Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 13, 2013

Carrie Stambaugh: Friends of fur and feathers: 09/13/13

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — I opened my eyes this morning to see a yellow Angry Bird and a furry nose.

The bird is a plastic toy and the nose belongs to my two-year-old Golden Retriever, Cooper. Upon noticing I was indeed awake, Cooper proceeded to carefully place the toy on the edge of the bed, before trying to jump onto it, presumably to snuggle.

I managed to get out bed before this happened, sparing my newly changed sheets from a coating of dog fur, but in my haste I knocked the toy to the floor. Oh, how Cooper whined!

In an instant, he dropped to scoop up the little toy then laid it carefully on the floor facing him before sniffing and beginning to gently lick the toy as if comfort it.

My husband and I couldn’t help but laugh. If it wasn’t so funny, it would just be sad.

We have nicknamed the toy Woodstock because it has become Cooper’s constant companion. Like the cartoon character, he makes incomprehensible squeaks and seems to bring Cooper noticeable comfort.

You see, Cooper is a little lonely. Earlier this year his real-life companion, our 12-year-old Golden Retriever, Zeke, lost his battle with cancer.

The loss has been hard on our entire family, but especially little Cooper. Zeke was there when my mother-in-law first brought Cooper home to me.

He was a little bundle of red fuzz with a waggly little tadpole-looking tail. I instantly loved him. Zeke didn’t.

Before too long through the two were inseparable, although Zeke liked to pretend his younger fur sibling didn’t mean that much to him. They would steal each others bones, play tug-o-war with the rope toy and sleep curled up side by side on the doggie bed we bought them.

Zeke, also known as Capt. Bread Belly because of his love of all things made from flour and yeast, taught Cooper to beg for the treat. Cooper in turn taught Zeke to put his head underwater to retrieve rocks or sticks that sank.

When Zeke got sick last fall, Cooper began to sleep in the hallway facing the older dog who took to lying on his side in the tiled bathroom floor. Cooper kept watch over his friend while we slept in the other room.

In May, Zeke died. I know Cooper, like us, is still mourning his loss.

I am convinced I’ve found the little dog crying in grief on more than one occasion, his eyes moist and clearly sad. Often, he will lay in the backyard the toys the two shared positioned all around him head on his paws staring off into space, waiting for someone to play.

Sometime this summer at the grocery store, I spotted the yellow bird and picked it up for Cooper. He likes squeak toys but often dismembers them, so I thought maybe this one with its thick plastic might last a few days longer.

Cooper hasn’t put as much as tooth mark on him. He instantly took to carrying around the little bird.

At night he sleeps with the little bird is positioned right beside him. When he eats, Cooper places the little toy on a perch next to the food bowl.  He insists on taking Woodstock with him on road trips.

It is as if our little family has gone back once again to having four members.