so I could befriend the pup.
And befriend her, I did.
Cody was the greatest dog. When I was little she’d run back and forth through the house with me because she loved to run. When I sat on the couch, she’d let me use her as a pillow. She loved to play with me as a little girl. Even when I grew up she still loved to play tug o’war and wrestle with me. She loved to wrestle and play fight, but she was never, ever rough. She especially loved when I growled at her, because then she knew it was time to wrestle. She loved this so much that she thought that every time I was in a bad mood it meant I wanted to play. I used to take her in the backyard, “Terebithia” as I mentioned it in my story about my turtle, Sonny, and that was our favorite place. She loved lying under the weeping beech with me or chasing sticks that I threw. We would go back there every day when I came home from school.
It was our special place.
My family loved Cody. My family gave her the funniest nicknames such as “Queena”, “Puppa doo-doo”, “Queeda pup” and “Pooba”. She was always excited to see members of my family. But the one member of my family she loved the most was my aunt Debbie. We all knew that Debbie was her “mommy”. When she came home from work but was still outside, I’d sing in a singsong voice “It’s Mommy!” and Cody would run for the door, her tail wagging a mile a minute. Debbie always told me stories of how she’d cry after getting in a fight with a friend and Cody would try to cheer her up and if she failed, Cody would cry and whine too. Cody was this way with me, too. She hated to see me upset and if I sat on the couch and was crying, she’d put her front legs over my knee and give me one of her mellow looks. She was my best friend.
Cody was so funny. She was the most stubborn animal anyone could ever meet. When she wanted to go outside, she made sure she got outside. If she wanted to go for a run, she’d break free from her leash and go for a run. I can’t tell you how many times she’s done this. She hated having her picture taken and refused to look directly at cameras for even a moment. If she did something we found hilarious, we’d all laugh at her and she would slink back and get very embarrassed. If she wanted a cookie, she got a cookie. She would bark and howl if we didn’t let her outside right when she wanted us to, it sounded just like she was bickering at us. However, to me it was this stubborn nature of hers that made her so charming. She was a rebel, just like I was.
She had so many expressions, too. Her pointy ears would perk up at her favorite words, and her eyes would widen at the sight of a cat. You knew just by looking at her if she was bored, happy, frustrated, or sad. She was so smart, too. She knew almost everything I talked about. She knew Sit, speak, lay down, which hand?, up, walk, cookie, mommy, grandma, Jamie, out, faster, no, and of course, good girl. She seemed to understand even the longest commands. When you spoke to her, her whimsical eyes showed you that she understood. She was my ideal dog. Sometimes I forgot that she wasn’t human.
Everyone who has ever met her loved Cody. Whether it was the ice cream man, the deli manager, the vet, or even the rowdy neighbors, she could make friends with anyone. My mom once caught my grandma’s gruff next door neighbor, who hardly spoke to anyone, leaning over the deck and petting and baby talking her. When my grandma had a stroke and needed aids around the house, they all loved her and I’ve even caught them talking to her. She was the dog everyone wished they had.
When my grandpa got sick again, my aunt Debbie took Cody to live in her rented house with her boyfriend for awhile. These were her “retirement” years. She loved it there, for she could run freely around the yard and bask in the sun all day long. She adored my aunt’s boyfriend, who spoiled her and ran laps around the house with her. Even when my grandpa was well again, he didn’t want her back. I missed her terribly, but I knew she was happy where she was. I visited her on her 14th birthday and took lots of pictures. I even snapped one as we were pulling out of the driveway. After that day they began to find tumors on her. She went through multiple surgeries which was rough because she was already a bit weak with arthritis from age.
It got very bad once when they found an open cyst on her stomach which was horribly infected. The vets were able to take care of that, the the effects were fatal. First, she stopped eating. Then she lost control of her bowels. Finally, she became immobile so all she could do was lay in her own wastes. I knew her time was coming, but they got my hopes up saying that a pill could possibly lengthen her time that she had left. I knew I had to plan ahead. I gathered all her pictures and began to type a story about her life.
