My friend Cooper

We met on a warm spring day in 2001, you had just finished running and were full of energy and enthusiasm. The type of excitement held solely for those coming down from a runners high!  After introductions it appeared immediately as though we would become friends. I couldn’t help but admire your self-confidence, exuberance and ability to charm those you encountered!

Over time we became closer, long walks in the evening, daily runs, outings with the family.  When our eldest son was little and sad, you never balked at an opportunity to cheer him up. Good friends will do that and indeed a good friend you had become.  A look, a smile, some funny movement or action and our son would laugh, all at your expense. You never minded, when your work was done you always left with that sly smile upon your face.  A look that showed you always knew something we didn’t.

And knew something you certainly did, for you have been alongside our children for the last 12 years. Watching them grow, helping with their life changes, attitudes and emotions.  I really don’t know what I would have done without your friendship! Like a rock, steadfast and solid your loyalty never wavered.  There are times in life when no matter what you do as a father you just cant seem to get through, but you always could. With a calm demeanor, a listening ear, and a warm embrace it was always you bringing things into perspective for their little minds.

So what am I to do now?  How do I fill this void you left behind? You have gone and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. You left us all with broken hearts and endless tears.  Not for the way you left, or even the fact you had to go, but  for our own selfishness.  Our own emotional fulfilment.  The need to feel your love and to give that love in return.  Did I show you enough affection, did I tell you I loved you enough times? I will have to assume yes, as I will never know the true answer.

Yesterday at 7:30pm you took your last breath, heaved your very last sigh, relieving yourself of all the pain you had been carrying inside.  You body could no longer handle an enlarged liver, your kidneys ached under the strain and your legs had finally given to the pressure.  We couldn’t bear watching you suffer anymore as one step meant seeing you buckle under the strain. You were my wifes dear friend and companion, you were a wonderful friend to our children, and you were my friend.  You stood proudly by my side through thick and thin, in the sun and even the rain.  Camping trips, fishing, daily outings, hikes, bike rides, you participated in them all. Always a smile on your face!  You were amazing!

The day we met, my then girlfriend (future wife) had been running with you, you were her young, handsome little pup. Over the years you became one of the most important parts of our growing family, no longer the sole dog, loved by one, but the much-loved, valued member of 4, then 5, and eventually 6 of us. You have slept upon beds of the frieghtened, laid on feet of the cold, awakened us when something just didn’t seem right outside, and even chased off a coyote looking to enter our backyard.  Every Sunday we just knew you were going to catch one of the many Balloons filled with wine country tourists traveling over our house.  If you couldn’t catch a balloon, you dang sure were going to chase it away! You took credit for every one that passed over head and out of view.  There was a time when your speed matched that of the Jack rabbit, catching one only to let it go! Their wasnt a tire on our property that didn’t bear a marking from your superb aim. When we moved to the ranch you took other dogs under your wing and showed them the way.  Blitz misses you now, proof as he laid in your spot last night and would not get up for me this morning.

There are those that say “he was just a dog” but not to us, you were family.  It started the day my wife took you in, trained you and made you her very own. Smothering you in the very same love so easily given back to those you accepted into  your life.  As her family grew, your family grew and it never ended as day after day we always found a way to love you more.

We all miss you Cooper.  You are a symbol of our family. I wish I could bring you back for one last hug but I can’t, it was hard seeing you go, it was even harder burying you under the old tree by the pond last night. I wrapped you neatly in one of your favorite comforters and placed you gently upon your pillow.  A prayer was said and I cried laying the first bucket of dirt upon you.  I hope you like the place we picked, it has a full view of the valley, all the jack rabbits and coyotes but most of all those damn balloons as they pass by every Sunday morning.

May you rest in peace, you were a GREAT dog, the fields of heaven are open just for you.  Your work here is done, and for that we love you and thank you….

Cooper

cooper

1999-2013

 

 

A hunting we will go…..

 

SSSSSHHHHHHHHHH! Be very, very quiet……. I’m hunting (you fill in the animal here)!

Pull up your boot straps, put on your best camouflage, sight in your rifle and fill up your camel back! We are going hunting boys! That’s right 2 days two nights of hiking, scouting, hiking, climbing, hiking, crawling through the brush quietly, hiking, doing a lot of praying, and last but not least did I mention all the hiking!

Its deer season and my son wants’ nothing more than to bag one of California’s finest mule deer! He’s read the reports, checked on the weather and sighted in his rifle.  He has painstakingly watched every episode of any and all deer hunting associated shows on television and believes he’s ready for a serious case of “buck fever”!

