Cody, my shelter dog, has been a part of my life for 17 years.
His journey began as a sick puppy in a shelter waiting to be euthanized. A rescue group, Second Chance Rescue, came to the shelter and took the dogs they felt had a good chance of being adopted. They gave Cody to a foster family who nursed him back to health and then had the unbelievable strength to let him go so he could find his forever family.
Volunteers who spend their Saturdays at pet stores took Cody to a local pet store that I walked into looking for a dog to adopt. Cody was playing with another dog, and I was immediately attracted to his joyfulness.
I adopted Cody and took him home. That evening we sat on opposite ends of the couch with both of us wondering how our lives would change. I soon found out why God makes puppies so adorable. Cody ate his way through my wardrobe, dug holes all over my backyard and seemed to take forever to learn the meaning of “bladder control.” A few weeks later he ate something toxic in my backyard. I took him to the vet who had to pump his stomach and keep him overnight for observation. The next morning I picked him up at the vet’s office and paid the $800 vet bill. When Cody came running into the waiting room happy and healthy, I knew it was the best $800 I had ever spent.
Cody and I started our daily habit of taking a walk. I figure that over the past 17 years, I have walked an extra 15,000 miles, which has added immeasurably to my health. We would often walk to the dog park in my neighborhood, where Cody would run and play with the other dogs while I would enjoy chatting with my neighbors. Cody’s antics have kept me entertained.
In the winter, I would let him out in the backyard. When I let him back in, he would run upstairs and dive under the covers to get warm. When a friend came to visit, she was taking a nap on the living room couch when Cody went over and started enthusiastically licking her face. Cody’s nickname became “Kisses Without Warning.” When I took Cody on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, the first time he saw and smelled a bison herd he was so excited he began shaking all over.
Cody is older now. He likes to sit in the grass in the backyard sniffing the fall breezes with the sun on his back. He is content. He has taught me how to age. The past is gone; the future is unknown; there is only today for the possibility of joy.
He has also taught me that sometimes it’s all about putting one paw in front of the other. Someday soon I will have to make a decision that all dog owners dread. When that day comes, I will weigh 17 years of joy against the inevitable sadness. I think it’s a fair trade-off.
Sometimes I wonder if I will have room in my heart for another dog, but I already know the answer to that question. When you adopt a dog, your heart always expands.
Cheryl Pearson lives in Central Point.