When I was 14 years old our family pet Buffy passed away. That was my first time dealing with the loss of a pet. I was devastated. I grew up with him and it was weird having him not be around anymore. The house felt lonely and empty without a pet.
A few months after his passing my father found an ad in the paper for toy poodle puppies. I don’t remember much else, other than we traveled quite a distance (at least it felt like a long trip to me!) and ended up at this place that was selling puppies. I will never forget the first time I saw him. This little tiny puppy, not much bigger than your hand, was nipping at and trying to play with his poor unamused mother. This dog had attitude! The people selling him to us told us his name was Clint E- short for Clint Eastwood. To this day I don’t know enough about the actor to understand why they named him that, but I was told it was because of his “tude”. We brought the little guy home that day.
On the way home we decided that Clint E was too awkward to say all the time and thought it would be fun to give him a new name. Being the 14 year old that I was, I thought it would be ironic and funny to name him Cujo! My mother has a love for Stephen King and while I had never read the book, I knew that Cujo was a large Saint Bernard that becomes rabid and starts to kill people. Scary! The name ended up sticking and Cujo became our beloved family pet.
Cujo was with me through my awkward high school years, through college, and many years afterwards. Last night he passed away on his own terms and in his own home. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Some of you may have known Cujo, and others never met him. He was a small dog with a huge attitude. He believed he was one of us, and not just our pet. He had a huge personality that I’ll never forget. He loved everyone, especially my brother and my grandma who he bonded with over the years.
I have a lot of memories of the little guy. I want to share them with you here so even if you didn’t know him you can see a little bit of what he meant to me:
When he was first brought home he was so tiny that when we took him outside he had to jump through the grass to get around. Yes, the grass was taller than he was. As he got older he stopped doing that, but he always loved being outdoors. I still remember the first time he saw his shadow outside in the dark and freaked out. I guess he thought that something was going to get him!
As a puppy we kept little Cujo in a large cardboard box while we went out. It was to keep him out of trouble. He actually loved that box! When it was time for him to go to bed he would jump up against the side of the box until someone picked him up and put him inside. He was always such a good boy. One day we came home and he was sitting next to the box. We left and he was inside. Then he wasn’t. Turns out that he had chewed himself a little doggy door in the side of the box! After that when it was time to go to bed he would just put himself to bed.
Cujo knew exactly where the property lines were and where he was allowed to go and not go. One day I decided it would be fun to take him for a walk around the neighborhood. I put him on a leash and walked him towards the road. As soon as we got to the end of our property he stopped and started to hyperventilate! He knew he wasn’t supposed to go any further, even though I was telling him it was okay. I still took him on that walk, but I had to pick him up and hold him for a portion of it. Once he calmed down we walked around the neighborhood and he loved it! I won’t ever forget the way his tongue hung out and panted while we walked around. I believe he smiled that day.
As my brother and I got older and went away to college my relationship with Cujo diminished a little. With my brother, however, it never changed. Cujo would spend hours waiting for my brother to come home from school. He used to know exactly which bus was my brother’s, and he would get all excited when the bus went by. He did that for months after my brother went away to college until he finally understood that he wasn’t going to come home every day. Though when my brother did come home! That was crazy. He would lay down on the ground and Cujo would jump all over him and kiss him all over his face. Cujo just loved my brother so much.
As I mentioned above, Cujo loved everyone. If someone came to visit he would be all over them trying to get their attention and to sit with them. No matter who you were Cujo wanted to sit with you. I used to spend many mornings sitting in the reclining chair in our family room with Cujo on my lap. Eventually I would need to get up or my legs would fall asleep and I would say to him “Gotta get up!” and he would know that it was time to get down.
I used to love playing with him with his squeaky toys, but my favorite memories are when he tried to play with me. I used to exercise by playing Dance Dance Revolution when I got home from work. Cujo would see me hopping around the dance mat and try to join me! I stepped on him by accident a few times, but that never stopped him from playing with me!
And the most memorable thing about little Cujy was his love for Christmas. He loved everything about it. We all got up early with him. There was food and family and lots of people to pay attention to him. And his favorite thing of all- Christmas presents! Cujo would open his own presents. We wrapped them up and give them to him and he would tear up the paper until he got the gift. And then he would tear up the paper some more! I used to get so mad at him for trying to open my presents. He would get so excited about it that he would try to open up everyone’s gifts!
Here is a video I took of Cujo ripping up the wrapping paper: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EapFeuBgfq8&feature=youtu.be
I had a really difficult time with him this year watching him get old and just lose himself. At Christmas time he didn’t want to open his presents. He became blind and had trouble getting around. He would stomp around me while I exercised, but it wasn’t because he wanted to play with me. He slept most of the time. I feel like I lost my “Puppy Wupperson” a long time ago. And that, my friends, is the hardest part about death. Most of the time it isn’t sudden. It’s slow, and painful, and absolutely the worst thing in the world to have to watch someone or something go through.
Cujo passed on August 7th, in his own home, on his own terms. Even though I’m upset and I can’t stop crying, I feel better knowing that even in the end a part of him was still in there, somewhere.
I am going to spend the rest of my life missing you. Goodbye Cujy