The Dogs in My Life: Part IV – Copper

In Part I, I told you about my first dog, Sandy, a Golden-mix from my childhood. Part II was devoted to Einstein and Part III to Ranger, both purebred Golden Retrievers. Each of these dogs made an impact on my life, and I loved them all, but none made an impact the way Copper did.

It was December 2002, less than a month after we had to put Ranger down due to an inoperable tumour. Neither Mike nor I was ready for another dog. We needed time to heal. Fate had other plans.

At the time I was with a running club training for a half marathon. As with any running group, there were people of all paces, though we did tend to meet for coffee after our Sunday long runs to lament aches, pains, and cold weather. I was one of the slower runners, so I was surprised when one of the speedier ones, Teresa, sat next to me.

“I heard you lost your dog,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

I nodded, not able to speak.

“The thing is, my friend owns Kyon Kennels and they have an eight-month-old puppy that was a return to breeder. They’re looking for a good home for  him. I thought about you and Mike.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “We’re not looking for another dog. Not yet.” Especially not one returned to the breeder.

Teresa patted my hand and handed me a piece of paper with Kyon’s website. “Copper’s picture is on there. You can see him on Boxing Day, if you’d like. They don’t believe in placing dogs in new homes before Christmas.”

I went home, checked online, and found Copper’s picture (no mean feat in a time of internet dial-up). “Hey, Mike, come see.”

“Well,” Mike said, “Let’s go see him. We don’t have to bring him home.”

HA! You can imagine how that went. A slightly overweight puppy ran out of the breeder’s barn and sat on my feet. Well, I needed my feet, didn’t I?

We brought Copper, CKC name Kyon’s Time to Shine, home on December 26, 2002. He’d never seen stairs and had no idea how to navigate them. When I let him out in the yard, a car drove by and spooked him. “I think we have our work cut out for us,” Mike said.

He was wrong. A gentle soul, if you taught Copper something once, whether it be a command or an admonishment, he obeyed forever. After a couple of months, were even able to leave an open bowl of dog cookies on a small table at the front door. He didn’t eat them unless we gave him one. He walked on a flat leash as though he’d been trained to heel at birth. If he had a fault, it was that he wasn’t a great car traveller. Gravol took care of that, too, and we even drove to Florida with him when Mike did his first Ironman in Clearwater. I can remember when the US Customs guard asked if Copper was aggressive. As if on cue, Copper sat up in the back seat, his red Dino stuffed toy in his mouth. I think the guard may have actually cracked a smile.

For 12 years, Copper helped us get through some tough times, including my 2008 breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. That dog didn’t leave my side from the moment I got home from the hospital at night to the moment I left for treatment every morning. 

But of course, the heartbreak of dog ownership is that we outlive them. On Boxing Day 2014, exactly 12 years after we’d brought Copper into our home, he died of stomach cancer. I don’t think I’ve ever cried quite so hard. It truly was like losing my best friend.

Today, I view Copper as a wonderful  blessing in my life. But even as I write this, I find a tear or two trickling down my cheek. Here’s a two-minute video of his life with us, should you care to watch it.

Thanks for reading.

Judy

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The Dogs in My Life Part III: Ranger

By Judy Penz Sheluk

Ranger with Judy, fishing in Collingwood

In my previous posts, I shared stories of my first dog, Sandy, and my second dog, Einstein. Neither of those stories had a happy ending, though they did come with a message, and hopefully, a lesson that can be shared.

You might think that after our heartache with Einstein that my husband, Mike, and I would find another breed. But we both love Golden Retrievers, and so this time we were determined to do things differently. We were going to do our research.

This was in November 1992, long before the Internet and Google, so we bought books, read lots, and went to dog shows. It was at one of those shows that we met Liz and Bruce Russell, owners of Gowrielea Goldens. As luck would have it, a litter was due in January 1993. We went to the premises, where we were able to meet the mother, as well as several other Gowrielea Goldens. We’d found our breeder.

Gowreilea’s Forest Ranger was born on January 23, 1993. Every Sunday for the next seven weeks, we went to the Russell’s to watch Ranger and his siblings grow. Week eight, Ranger came home with us, pretty much house trained.

Obedience school followed, and Ranger thrived on learning his commands. He was a gentle, bright boy who loved his soft toys and could be trusted alone in the house (though he did like to sleep in his crate with the door open).  In fact, his only real fault was a propensity to pull on his leash (not sure if there were gentle leaders and harnesses then, if there were, we weren’t aware of them). He also had “selective” hearing when off leash, but only if water was nearby. That dog loved to swim.

For more than nine years, Ranger was a terrific dog and wonderful companion.  He particularly loved a cottage Mike and I rented every October in Collingwood, right on Georgian Bay. It was while we were vacationing there in 2002 that we realized something was very wrong. We cut our vacation short and took Ranger to our vet, only to discover he had a large, inoperable tumor. He died in November, in our arms, in his own home, just two months shy of his tenth birthday. At the time, Mike and I truly believed we’d never have room in our hearts for another dog, let alone another Golden Retriever.

Then we met Copper. Stay tuned for Part IV!

In non-dog related news, my most recent audiobook, LIVE FREE OR TRI, is now available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. And yes, one of the short stories take place in Collingwood!

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