So, I know I blogged alot about Cobie when he was going through his liver problems, the ones that eventually killed him. But I have never sat down and put it all together - one big post dedicated to Cobie, from start to finish. I just didn't have the heart to do it. Still, the pain of everything is very fresh in my mind. This column by Bill Simmons, ESPN's "Sports Guy," kind of inspired me.
First of all, Cobie was both the best and the worst dog. Ever. I read the book Marley and Me, and I am telling you, that dog had nothing on Cobie. Marley, beig a gigantic lab, was perhaps more destructive than Cobie. Actually, I don't know about that. For a while we nicknamed him Cobie The Destructor.
Anyway, one day Lance Bowling, I guy I worked with, sent me an e-mail telling about a dog he had found on the streets of New Orleans, and asking me if I wanted to take a look. I went over to Lance's house, took one look at him and new I was going to end up with this dog. If you knew Cobie, you know he had tht "collie eye." It is a trait in collies they use to stare down sheep. Cobie would look at you in a way that was almost human. Ash often said that you half expected human words to come out of his mouth. Anyway, I got "the look" from Cobie that day, and he was pretty much destined to be a Horner.
Whether it was the collie in him, or the fact that he spent his first 7-8 months on the streets, I don't know, but Cobie was WILD. The dog was not fit for domestic living, at least at first, especially not in a small, in-town New Orleans apartment. We didn't know this at first, of course. You never do with a new dog, because they are always so freaked out in a new environment. Poor Cobie, the first night we got him, Moe, our cat, backed him into a corner, and Cobie got so scared he literally peed himself. Other than peeing on my Dad's carpret, that was the first and last time Cobie EVER used the bathroom in our house. A remarkable run, given how often he was left alone in our house.
The dog was trouble immediately. Ash was home sick the first day Cobie was at our house, and apparently he escaped and she had to carry thatt huge dog all the way down the street back to the house. I would often get calls while at work from my wife, who upon arriving at our apartment, would discover some new destruction that Cobie had unleashed. It got to where I didn't like to answer Ash's calls anymore - it was almost ALWAYs bad news.
Cobie destroyed at least 2 couches, but the thing is he destroyed them multiple times. he would rip them apart, Ash would try to mend them back together, and then he would do it again. He destoryed shoes, comforters, pillows - EVERYTHING. His favorite treat, though, was Ash's panties. He would sneak off with any pair of panties left lying around, go find a place to hide, and proceed to chew the crotch out of them.
Cobie and I got to where we developped a very good routine to try and work all that energy out. First of all, I have to back up for a second. Bill Simmons mentions how his dog was a freak to fetch a ball. Well, Cobie was a freak to play catch with ANYTHING. He loved sticks most of all, but the dog would find anything he could carry in his mouth, come and drop it at your feet (anyone's feet - Cobie didn't care,so long as someone would play with him), and give you that "look." If you didn't respond to the look, his behavior would escalate, including dropping the object in your hand, or attemptinig to, whining, jumping around. Eventually you would just throw it to get rid of him. But that's when he had you. It would only get worse from there, because he was never satisfied. Many times we would be at a party, wonder where Cobie was, and find him out back with a new target, throwing him a stick or something. Someone would always take the bait, and we noticed whever it was seemed like they were a little down or something at the moment. Playing catch with Cobie could be very therapeutic.
Anyway, Cobie was a natrual at frisbee. Took to it IMMEDIATELY. I think he caught it the second time I threw it. We would get up every morning before work, walk down to a little park in New Orleans right down from my house, and play frisbee for a half hour or so. In winter it would be pitch black, but Cobie would still catch it every time. I guess he would listen for it, I don't know. Still can't figure that one out.
Every night I would take him for a walk around a graveyard just down from our house. It was one of those old graveyards that had a good feeling, rather than a creepy one. Although, one night we were walking, and we had almost finished our lap of the graveyard, and suddenly Cobie just stopped, dead in his tracks. He started growling, just this low, menancing growl, seemingly at nothing. I mean, there was nothing there. This went on for about 30 seconds, then I felt a cold rush pass through my body, and I knew it was a ghost. I took off running, with Cobie, all the way back to the apartment, scared off my ass.
I'll never forget when we moved to Salt Lake. I moved ahead of Ash so she could finish her dissertation and I could start my new job. Ash stayed with our friends Donnie and Gab. One of Cobie's many destructive habits was to dig, especially when left outside in a yard for any length of time. Well, apparently he dug up Donnie's yard. Donnie eventually started a list, a Good Cobie List and a Bad Cobie List. By the end of the first week, the Bad Cobie List was a page long, and there was only one entry on the Good Cobie List. But it wasn't all bad. My wife and Cobie would often take walks on the beach in Bay Saint Louis, as I am told. Cobie loved going to the beach in Mississippi. I would swim way out in the ocean, and no matter how far I swam Cobie would swim out to where I was. Back and forth through the waves he would go. That dog was a nut.
