Cordé, the Loyal and Loving
Sunday was tough.
We had known for a while that Sunday was inevitable, but that didn’t make the choice any easier. Sometimes the right choices aren’t the easy ones. The vet told us that she was willing to do anything within her power to help us, but the desperate plea for thirty more years with our beautiful girl was not something she could manage.
Cordé had been with us for nearly thirteen years. She was a road-side rescue in South Carolina, and when she came to our home, she was a tiny ball of scraggly brown fur infested with ticks, fleas, and worms. I was adamant that a dog wouldn’t fit into our military lifestyle, but Rosalyn asked me to hold the puppy and think about it. All of my apprehension disappeared in the smallest of licks on the chin, and as my heart melted, I agreed to welcome her to our family under one condition: I got to name her.
I presented Rosalyn with a list of names, most of which came from Star Wars. The memories of the prequel era were fresh in my mind and I knew that this pup would fill a place in Rosalyn’s heart that our ornery cat never would. She would be a good companion for those lonely days, nights, weeks, and months that take me away from her side. Rosalyn chose Cordé.
We went to PetSmart and picked up supplies. When it came to toys, we quickly discovered two things: Regular tennis balls were just as big as she was, and someone had the foresight to make the most adorable miniature versions for smaller dogs. Cordé loved those little tennis balls, and she chased them all over our small fenced-in yard on the naval base. She was so upset when she outgrew them, and she never accepted full size tennis balls, settling on stuffed animals as her toy of choice.
Cordé went on so many adventures with Rosalyn, including hikes in the mountains and trips to the beach. She loved the ocean from day one, from splashing in the waves to rolling in the warm sand, and it was almost second nature to her years later when we took a long weekend to Charleston and visited the beach again. The years rolled off that old dog as she trotted into the salty waters and immersed herself in her personal fountain of youth.
When we moved to Connecticut, our southern dog discovered snow. She fell in love with the cold white flakes, and any time that it snowed, she was so excited to go outside and play. After years away from it after we left Connecticut, she was overjoyed to visit family in Utah during the winter, and refused to come inside during a storm. After we pulled her inside, she raced down to the dog door and let herself out again, letting the snow bury her until she had her fill. Nothing beats the sight of seeing a large mound of snow shake itself down into a medium-sized dog.
Cordé’s heart was bigger than she was, and all she knew was how to give. When Rosalyn was upset, Cordé would dig a favorite toy out of the basket and drop it at Rosalyn’s feet. With all of that hair, she overheated easily, but if someone needed consolation, she offered just enough cuddle time to make things better. When things were good and the world was right, she was content just to lay on your feet and let you know that she was thinking of you. She loved visiting her friends and family, especially when it meant taking a ride to visit her aunts and uncles, and she was always overjoyed when we mentioned the airport because that meant we were bringing her a surprise guest.
She never forgot about how we met, either. I typically don’t like being licked by dogs, but she took great joy in waiting for the right time to stealthily reach out and give me a small puppy kiss on any exposed flesh she could find. I’d give her the most annoyed of looks and play up the drama, but still pet her on the head and scratch her ears in the way I knew she loved.
When Cordé was a pup, an Army veterinarian told Rosalyn that our girl wouldn’t make it past the age of six. Cordé’s heart beat a bit fast, and she always panted, even when she was at rest. The doctor was concerned that she would simply exhaust herself at a young age, and after she turned six, we treated the next few years like precious gifts. Unfortunately, I started to take that time for granted. Cordé was our girl. She was a constant anchor of love that was always there and never failing.
Honestly, that’s my biggest regret.
Time slowly marched across her fur in waves of grey. She developed diabetes in her later years and slowed down as the years moved on. We introduced a pup named Jango, and his youth and companionship reinvigorated her for a while, but her moods began to shift as her mind started to go. Her eyesight faded, and her steps were less sure. She became forgetful and, at times, aggressive. She even started giving up her position as leader over Jango, including her second-favorite toy, the manatee.
Eventually her bad days outnumbered her good ones.
Saturday was a good day. She went for a walk, she played with Jango, she played study-buddy for Rosalyn, and she even spent time on our laps during a study break. On Sunday morning, she played fetch for a little bit before it was time to go to the vet. We went to discuss options, and the doctor offered them for everything but the mood shifts and aggressiveness. Based on indications, she speculated that it was the result of a stroke or brain lesion, and could only offer confirmation through expensive testing and the promise that it would only get worse with time.
We chose to remember the good days.
We said goodbye on the afternoon of May 22nd. We gave her a final home among the shady trees she loved so much, nestled with her favorite plush squirrel, where she will always be cool and on an adventure in the forest.
It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do in our lives.
I know that was the right thing to do, and that she’s no longer in pain. I believe that somewhere out there, perhaps at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge, she’s happy once again, chasing bunnies and birds and playing mother hen like she always did.
We miss her so much. I have never seen such a caring, loving, and empathetic dog in my life, and I’m deeply grateful for the years that she spent with us. It’s a debt that I feel like I can never repay, but I will certainly try by living up to the potential that Cordé saw in me.
Every morning as we got up and greeted the day, she would make the rounds and check on us. It was my turn on Monday, and I told her all of this as I made sure she rested soundly.
I will always love you, Cordé. Be good.