Eight years ago, we rescued a little puppy. We named her CoCo.
She was my protector at all times. She was never a dog that had much prey-drive and she certainly didn’t care for chasing after bugs or bees. But she gradually caught on to the fact, that bees and wasps frightened me. (They frighten me because I am allergic. Every time I’ve gotten stung, my reaction is worse than the time before.)
Therefore, she decided that bees and wasps were the enemy. Anytime that she spotted one near me, she would relentlessly pursue it, until she caught it. She would bite it, it would sting her mouth and she would wince in pain, make a terrible face and spit it out. Only to bite it again and again until it didn’t move anymore. I hated seeing her get stung, but there was no stopping her. She was determined to protect me. Thankfully she didn’t seem to ever swell or have reactions to the stings.
But if I weren’t around, she didn’t bother with them at all. For example, if she were outside without me, and I was watching from inside, she made no attempt to go after a wasp. But if I were with her, or if the wasp got inside, she would go after it with a level of seriousness you only see with working police dogs. LOL If it got too high in the air for her, she would watch, relentlessly, waiting for a moment when it would come low enough to grab. Then she would leap into action. When she was done, she would proudly walk over to me like, “I got it!”
She grew up to have long, skinny legs and huge ears.
And she could smile.
In January of 2007, it was 10 degrees outside with a windchill of -10. Ella hadn’t been born yet, and my two oldest kids were at my parents house for the day. My husband, who normally would have been at work, was at home asleep in bed. There had been a bad stomach virus going around where he worked as a nurse, and it had hit him – hard.
I thought it was hot in the house, and I decided to take a nice long walk on my family’s property. (You can tell I was healthier back then. There is no way I would attempt a long walk in 10 degree weather now.) Because I was hot, I went out in only a thin camo jacket. (That was the incredibly stupid mistake that I made. No matter how warm you feel at the time, you should never go out in weather that cold, that thinly dressed.) I took the dogs with me, they were excited to go.
While we were out walking, Spike (our very large Boxer mix, who passed away a few years ago), went to the top of the mountain. Later on, he saw me from the top of the mountain, and happily came barreling down the hill at his usual, insanely fast, rate of speed.
On the hill, we have these springs of water that almost never freeze no matter how cold it gets. As Spike was running towards me, he stepped in one of these springs, slipped, and his feet flew out from under him. He flew through the air, and collided with my legs – head first. He hit me so hard, that I went straight UP into the air. (Apparently a 100+ pound dog barreling down a mountain, can hit you with quite a bit of force.) I came crashing down on my left leg, breaking it, with a sound I’ll likely never forget. This is the same leg that I had surgically reconstructed in the past.
It was the stupidest freak accident. Spike just happened to hit that spring and slip, and he just happened to collide with me. He went off about 10 feet away from me and laid there – staring into space. He was fine, but his bell was rung and he was totally out of it for awhile. The fall had aggravated old shoulder and spinal injuries of mine, from a car accident I’d been in years prior. But my leg was a mangled mess.
The bottom part of my leg, was folded over against the side of my leg. It was folded over so badly, that the sole of my tennis shoe, was facing UP and touching the side of my leg. It was not a pretty sight. My stomach did a flip-flop at the sight of it. I knew I had to get help, but how? I yelled for help, but my high-pitched voice doesn’t carry all that well anyway. And it was so cold that no one was outside to hear me.
My husband was home, thankfully, but I knew he was sleeping upstairs like a rock. I knew he would never hear me in his sleep. I thought about trying to crawl to my parents house. But I knew right away that I couldn’t make it that far. So my plan was to make it to my vehicle and get in and blow the horn until someone came.
As I crawled, my leg flopped and the pain was excruciating. CoCo stayed by my side the entire time. The further I crawled, the harder it got to crawl. I was so cold. I had never been so cold in my life.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I made it to our SUV. I breathed a sigh of relief, then I reached for the door handle. I couldn’t reach it. I tried and tried with everything I had in me, but no matter what I did, between my leg injury and my back and shoulder injury, I could not reach that door handle. I exhausted myself even more, trying. It was pointless, I couldn’t do it.
I thought, “What now?”
I knew I couldn’t make it to Mom and Dad’s house. No one could hear me screaming. And I was rapidly getting far too cold. My entire body felt stiff. I collapsed on the ground and almost gave up. Thoughts entered my mind like, “No one will hear you. Chuck will be asleep for hours. Your Mom won’t even look for you until tonight when she brings the kids home. Then your kids will see you frozen to death in the driveway.” Well, that last thought was motivation enough to keep going. I had babies, and I had to find a way to make myself keep crawling. CoCo nudged me with her nose, as if to say, “You can do it, keep going!”
I knew I had to go for the house, it was the closest thing to me, and my only chance. I had no clue what I was going to do when I got there. I knew if I couldn’t reach the SUV handle, I wouldn’t be able to get up the stairs and reach the door handle either. But I remembered our outside broom, that we use to sweep the sidewalk. And my plan was to try to make it to the glass door, grab the broom and hit the glass door with the broom, in the hopes the noise might wake my husband upstairs. I knew it was a long shot, because I didn’t feel like I could crawl another inch. But it was all I could think to do.
By now, my leg had swollen to the point where I couldn’t feel my foot, and my leg was no longer flopping around as much. Which was actually a blessing. Trying to crawl while dragging a flopping leg behind you, grinding broken bones in the process, was awful. Being swollen was a good thing. Because I could crawl, without it moving so much.