“Buck Fever” noun

Nervous excitement felt by a novice hunter at the sight of game.

Yep he wants to feel buck fever bad and as his father I can’t help but sit back and reflect upon my childhood.  All the wonderful memories flooding back like it was yesterday! Seeing the want to fulfill another step towards manhood in a Neanderthal, me man, I provide sort of way is so emotionally moving.  Holding a rifle, staring down the sight tube at your intended victim, knowing there will be food on the table tonight! You need to be man enough, steady enough, and calm enough to lay down that one shot, the only shot you’ll get before that buck runs for the hills!  Ah the pressure, the excitement, the anticipation!

One problem…

I have never hunted deer.  I have hunted pigs; I have spent more than my fair amount of time and a considerable amount of money fishing.  But my youth retains no memories of ever going out into the woods to hunt deer.  The memories I hold revolve around horses, sheep, 4-H and working on our ranch! I have never felt the longing for hiking endless hours in the woods hoping to find one deer, all alone just waiting for me to kill it!  In fact every time I think of hunting deer, it’s not the prospect of delicious venison that awaits me, or the thought of a giant rack hanging on my wall as some form of testosterone filled pride for all to see.  Quite the contrary! I go to a much darker place when thinking about hunting deer.  A place so dark and foreboding that even the strongest willed man would not survive there without shedding a tear or feeling his soul shake to the very core!

For you see when it comes to hunting deer the message is crystal clear and has been for every man, woman and child since; August 13, 1942!

DON’T GO INTO THE MEADOW!!!!

The movie Bambi has held a polarizing grip upon all of our heart strings for 70 freaking years! If you think for one second you can sit there professing how you didn’t cry when Bambi’s mom died at the hands of the hunter! Then I can sit here and call you a fat faced liar!!! Every person I know cried like a baby when Bambi’s mom was shot! The sound of a rifle firing, any rifle firing flashes me back to that very moment when it was assumed she had been killed.  Like a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the images are all too real! As full grown adults our stomachs get tied up in knots while watching Bambi with our children for the first time because we know! We know she is gonna die and we know that a very detailed explanation of life and death are going to proceed after the hysteria and Kleenex party is over! But what message did Bambi send us self centered human beings? What has Bambi’s legacy taught us all?

Bambi taught us all about respecting nature! Bambi also taught us that animals like humans have families who depend upon them for love and guidance.  Bambi allowed us all to glimpse into the life of a fledgling young buck.  From the joys of birth with birds singing all around to the struggles of a young lad making friends in a new somewhat rough neighborhood! Bambi taught us that it doesn’t matter what kind of animal you are, we can all be friends! It also taught us about the emotional toll taken on a young boy who has just lost his mom! But best of all (this one was a real shocker for yours truly) did you know all animals can speak English? It’s true! Oh they hide behind their wiggling noses, and teeth grinding grass burning jaws, but don’t let that blank stare fool you! They can communicate and will not hesitate to do so the minute your back is turned!  But even with all these revelations about the animal community, one thing remains true! Bambi gave us the lesson of a lifetime! You see; by going into the meadow you will die! Simple as that! Step one foot into the meadow, any meadow and meet your fate at the hands of a plaid wearing, gun toting fool who will kill anything on site!  Lesson well learned Mr. Disney, lesson well learned!

As humans we are supposed to love all creatures big and small no matter how tasty they may be smothered in mushrooms, onions-garlic and barbecue sauce!  No sir, we must all wake up, putting away our blood lust, welcoming all forms of vegetation for nourishment like the great Brontosaurus or Giraffe!  For you see a plant doesn’t hurt, a plant doesn’t feel, if you cut the plant does it cry? If you shoot the tree does it bleed? Plants don’t have families curled up sleeping with them out in the open or like the rabbit live in a fully furnished five bedroom hole in the ground complete with kitchen and dining room table! The message is clear, share the earth with all things great and small but don’t eat them.

So by following Disney’s obvious wisdom and not wanting to offend the spirit of the late great Walt Disney himself, how then do I support my son and his venture with a clear conscience? How do I let my son walk into the wild, hide in some trees, then kill some poor Buck, some deer’s husband, some little deer’s father who happened to wander out into the meadow? How? How I ask you?

I know, I’ll pretend we are a family of T-Rex’s. Problem solved! Even Walt Disney can’t look down from heaven and fault us for that!

 

P.S. No vegetarians were harmed in the writing of this post.  Being a vegetarian is a choice and as with all choices made in life to be respected.  Eggplant for everyone!!!!