Cobie loved it in Salt Lake. He loved hikes in the mountains, and loved the wide open spaces. It was so cool when we would go camping. Cobie would always find a place, high up, from where he could perch and watch his "flock," meaning all our friends. the more people we had, and the more spread out we were, the further away and higher up Cobie would go so he could watch. If one person got up and walked away from the group, Cobie would follow them to make sure everything was ok.
Cobie's best friend was Magnus. We adopted Magnus from my buddy Mike Hixson, who has made several appearances here on this blog. We nicknamed them the biscuit brothers. Cobie and Magnus would get into spats now and then over a bone or something, but basically got along very well, and were protective of each other. In the late spring of 2005 Cobie and Magnus got into a huge fight. After that, things just weren't the same. Finally, in August of that year, they had a knock down drag out fight where I wasn't sure if they were going to stop. It was a mess, they were snarling and bighting each other, Hadley was crying her head off because she was scared, I was yelling. Just a mess. We finally got them separated. The end result was Magnus really got a hold of the skin on Cobie's neck and gave him a pretty major injury. Took Cobie to the emergency vet, and they gave me medicine and instructions for his care, which I followed religiously. Eventually, we decided Magnus had to go - can't have dogs fighting around a baby.
Whether this is related at all to Cobie's demise, I don't know. But I have my sucpicions.
At some point not long after that, Cobie stopped eating well. I noticed this, but didn't do anything about it ( I still blame myself today for this - the next couple of weeks may have made a big difference). Well, a couple of weeks went by, and one of our friends, Eli made the remark that Cobie was really starting to look skinny. We were checking him out a couple of days later, and noticed his eyes were really yellow. When we took him to the vet, they told us Cobie was having major liver problems. That his levels were off the charts. They recommended doing a biopsy of his liver to see if it was cancer. Looking back, I wish I hadn't done this. Knowing whether it was cancer or not wouldn't have changed anything about Cobie's treatment plan. And he had to spend the next couple of weeks with one of those stupid plastic collars around his neck to keep him from licking the incision area.
I followed all the treatment to the letter. The medicine, the cleanings. I spread out a blanket on the floor and slept on it with Cobie so tht his wound wouldn't leak on anything, and so he wouldn't be alone. I hand fed him whatever he could eat. Cobie started to gain weight. His levels started to go down. He was getting better.
Then I came home from work one day. I noticed Cobie was standing off to the side, looking wobbly on his legs. I said "Ash, something is really wrong with Cobie." He almost looked like he was drunk. I grabbed him and put him in the car and headed for the vet. I'll never forget standing there in the reception area for the vet, Cobie sliding all over that tile floor because he couldn't stand up, with a hopeless sound in my voice as they told me they were closing, and he would have to go to the emergency vet.
I threw Cobie in the car and mashed the gas pedal and drove as fast as I could to the emergency room.
As soon as I entered that place I had a sick feeling that this was where it was all going to end. I couldn't believe it. Cobie was 6 years old. He was supposed to be in the prime of his life. He was finally settling down, listening to commands, and was in peak physical condition. The emergency vet smelled like death.
After the doctor got done examining Cobie, he explained what was going on. Apparently the liver problems Cobie had were so bad and had been going on so loong, that it had poisoned his body. Cobie couldn't stand anymore because his own body was poisoning his brain, and it was no longer functioning properly. I knew what I was supposed to do next. And Cobie gave me "the look." Not the playful "let's fetch" look. Not the classic Border Collie stare. The look that said it was time for him to go. He actually had already given me that look before I even took him to the vet, but I didn't want to admit it.
I asked the doctor "If it was your dog, what would you do?" His response: "If he was mine, I would say goodbye."
So that's what I did. The vet left the room for a little while, and I said goodbye. I patted his head, buried my face in his fur. I cried - hell I had been crying already. I went and called Ash and told her what was going on, that it was time to say godbye to Cobie. She didn't want to come to the emergency vet, and I didn't blame her. I didn't want to be there either. My sister in law called, crying. But I couldn't even manage to utter a word. I just hung up, and went back inside.
The doctor came in with a bottle of something, whatever is used to kill dogs. I held Cobie tight, as tight as I could. I buried my face deep in his fur, as deep as I could. I didn't want to see it. It took only a few second, but eventually Cobie's body went stiff. Lifeless. It was done.
We had Cobie cremated, and I held on to his ashes for a while. After Katrina, we took a trip to Bay Saint Louis, and took Cobie's ashes with us. We sprinkiled them in the ocean air by the beach. It's what he would have wanted, I think. I guess. Who knows, he was just a dog. Well, no, he was more than that. He was my best friend. The best friend a guy could have. Cobie was a man's dog, and he was all mine, and I loved him more than you should love a dog.
After that, the house felt different. Cobie's spirit was no longer there. It was running free on the beach of Bay Saint Louis.
God I miss him.