Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Goodbye Cody

One of my earliest memories of our dog Cody was watching him sliding across the polished wooden floors of our house in Lutwyche. He was about three months old and wasn't properly house trained.

He was weeing in the house.

I'd never owned a dog, so I panicked and slid him across the floor, thinking it'd be the fastest way to get him outside. Perhaps I'd overestimated my strength, or hadn't anticipated the lubricating factor of his urine, but he ended up tumbling down the front steps.

I felt incredibly guilty.

He was fine.

I've always had a strange sense that my timing is off with people in the world. This feeling is no different when applied to Cody. When driving to pick him up for the first time from the pet shop, my ancient Kingswood chose that trip to dislodge the axle from the engine mount. I sheepishly asked friends to pick my dog up instead.

Despite our shaky beginnings, my girlfriend Edwina and I both came to love Cody. I can't speak for her, but I loved him in a way that I didn't know I needed. Cody was a kelpie-cattle dog cross requiring lots of attention and exercise. I was a fairly self-involved, under-employed, lazy, dreamer that lived in my own headspace. Cody helped me learn how to get out in the real world, and I can thank him in part for making me a relatively healthy individual these days. People that know me now may think I haven't changed much, but just imagine how much worse-off I'd be without Cody!

Eventually, Edwina and I got married and Cody was the 'best man' at our wedding. This may seem a bit indulgent, but it did save us from having to choose a human to play the part, and spared us
from any hurt feelings that may have been felt from people being 'passed-over' in our selection process. Once again Cody had come to our rescue!

It was only about a year after our marriage that we decided to move to Melbourne, and of course we took Cody with us. I felt a bit sorry for him because he didn't have as much room to roam in his new surroundings. He was, however, getting older and slowing down.

Our daughter Clementine was born about a year after we moved.

Being a new father, working part-time and being a carer for a baby girl left me feeling completely lost, but luckily Cody managed to help me out once again. He was still active enough
to enjoy visits to the park, so we'd spend many hours, on a daily basis, just frequenting the parks in our neighbourhood. Without Cody, we'd have been stuck at home all day.

Sure, Cody could've been a liability around children, but he had such a gentle nature that nobody seemed to mind (most of the time). Clementine and Cody had a love-hate relationship, but she also owes a debt to Cody, because she would often proudly introduce Cody to other children as 'her dog' to break the ice.

Everybody needs an 'in.'

As Clementine grew older, Cody became less of a focus for Edwina and I. Clementine took up an increasing amount of our attention. Unfortunately, it was around this time that my relationship with Edwina was coming apart, for reasons that were both beyond our control and due to both of us being too stubborn to express how we really feel.

This distance between Edwina and I made me feel jealous of Cody.

I'd often feel like I couldn't do anything right and have to walk on egg-shells, while Edwina wouldn't say anything and let Cody get away with crimes like licking the dishes in the dish washer. Why wasn't I allowed to lick those dishes clean? Oh, how I envied Cody's freedom of expression.

Cody was diagnosed with cancer during the last few years of his life and it makes me feel bad to say it, but I did not appreciate the expense of his treatment and the hour-long trips out to Box Hill to visit the dog oncologist on a tri-monthly basis. This was exacerbated by the fact that Cody considered Edwina to be the pack master. I know this is true because if the family was walking together and I wandered off by myself, Cody would only briefly hesitate. If Edwina wandered off he would staunchly refuse to budge. I was second-in-command at best!

The one thing that Cody and I really connected over was the fact that he knew how I was feeling more than anybody in the house.

Edwina and I eventually decided to go our separate ways, but before we did we had to sell the house we owned together. I was devastated on the day of auction, but Edwina and Clementine seemed completely calm and in control. I sat and brooded while the auction was in process, when suddenly Cody jumped up, licked my face and eventually fell asleep on my feet.

It made me feel infinitely better.

I had decided before the house settled to take a trip to Brisbane. Before sunrise on the day of my flight, Cody had a seizure. We rushed him to the emergency vet at Tullamarine. He was in such a state that Edwina and I knew he wouldn't survive the weekend, but we couldn't bring ourselves to admit it to each other. She dropped me off a few hours early at the airport, where I had too much time to think about what had just happened.

I called Edwina just before the flight and offered to stay in Melbourne for Cody's final hours. It seemed incredibly cruel to me and bizarre that we could once again not be 'there for each other' and it reminded me of when we first picked up Cody and my car broke down. My timing was never right!

Edwina eventually said that it was okay to go and to try and think of the good times.

Nothing came to mind.

The only image I could think of was Cody sliding down those front steps all those years ago. Then I realised why I couldn't think of the good times.

"There's just too many," I said to Edwina, before hanging up and tearfully joining the line for the flight.

Luckily, flight attendants at airports are used to seeing people cry. The woman who took my boarding pass offered the usual sympathetic smile, which was followed by a shifting gaze. It seemed to say, "Please sir, there is a long line to get through, can you please hurry along?"

I'm not a superstitious man, or a man of faith, but there's part of me that can't help but feel the timing of Cody's death signified that he couldn't make the choice between Edwina and I, as we went our separate ways.

People are wired to see a face when they look at the moon, or try and look for a narrative to a story when there isn't one. Rationally, I know that it was simply Cody's time to die.

I like to think it was serendipitous, however, that the last thing I said to him was simply this:

"Cody, you're a good boy"