A few times in my life, I have found myself in abusive romantic relationships. Go on, shake your head. I really did write “timeS.” Two were physically abusive (which goes along with psychological abuse) and one was pure sadistic sociopathic psychological manipulation.
It was during the third that I met Cody O’Dog.
I had recently had my first hip surgery. Before that, I had been obliged to have my sweet husky, Jasmine, put to sleep. She had lymphoma. I was in the middle of rehab, at a cross-roads, walking with two arm crutches and hoping soon to graduate to a cane.
The Evil X was still living with me (it would be a year before I’d eject him).
One evening, about a month after the surgery, I was going through Craiglist looking at dogs. One posting caught my attention. It had a simple headline: YOUR HUSKY. The woman who owned it was living in a battered women’s shelter in north San Diego County. The shelter had an agreement with an animal shelter to house residents’ animals for 3 months. For this dog, the three months were up.
My huskies — Jasmine and Lily — had come to me similarly. The woman who gave them to me had been forced to move into an apartment. Her ex-husband, who had been in jail for beating her, was coming out. She had to get out of “their” house and couldn’t take Jasmine and Lily. As I read the story under YOUR HUSKY, I thought, “That’s the right dog for me.”
He happened, also, to have gotten the attention of the amazing woman who ran a local husky rescue through which I had adopted Jasmine and Lily. She met me and the Evil X at the animal shelter.
YOUR HUSKY was a very large, very beautiful, purebred husky who had once belonged to some movie star and then to the couple. They had used him for breeding with a low-content wolf who was about to be adopted, a sweet girly dog of only 3 years. YOUR HUSKY was said to be three, but he was much older. His name was Cody. He was to belong to the Evil X. The Evil X walked him, but the dog ignored him; his eyes were on me. “You try,” said the EX his extremely fragile and flammable ego in ashes. If the Evil X hadn’t been in public, the dog would’ve gotten yelled at and yanked around.
That was the first time after the surgery that I dropped one crutch and walked. The dog was on my left, my crutch on my right. As we walked around the little park that was part of the animal shelter, the dog watched me and matched all my steps. I knew immediately that he was a spectacular dog. If you know huskies, you know that’s NOT what they do. Their attention, even when they are well-trained, is not usually on a human but on the trail, on the bushes, on possible prey, on their job.
“I want him,” I said. “He’s a very wonderful dog.”
“Really?” said the Evil X. He wouldn’t have known, anyway. The only dog he’d ever had was a Shiba Inu who bit him. (Smart dog.)
“OK,” said the rescue person. “I’ll set that up for you. The shelter has to approve your application and his owner has to approve, but I know she will. I know you two have been in contact. He’s scheduled to be put down day after tomorrow, so I hope we can do all this in time.”
Cody was put back in his cage. That night he went into a health crisis. He refused to get up off the floor and he refused to eat or drink. They took him to the emergency vet who found nothing wrong with him. Everything was done to get him to rally, but he didn’t want to. He’d been in a cage in a shelter for 3 months. I also believe he’d found the person he wanted to belong to, and when he didn’t go home with me, he gave up.
I got the OK to adopt him and we went to get him from the emergency vet, knowing it might not work. We brought him home. He still wouldn’t eat or drink. I cooked him scrambled eggs and rice and fed him from my hand for a few days. The EX — with whom I did not share a room — put a bed for Cody in his room. Little by little, Cody began to regain himself. The only problem he had was Dusty T. Dog, another male between him and his person, me. There were some fights for dominance, which Dusty never tried to win, and, ultimately, I just kept them apart. They were amenable to that so it was (mostly) OK.
Siberian huskies are very special dogs because of their long history of being bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia specifically for pulling sleds and living with people. They were not bred to be watchdogs, but to be helpers to any person. They are friendly and naturally affectionate. They are also very independent because they needed to be able to think for themselves in an emergency. They were bred to be babysitters and they really LOVE little kids. All of my huskies have instinctively cared for the kids who have shown up at my house, but Cody, in particular.
