In today’s newsletter and also here on the blog, it is Cody who comes to greet our readers–wagging his tail until it is nothing but a blur, and grinning his crinkly Dalmatian smile. He is the first dog in our household, but not the last, who stayed on when he was not meant to. Born into Breeze’s first litter, Cody found the promise of his forever home rapidly, because in the puppy box he was every visitor’s favorite. At the last minute, however, his new family backed out.

My husband and I continued to look for a special spot for him, but all those who called us during those days wanted a girl. In the meanwhile, Cody eagerly came when we called his name, sat and waited with unbelievable patience for a cookie, walked on his new leather leash without mouthing it. Slyly, he claimed his mother’s elk antler as his own, and we moved his crate into our bedroom so that he could sleep with the rest of the family. Suddenly we realized that he had been with us for sixteen weeks, though all the other puppies had gone home at eight. One night while we were watching television on the couch, my husband tugged at my hand. Cody was asleep with his small body sprawled trustingly across Brad’s lap. ”I don’t think I can do it,” he said to me. ”I can’t give him up.”

Eleven days old.
Cody Snoring. (In center with yellow rickrack.)

And I knew in that moment that I could not, either. So Cody stayed and eventually became top dog in our rambunctious Dalmatian trio–dominating even his mother, and, surprisingly, his bigger little brother, Mac. He had wormed his way into our hearts with his shining eyes, his knack for learning and his quickness at anticipating whatever you wanted. He was also the most uniquely mischievous troublemaker I had ever known. Here is just a taste of the “Cody stories” you will come upon in Bespotted:

“On a Sunday afternoon just before dusk, a huge patch of hidden mushrooms just around the back of my writing cottage caught his culinary attention. He didn’t stop eating until he had to vomit. Soon we were on the highway doing eighty, and hoping a cop wouldn’t catch us, on our way to the vet who would detox him and warn me that there would be a two-day wait till the blood panels came back to show whether he was in liver failure…

Then, only a week later, he did it another time. More detox, more astonishing bills from the vet, more frightened waiting for the call that might come bearing the news of his liver breaking down. Quickly I became a mushroom forager, digging with my trowel desperately, staring at the ground until I saw double as I hunted down the brown and orange caps nestled under the pine trees on our property. The first day out, I collected a lawn-sized trash bag filled with pounds of fungi and thought that if they had been chanterelles, I could have had a dinner party for thirty…

Two weeks later, I came out of the shower and heard him crunching away on some unlucky object. Still wet, quickly reaching for a towel, I searched, blindly, on the vanity countertop for my glasses…That was when it occurred to me exactly on what he was so happily munching.”

The list of inedible and possibly fatal delectables grew: a poisonous morning glory vine, two more pairs of eyeglasses, my $7,000 hearing aids, my nighttime mouthguard, several nylon stockings, a large jar of hand cream, an adult-sized disposable diaper, a whole pan of brownies. Any of it could have killed him–if I didn’t strangle him first.

Despite many more exasperating, expensive experiences, (which seem so humorous in retrospect), Cody went on to become my favorite, the one who nestled beneath my arm as I read before bedtime and whom I finally allowed to wash my face with his long pink tongue. I would eventually show him in obedience, a performance sport in which handler and dog move together as in a ballet, and where he would earn several High in Trials–one of the most important awards a competitive dog can win. It was not long before there was a string of titles following his show name.

But perhaps most importantly, Cody was the one who helped me to make my peace with the death of the Dalmatian who will always be the most special in my life: Gulliver. Through Cody’s determination to love and be loved, I learned that even a terrible loss can be overcome and put to rest. Next week, I will introduce you to the dog of my heart, who saved my life day by day as I struggled with an intense, bleak depression that began in my late forties and did not ease until I was more than fifty-five. Gulliver was truly an incredible dog. I know many of us have experienced just that sort of extraordinary love in our lives. Share yours, here on the blog, with me.

Nearly three years old.
Cody wins High in Trial at the Dalmatian Club of America National Specialty.
Ten weeks old.
Cody loves the camera.
Eleven days old.
Cody Snoring. (In center with yellow rickrack.)

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