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.