Thank you, friends of Cooper and John.
Your notes and kindnesses meant a lot to me after Cooper’s passing on June 11. It lifted my spirits to be reminded that so many of you were Cooper fans, too.
I have been short on words since his death. The trails are clear, but I still pause. I am holed up at home today until some of the smoke clears from the fires all around. June, with its heat and high pressure, is always a challenge. And it’s often just a prelude to slurry bombers, thunder claps and lightning strikes still to come.
Cooper preferred shade and snow and a quiet order to things. This was home with a capital H after the animal shelter. Even when we were broken into, Cooper, blessedly unharmed, was here with all the doors hanging open, waiting in the bedroom among strewn possessions, calmly knowing it was me bursting in after the invaders had left.
We had long stretches of good times, but I was never sure how the ice would break.
Cooper was in the pet ICU on antibiotics Friday as I waited for what turned out to be a good PET scan result for me, 14 months out from treatment for lung cancer: No sign of recurrence to date.
You get kind of crazy waiting for these results — nearing the end of each six-months cycle and in the five-day wait between scan and your oncologist delivering the result. But this was great news.
There was even more good news while I waited at the Rust Cancer Center for the meeting with my doctor. Patrick Whelan called to say our old friend Howard Houghton was up and, surprisingly, talking — maybe even grousing — after nearly six hours on the operating table and triple coronary bypass surgery at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque.
Cooper’s struggle clouded my delight at humans surviving health care dilemmas. Back home, I was incapable of reading or writing or even walking, the principal pastimes at dreamranch.
I figured dumb TV was the only distraction and I clicked on the western movie channel.
I am not embellishing this story when I say what flashed on the screen was the dark mountain highway death of the horse Whiskey at the end of “Lonely Are the Brave. Kirk Douglas and Whiskey had just made it over Sandia Crest to freedom when Carroll O’Connor’s truck struck them in the rain. I first saw this movie at the old El Paseo theater on San Francisco Street in Santa Fe when it came out in 1962. I have seen it seven or eight times since but years ago vowed that I would never watch that final scene again.
I clicked off “Lonely Are the Brave” as fast as I could and waited for the next cowboy movie to come on. It was “Hondo,” with John Wayne, and I forgot until too late about the scene where his loyal dog Sam gets speared by a grinning foe in another drenching rain.
And then the make-believe tragedies morphed into the craziness and brutality of Orlando. CNN, chilling as it was, was my companion through Sunday.
Cooper was here just two months short of 10 years. He was sick, that I know of, only twice in our relationship — when he was at the animal shelter and in the days before he died. I felt helpless at the end — still have trouble believing I can’t shake him back to life — but tried to take care of him best I could.
He never met, that I know of, a human or another dog that he did not like. He never hurt anyone or any thing. He was the most polite dog I ever met. He never whined, bit or stole from a counter. His couple of early dodges away from home were brief and only in pursuit of pretty girls. His only unruly habit was to hop in the sooty adobe fireplace during thunderstorms. I learned to keep it clear of ashes.
After thunder and lightning, he was most fearful of gunfire and opening drawers– violence and first aid in his previous life were the associations, I guess. Otherwise, I think he was a happy, egalitarian guy. He loved to lie on the hillside and gaze over the horizon, enjoying the quiet and calm. I am glad he was spared my television-watching of Orlando. I know he wasn’t just escaping the heat and smoke of June; I junked the swamp cooler and got him central air in 2013. But now he is free, too, from my muttering about Trump.
Soon, I will bring his ashes home. I will spread them on the hillside above the house, where he can keep track of things and I can still see him.