I counted my money to see if I could afford a nice gravestone for her. I knew I would be there beside her when they gave her the injection, whenever that would be. I tried to brace myself and yet have hope, but it was this very night that my mother forced me off the phone to tell me that my aunt had her put to sleep.
I knew it was coming, but I was outraged at first. I didn’t even get to see her. I didn’t get to say goodbye. The snapshot I had taken pulling out of the driveway that day was the last time that I had ever seen her. They took her away from me, without my consent. I knew she was in pain but I had to be there beside her and I wasn’t.
I was so numb that I couldn’t even cry. Even after typing this I can only feel emptiness. Perhaps I can cry tomorrow, when nobody’s watching me. I don’t want anyone to see because I know that it will be the worst cry I’ve ever had in my life. My best friend of 14 years was dead so suddenly, without a goodbye, without a trace. I didn’t even watch them bury her at my grandma’s house.
I’m still in my angry, doubtful, and numb stage of grieving I suppose. I just don’t want to believe that the black mass of fur and love that I so adored since I was in diapers is in the ground and not in my lap. I want to believe she’ll jump on me in greeting again, her tail wagging, her mouth wide open as if she were smiling, her ears pressed back with excitement. I just can’t let it in. I hope they at least held on to her collar for me.
Everyone speaks of this “Rainbow Bridge”. My friends tell me of it and how she’ll be waiting for me there, no more tumors or arthritis, waiting for the day that I leave the earth. I pray that this is true. For I know that if there are dogs in Heaven, Cody will have the most golden doggy halo of all. For Cody helped pull me from every problem I have ever had, from “booboos” at age 6 to my father leaving at age 11 to being depressed and cold at 14.
Cody was my guiding light, she was the best thing that could happen to me. I don’t think I would be alive today without this dog. I need to believe that, the Rainbow Bridge. I need to believe that I’ll see my best friend again… my “cousin”, my playmate, my angel.
I adore you, my Queeda pup…
I remember so clearly that summer 2 years ago. I was in the front seat of my car, my mother driving, my sister and her boyfriend in the back seat. We were on our way to drop the boyfriend off home when we saw a rock in the road, right in front of my grandmother’s house. As we got closer, we realized the rock had a head, and legs! My mother slammed the brakes, and I jumped out and approached the creature. I caught a glance of its glowing orange eyes, then watched as it pulled itself entirely into its shell. I was scared at first, but then I picked it up and carried it to my grandmother’s front lawn. It was nothing but a little shell now. but oh, was I excited! I had always wanted a pet turtle, to hold it, to look at it. I went inside, and for a very long time stroked the smooth shell, waiting for the turtle to emerge. It didn’t until hours later, and I had stayed with it the whole time. He looked at me, staring, seeing if I was a dangerous being, lingering over his shell like that. Those dinosaur-like green and orange eyes captivated me. I knew I struck gold, finding such a cool looking creature. He continued to stare, and I couldn’t help but to reach out and stroke the top of his head. He lurched back into his shell, but this time he came back out almost immediately. I tried again, more slowly this time, and he let me.
Oh, what a dear little friend that turtle became… I had decided to call the humble little creature Sonny. Every day since the day I had found him, I held him and stroked his leathery head and neck happily. At that time in my life, I had no close friends. I was a lonely young girl who just wanted a friend to do things with me. So considering these circumstances, I took my dear new friend with me everywhere. I took him to Petco, on drives, fishing, and in the backyard. Imagine how enthralled I was when I once lifted up a concrete block in the backyard to find a mealworm, and the moment he saw it, his eyes followed it, he craned his neck, and… chomp! I was so excited by this that almost every day I took my friend “hunting” in the yard, my favorite place to be. See, nobody but me went back in the backyard. It was magnificent and overgrown, with tall trees and a wonderful weeping beech that I took shelter under. It was my domain, my secret place. I called it “Terebithia”, after the famous book “Bridge to Terebithia”‘s namesake place. Therefore, I welcomed my dear new pet warmly with a ceremony, dubbing him “Prince Sonny of Terebithia”. I could share this magical place with my prince. I could tell him secrets that he would never tell anyone. for hours i could sit in the moss under that weeping beech, stroking his shell and telling him things that I had no friends to tell. The same went for when we went fishing out at places like Mattituck; I would let him climb the rocks and rest in the warm sand. While people brought their dogs to a place such as that, I had my portable and much-loved turtle.