Unfortunately, the cold was getting to me and my blood pressure was dropping. Even though it’s not all that far from where my vehicle was to the house, it might as well have been miles. Every movement took so much effort. I was flirting with blacking out. My vision went black many, many times. I would move one leg, or arm, then have to rest. So the progress was extremely slow. I would almost pass out, my head would bob down, and everything would start to go black. Then CoCo would rush in, under my face, forcing her muzzle between my face and the ground and she would ferociously lick my nose.
Yes, I said ferociously. The funny thing about this, is that Coco was never a dog to lick people. Ever. She just didn’t do it. But that day, every time I started to pass out, and the world started turning black, she would go after my nose like crazy. I would swat at my nose and it would keep me alert. I remember saying, “Stop it, CoCo. Stop it.” And she would stop, as long as I kept making progress. But the minute I would start to pass out again, she’d dive in after my nose again.
Not to be gross, but just to demonstrate the lengths she went to, to keep me conscious, the worse I got, she actually curled her tongue and put in IN my nose. It was so gross and tickled so bad. But, it kept me awake.
I would say, “What are you doing, CoCo?” and I would swat at my nose. At the time, I was in too much pain to understand that she was trying to help me and keep me conscious She would just wag her tail and stare at me like keep going, keep going. She went along with me walking backwards, facing me, as I crawled forward.
It took forever because of my slow progress. All along the way, I tried to call for help when I could, and I prayed to God that he would wake up my husband, so that he would hear me.
I remember seeing CoCo’s tiny, skinny legs shaking in the cold and I thought, “Oh man you need to get inside too.” I was scared for us both.
While this was going on, my husband woke up. He went to the bathroom and thought he heard me call for help. But he barely heard it. He yelled for me and I didn’t answer. He checked all over the house and couldn’t find me. He looked in the basement, I wasn’t there either. And then he opened the back door, and found me, about halfway up the sidewalk.
I was so happy to see him!!! He took care of the dogs and I, and he called 911. I just wanted him to put me in the car and go! But being a nurse, he knew that the right thing to do was to not move my leg any further. He was concerned one of my broken bones might cut a vein and cause me to bleed severely. He put lots of blankets under me and on me, and instructed me not to move anymore.
Moving around a broken limb is not a good thing, and I did develop compartment syndrome in the leg. (If you don’t know what compartment syndrome is, I don’t recommend googling it, if you plan to eat anytime soon.)
In the ambulance, they said my body temperature was way too low and my blood pressure was dangerously low. On the ride to the hospital, I remember the paramedic saying how lucky I was, that I didn’t get much colder. He’d take my BP and say, “How did you not pass out?”
I said, “My dog wouldn’t stop licking my nose.” :)
It was just a freak accident. But I could have died that day. So after that, I called her my hero dog.
In my opinion, she saved my life, by preventing me from passing out in the cold.
She was so happy to see me when I got back from the hospital. I’m guessing she had been worried the entire time. I think she had some measure of relief when she knew my husband had found me. But I don’t think she truly relaxed until she saw me for herself and knew I was ok.
She kept that sort of devotion to me her entire life.
Recently, her head started swelling. At first the vet thought it might be a severe sinus infection. But then the swelling went away and it became apparent that something worse was going on. She was diagnosed with cancer.
We brought her home and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. The last few weeks have been very hard. Stress makes MG (the neuromuscular disease that I have) flare. So it’s been rough. My body has fought me every step of the way. I’ve cried so much. Loosing your dog never gets any easier, no matter how old you get, or how many dogs you’ve lost over the years. In fact, I think it gets harder.
It killed me that she saved me and I couldn’t save her. I tried. I tried so hard to save her. But, like my husband reminded me, we saved her when we rescued her and we gave her 8 good years. I’m trying to think of it that way.
CoCo and I, April 15th, 2013.
She spent a lot of time the past few weeks sleeping in her beloved crate, on her pile of fluffy white dog towels. She always did love laundry. So I put lots of extra dog towels in her crate when she got sick and I gave her clean ones each morning, and during the day when needed. Fresh towels always made her wag her tail and smile.
I would sit with her as much as I could. And when she got till she couldn’t walk, we would carry her outside to enjoy the sunshine. As weak as she got, she kept this fantastic attitude. Always bright-eyed, always wagging her tail.
Monday, we spent the whole day outside as a family. She sat on my lap, or at my feet, and enjoyed the warm sunshine. We watched birds and chipmunks, and watched the kids play. She even tried to get a couple of wasps that got near me!
Monday, April 22nd, 2013.
See her giving that wasp the stink eye? This was right before she lunged at it, even though she couldn’t stand. She never stopped looking out for me.
I love that look of satisfaction on her face, that she scared it off, as she watches it fly away.
She was so content. It was a truly special day.
After Monday, things got worse. Yesterday, Wednesday April 24th, 2013, we said goodbye. Perhaps it’s not goodbye, perhaps it’s see you later. I believe dogs go to Heaven. And if they do, then I should have quite the warm welcome waiting on me someday. In the meantime, I will treasure the memories.
I wish she could have lived longer. My heart is broken that she is gone. But we had a great 8 years together and I can honestly say that in her entire life, she never did one bad thing – ever.
I’ve been blessed with the companionship of some wonderful dogs during my life. But I think she’s the only one that I can truly say that about. Not one bad thing, ever.
CoCo was never anything but good.