The Evil X’s daughter, Heather, came to visit with her 3 month old son. As soon as Cody heard the baby’s sounds, he was alert, ready to work. The cooing and gurgling and crying evoked an instinctive response from Cody O’Dog. Wherever that baby was, Cody was there, too. It was astonishing to watch. When Heather nursed, Cody lay at her feet. When she changed the little guy’s diapers, Cody watched from close up to be sure she did it right (and possibly to clean up 🙂 ). When the baby slept, Cody kept an eye on him. At first Heather was nervous. Here was a big, wolfie looking dog obsessed with her baby, but soon she understood what Cody felt his job to be. When the little boy got to be three years old, he started bringing home dogs. I think Cody is the reason why.
When things finally began to come to a head between the Evil X and me, Cody was there. One afternoon we were having an altercation in which the Evil X stood too close to me, towering over me, yelling at me. Cody stood up on his hind legs and wedged himself between us. I took the message from that and Cody began sleeping in my room. I called him my “knight in furry armor.”
The Evil X left and our lives changed for the better. Cody and Dusty still had an occasional fracas, but no one was ever badly hurt. They happened at entry points — going in or out of the dog run, in or out of the door. Cody stayed with me whenever I was home. He was a strong, very peaceful, fierce, sweet Gary Cooper of a dog. He was the “good guy.”
In 2010 he traveled with me to Colorado Springs for my 40th high school reunion. It was a road trip. I got him a special cover for the back seat and off we went. It was quite a journey.
Our first stop was a dreadful Motel 6 outside of Cedar City Utah. The room had a nasty vibe, AND I had been driving so long that the room was moving. I went to bed, nervous and apprehensive. The next thing I knew, Cody was up on the bed with me — something that had never happened before — and he was panting, gently, making the bed shake as a baby’s cradle might rock.
We arrived at our destination. I was staying with my niece’ 90 year old grandma who was famous for disliking dogs. But, she had liked my dog Molly when we’d passed through in 1999, so I thought she’d be OK with Cody. She fell in love with him. Cody’s calm presence made her happy. When she’d work in the kitchen, Cody just hung out while she talked to him.
“This is a dog,” she said to the daughter who was then living at home, “Not your little yappy things you have to fuss over all the time.”
During our stay, I took Cody up to see my tree.
A day or so after the reunion, Cody and I got back in the car and drove to Caspar, Wyoming on our way to visit my Aunt Jo and Aunt Dickie in Billings, Montana. We stayed at a great motel next to the river and had a long walk that evening before turning in. The next day we got to Billings.
My Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank were astonished at Cody’s size. We went out to the back yard to talk and Cody lay on the grass enjoying the cool, but, in his husky way he was also vigilant.
“Is that what he does?” asked my aunt. “Just lie there? He’s so big!”
“Well, he’ll be up in a flash if there’s a reason.”
Just then an immense red squirrel came over the back fence. Cody was up. Noticing the dog who was NOT supposed to be there, the squirrel made a leap for the front fence. Cody caught it in the air, rang its neck, and gave it to me. Unfortunately, the squirrel wasn’t quite dead so I had to finish it off. My aunt and I took the squirrel’s body out where some scavengers could reap the benefits.
Cody especially loved my Uncle Hank, and if he had a human counterpart, it would have been my uncle. One afternoon my Aunt Jo and I came home from lunch with Aunt Dickie to find Hank and Cody sleeping on the living room floor, back to back.
The morning we left, I loaded Cody O’Dog into the back seat. Uncle Hank came out to say good-bye to Cody. He bent down and put his arms around my dog, said, “You take care of Martha Ann,” and hugged him. We pulled out and as I drove away, I saw my uncle in the rearview mirror, standing in front of the garage, saluting us. He died the following summer.
Things got back to normal at home for the next year and a half. Life was school, grading, driving and then, in April 2012, Cody started losing weight and having seizures. He went downhill very quickly. On the day he died, it snowed, strange not only for Southern California but for April.
The last little walk of Cody’s life was in the falling snow.
I called a mobile vet because there was no way I could get my 85 pound dog into my car. When she came we laid Cody on the floor in my office, and I laid down beside him. She put an IV in his leg that carried a tranquilizer. I wrapped my arm over my Knight in Furry Armor, and told him he was very ill, that I loved him and that it was OK if he left me. Within seconds of the tranquilizer hitting him, he was dead.
“I think he was just waiting for you to tell him it was OK. I haven’t even given him the shot yet.”
If there’s a Heaven, Cody is sharing it with Uncle Hank. I see them in a well-equipped wood shop where Hank is making things and Cody is lying on the floor. After a bit, they take a long walk and then come home for supper. ❤