Months and months passed and Sonny was still one of my most favorite pets. Imagine having a very special friend whom you could bring wherever you wanted, and he never protested, never complained. Still I had no dear friends, and Sonny was all I had, and all I needed. but in the crisp month of October, I knew my little friend had to leave me for awhile, for as all box turtles do, he went into hibernation. Even with the new friends I had made in school I grew very lonely without my turtle, and the yearning for a companion just until he woke up pushed me to buy an assortment of pets to try and replace him for the time being. A mouse. A rat. A dwarf hamster. As precious as they were, they just couldn’t live up to my docile, humble little Sonny’s unconditional friendship. One day I could no longer stand the suspense and worry of him suffering death during hibernation (common in domesticated box turtles), and I woke up my friend. Even then he didn’t complain, just gave me one of his stares, yawned quite largely, and ate a bit of turtle chow. I petted him for awhile, then wished him well in the rest of his hibernation, and
let him go back to sleep.
One day after school I had received a call from a long-lost friend. We talked for a long time and got to the topic of our pets. I told her about my dogs and cats and rodents and then told her all about my sweet little Sonny. Being on the topic of him, I decided to lift him gently even in his deep sleep, just to see if he was doing alright (if he looked sick during hibernation, I’d touch him and he’d stir a bit and I’d know he was ok). I lifted him, and greeted him warmly, as always, with my friend still on the line. I petted his shell very gently, and it took me a moment to realize that his position in his shell was not like it usually was. I decided to gently wake him up, but he did not stir. My friend heard the worry in my voice, and though I wanted to still talk, I just couldn’t. I hung up and very gently shook his shell while it was set on my desk. I fell to petting him, and as the cold realization fell over me, I petted him more and more gently. I knew it was true, but I couldn’t let it be. It was, though; Sonny was dead.
I waited a while to tell my mother, possibly because I didn’t want to accept it myself. When I told her, she put him in a tupperware, duct taped it shut, and had no choice but to leave it on the back table until the ground thawed, for it was January, and impossible to bury him. I was so cold with grief, so upset that nobody understood why I cried over a box turtle. I could only keep myself company with the memories of my dear friend; memories of the sandy shores, lifting up rocks in Terebithia to find him food, the car rides, him in my lap, the leathery feel of his long neck, the glowing eyes and that humble stare. When I could finally bury him in May (it was a very long winter that year), I painted him a wooden, golden cross which I staked into the ground at his gravesite. I visited him frequently the first few days, but they began to die out as I accepted his death. For Sonny had died sleeping,
the most peaceful way a pet could go.
Since Sonny’s death, I’ve finally found myself to get a new turtle; a Russian Tortoise by the name of Jack, also know as “Prince Jack Vladimir of Terebithia II” Though a sweet little thing, Jack just cannot replace the hole in my heart that Sonny’s death had left upon me. I take him to Sonny’s grave sometimes and tell him stories of his wonderful predecessor, my wonderful Sonny. Though I have matured and grown from my childish ways of when I owned him, I still remember fondly the memories of my young teenage years spent with my innocent friend, my little Sonny. If you can indeed see this, my turtle, then you must know the impact you’ve had on me when I needed a friend the most. Rest in Peace, my dear friend, and I know that when it’s my time, we will together play once more in a “Terebithia” that’s far more golden.